Based on the book of the same name by acclaimed non-fiction author Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Command and Control delves deep into the how and why of the 1980 Damascus Titan missile explosion.
The documentary walks through the disaster step-by-step; beginning twelve hours before the explosion and also featuring interviews with politicians, townspeople, crew members, scientists, and the commanding officers involved in the tragedy. Though primitive computer-generated diagrams give the film a strangely dated feel, and obvious pacing issues plague its first half, Command and Control is a perfect example of how a well-researched documentary on an interesting topic can hold an audience’s attention despite rather glaring flaws.
Director Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.) goes to great lengths to put the Damascus Accident into the broader context of both the history of the United State’s development and production of nuclear weapons following the end of the second World War, as well as within a larger pattern of accidents and mishaps involving nuclear weapons on U.S. soil. The film offers a sharp criticism of the United States Air Force’s tendency to attribute accidents involving nuclear weapons to “personnel error” rather than acknowledge that the weapons themselves are not equipped with adequate safety features.
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