When you get a combo of HBO and some great British/European actors in a mini-series you know it is a winning pair. Chernobyl is a winner in many ways. The acting, the direction and the fact that it brings to light a story that the world should know more about. I was alive when the Chernobyl disaster happened in 1986, but do not remember much about the details. They are all laid out here in detail. We get to relive one of the world’s worst man-made catastrophes and all the attempted secret keeping which came along with it.
April 1986 one of the Union of the Societ Socialist Republic’s or USSR’s many nuclear power plants exploded. At the very beginning attempts were made to cover it up as they were not totally aware of the extent of the damage. When that became clear the USSR government again engaged in a cover up. This despite the fact that they knew the millions of lives which were in danger along with land, food sources and animals which were contaminated.
Not all Soviet citizens engage in the cover up, however. Scientists Ulana Khomyuk (Emily Watson – Breaking the Waves, Gosford Park) and Valery Legasov (Jared Harris – from television’s The Crown) risk their reputations and lives along with government official Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard – Dune – 2021, Avengers: Age of Ultron) attempted to bring the truth to light. They did so in the hopes of avoiding another disaster. Of course, the Soviet government was going to do everything to stop the truth from coming out.
The five-part series originally was aired on HBO in 2019 and many watched and loved it. Rightly so, awards and nominations ensued. While it earned over 100 various nominations most impressive is the 10 Primetime Emmy Awards it won. The wins were in the limited series, directing, writing, and other production type awards, but most amazingly none of the cast won acting awards. A shame. While the cinematography, costumes, writing (by Craig Mazin – The Hangover Part II, Identity Thief), and directing (by Johan Renck – directed episodes of Breaking Bad and Walking Dead) are all great what the series hangs upon is the acting. It is stellar. The only weakness is that they have selected all non-Russians to star in it. But that is not the actors’ fault. Plus after a bit you don’t even notice that the characters are all speaking with British accents.
Emily Watson once again makes you wish she would work more often. She once again inhabits the skin of the character she is bringing to life. One of our great character actresses working today. Jared Harris is another Brit who is consistently amazing. Another character actor who has portrayed a wide variety of characters from an ad exec in the 60s who commits suicide to King George VI. His excellence is never for a moment in question here. Finally, there is Stellan Skarsgard. He brings to life a man who is believably at the same time a man who is loyal to his country while wanting to get at the truth. A tricky ask that is ably portrayed in this talented actor’s hands.
All of the quality to be found here makes this a must-watch. It was probably the best series released in 2019. If you missed it then make sure you watch it now as it is available on Crave.