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February 22, 2024
Peter Calder

Chernobyl: A play-by-play Series of one of the Worst Disasters in History (1 minute read)

This is probably the best series or film I’ve seen that is a dramatic piece based on real events. Many scripted series of films based on specific people, places or things in the world are usually pushed in certain ways, away from realism, towards a “Hollywood” or romantic lens.

For example, The Imitation Game is a great film about Alan Turning and his creation of the earliest computer concepts to break the German codes during World War Two. However, there was a certain lack of realistic aspects; the film is pushed towards a seemingly romantic nature between the characters, and the narrative seems more magical or unrealistic.

Another strong example is Winning Time, which, like Chernobyl, was also distributed by HBO. Winning  Time peers into the time frame of the LA Lakers, exploring Magic Johnson’s initial involvement and the inner workings of the team personnel and the league at the time. But, the series is very unrealistic, and although it uses real-life events, the narrative is quite obviously sprinkled with a lot of fairy dust.

Chernobyl was the most real-feeling film or series based on actual events I’ve ever watched. Something to keep in mind is the events depicted do not make this a documentary; it is still fiction based on factual events, and of course, the filmmakers have an angle to push, but from the perspective of the viewer, it felt unbelievably raw and authentic.  

The cast was stacked with recognizable faces; all seemingly fit and did a good job with their roles. My biggest takeaway from the series was that it felt like the filmmakers weren’t trying to push,  cover, or guide your thoughts in a specific way, which resulted in a very real feeling series. The narrative and character exchanges were so subtle that there was no need for any romantic or magical revelations or adjustments; it was what it was.

Ultimately, it’s the filmmaker’s job to convey a story rich with emotion and depth, but in a way that is unnoticed and effortless. So you, the viewer, are transported to the rooms of those characters in the scenes. As for the story itself, covering one of the worst man-made disasters in history is no easy task. From the political side, there are a million different ways you could approach portraying the event.

Perspectives drive the story.

Throughout the episodes, we consistently bounce between the unique perspectives of the event, from the managerial staff of the plant, state officials, local homeowners, first responders and their partners, coal mine workers, and soldiers. The sheer number and difference of perspectives explored are very captivating; they all revolve around three main characters. Nothing is rushed; the events are explored in a step-by-step manner, which just gives further detail and immersion for the viewer.

The series kept me glued; I hope to see more films and TV like this.