The Day After; Science-fiction drama, USA, 1983; D: Nicholas Meyer, S: Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, John Cullum, Lori Lethin, Bibi Besch, Steve Guttenberg, Amy Madigan, John Lithgow
Kansas city. People are all doing their routine jobs: Dr. Oakes works in the hospital and talks with his daughter who wants to move out; Billy is a soldier who kisses his girlfriend goodbye before leaving to a routine training; Klein is a student of medicine in a university; Denise is hiding her relationship with a wild guy from her autocratic father Jim. But then the media start reporting about the crisis in Europe: as a response to weapons build up, the Soviet army invades the West German territory, which causes a war with the US. The US fires its nuclear weapons at the Soviet Union, and one of the Soviet atom bombs falls on Kansas. Oakes now has to treat the survivors while all contact with the outside world is broken. Klein hides in the bunker with Jim and Denise."The Day After" is another interesting contribution to the growing speculative fiction of World War III and nuclear war scenarios, whose intentions are actually to make people think and stop them from ever resorting to such extreme measures. Some restraints of the low budget are obvious since director Nicholas Meyer uses too much stock footage of rockets and atomic explosions, but this TV movie is shaped just enough to be plausible, and to its credit ABC even set up special 1-800 hotlines to calm people down during and after the original airing. The first hour revolves around the small vignettes from the everyday lives of people around Kansas city to show the entire unfolding of the events only from their perspective, which is deliberately left vague and partial, to emphasize how their lives actually lie in the hands of others and how they can't control their destiny. The events there are bland and routine, but still serve their purpose. The middle part of the film, that finally introduces the apocalypse, unfolds it's most inspiring virtues using some powerful images (people massively shop for food in the store before the war; the audience from a stadium observes US rockets heading towards the Soviet Union; two atomic explosions over Kansas seen over horizon that cause an electrical outage) and dialogues ("Have you heard Moscow is being evacuated?"), opening room for the consequences of such disaster in the final third of the film. "After" is overlong, slightly anemic and not well articulated, but preachy in a positive way, while Jason Robards is once again excellent, this time in the role of Dr. Oakes who can't believe what humans do to humans.