Acceptable Risks (1986)

Article 4514 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-24-2014
Directed by Rick Wallace
Featuring Brian Dennehy, Kenneth McMillan, Christine Ebersole
Country: USA
What it is: A building sense of dread

A housing development is built close to a plant that has been working with a toxic and potentially dangerous chemical, one which could cause disaster if something were to go wrong.

On the surface, the movie has a certain resemblance to THE CHINA SYNDROME, in that it involves a worst case scenario of what could happen in a potentially dangerous industry. However, it ends up reminding more of DR. STRANGELOVE in that it’s less focused with finding a particular scapegoat for what happens than in showing how a conjunction of various details could bring about an otherwise avoidable disaster. Because of the way it is formatted, it takes a little while for things to get off the ground, but that’s because it’s building up a wealth of detail. It’s also a bit hard to follow, and unless you have a strong familiarity of the chemicals involved (if they’re not totally fictional), you might find your head swimming on occasion. Still, I really like this movie, at least partially because it doesn’t simplify the problem; in the final analysis, quite a few people end up sharing the responsibility for what happens, and I find this fairly intriguing. It’s a bit marginal in terms of its fantastic content, but it’s not until the disaster occurs and we see the extent of the damage where I think it finally moves into the area of science fiction. Brian Dennehy gives an excellent performance of a man desperately trying to juggle the demands of those above him and the realities of the situation; I found myself really feeling for his situation. All in all, I found this to be quite powerful and provocative, especially for a TV movie.


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