In Sheffield in 1984, Jimmy and Ruth are struggling to make amends. When she discovers she is pregnant, they make the decision to do the decent thing; get married and get an apartment together in the nearest block of flats. Their parents meet and life goes on, until the threat of a nuclear war between Russia and America begins to intensify, culminating in a bomb being dropped on the nearby military base. Does that sound like a spoiler for the end of the film? Well it isn’t. The bomb gets dropped roughly a quarter of the way through this film, after which we follow the fallout – both nuclear and otherwise – the survivors must endure.Many films have a moral message at their heart – believe in yourself, be good to others, if you’re life is shit don’t worry you might be a wizard – but Threads has more than that. This film has easily the most blatant anti-war (or at least, anti-nuclear bomb drop) message I’ve ever seen. All the characters in this film are innocent bystanders, caught in the midst of a war their country isn’t even directly involved in, yet they must pay the highest price possible. We never see anything happening in the two conflicting countries other than via TV news reporters stood in front of The White House, and the closest we get to a key figure in a position of power is the leader of the small committee formed to stay in an underground bunker should the worst happen. The rest of the characters are Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale), a carpenter, his new wife Ruth (Karen Meagher), and their respective families; Jimmy’s parents and younger siblings (David Brierly, Rita May, Jane Hazlegrove and Nicholas Lane) and Ruth’s parents and grandmother (Henry Moxon, June Broughton and Sylvia Stoker). It’s a sad film wherein those that get off easiest are the ones who die in the initial blast – some of whom just disappear and are never seen and barely referred to again – as the lives the survivors need are horrific, depressing and sickening. We are informed of the developments within the rapidly warming Cold War via typewriter-style news bulletins subtitled on the screen.
The pre-bomb segments offer a nice slice-of-life look at life in the 1980s, a time I barely witnessed having been born three years after the events in this film supposedly take place, so it was good to see how things have changed, but also how things have stayed the same – when initial warnings are announced and newspapers explain how homes should be reinforced, the first thing to happen is the supermarkets to be ransacked as people stock up on tinned food, with one shopper remarking it;s just as bad as Christmas. This everyday life, with people still heading down the pub for a pint despite the impending onslaught of explosions and devastation, makes it so much harder to bear when these characters we’ve only just begun to familiarise ourselves with are suddenly found with just one leg protruding for a pile of rubble.When the bomb drops, it’s pretty damn horrific. Skulls melt, people burn up. someone gets half their face horribly disfigured from being stood next to a window, and there are several minutes worth of shots of people simply crying in their makeshift bunkers. Mere moments before this had just been a family drama, with a global crisis as a backdrop to this young couple struggling to make some headway in life. Now the only question is survival, which seems more like staving of death rather than increasing the length of life.
It was difficult to imagine how much worse their lives would get after the explosion, bu new depths were plumbed that I’d never thought of. The subtitles inform us that, with no fuel or manpower to dispose of the dead, up to 20 million corpses remained unburied, just existing out in the open world, and yet even these rat-gnawed, decaying bodies are envied by the people left to trudge around them, shot for looting and only being fed if they are able to work. Debates are held as to whether a discovered dead sheep possibly died of radiation poisoning, and whether that makes it unsafe to eat, before those discussing it just set about upon the corpse, ripping into the raw meat straight from the bone. Later, a birth occurs in an empty barn, the umbilical cord ripped with the mother’s own teeth. Maggots, rape and bloody, stillborn births are still to come after this.
It’s not often I find myself complimenting a film in which every scene I hoped to be the last, yet credit must be given for the film as a whole. I don’t recommend you every want to see it – not if you enjoy happiness at least – but it was still well made, largely well acted (with a few exceptions here and there), thought provoking and ultimately achieved what was set out – to show the horrors that would occur should a nuclear war break out. That being said, there’s images I will never unsee, and several times I gagged, so whilst I found good qualities within the film, I never want to even think about it again, and strongly recommend that you never see it.
Choose Life 7/10