I’m arriving at the opinion that Jared Harris is one of the finest actors working today. His performance in last year’s “The Terror” was nothing short of beautiful. So I tuned in the other night to the first episode of HBO’s “Chernobyl” miniseries, in which he is the protagonist.
I wasn’t disappointed. “Chernobyl” is gripping. I’m no expert about the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union, but this certainly comes across like a meticulous historical adaptation. But what’s surprising is how its smart, relatively spare script moves so quickly and so adeptly incorporates the human horror of the event. (After a brief prologue with Harris’ voiceover, the story begins almost immediately with the accident occurring.) The plot points that follow are by necessity mostly technical. But the pitch-perfect writing here makes the story quite easy to follow.
It’s gut-wrenching stuff — made even more frightening by the Soviet administrators who cared little about whether the power plant’s workers died an agonizing death. It’s the kind of story that would be frightening even if it were pure fiction. But the program’s authenticity and attention to detail are constantly present to remind you that it is not.
There’s some impressive camera work, too — especially the final shot, which will feel like a punch in the stomach.
I’d rate this a 9 out of 10, and I highly recommend it.