Film Review: Threads – 8.5/10

“You cannot win a nuclear war…”

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One of the reasons why stories based around the end of the world are so enticing is because secretly, deep down, we find the idea of a post-apocalyptic world exciting. So many of us are caught up in the relative drudgery of mundane household tasks and repetitive careers that any break from the norm is welcome, no matter how potentially disruptive they may be. We’ve all talked in hushed tones about how we would fare in a zombie outbreak (badly) or global pandemic (also badly if this week is anything to go by) or indeed, a nuclear war. Threads answers that question, and it answers it in such a grim and abominable way that I will probably never approach this topic quite the same way again…

One day, Sheffield is vibrant, brash and noisy, as it always has been. Life changes for everyone following the escalation of a worldwide conflict culminating in nuclear war. The steelworks go silent. The cathedral bells ring no more. Young lovers Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale) and Ruth (Karen Meagher) go about their respective day, blissful in their ignorance that life will never be the same for either of them ever again.

Threads is a nasty, vindictive piece of work. But unlike the senseless brutality of Martyrs or the hysterical nihilism of Cannibal Holocaust, Threads is never gratuitous. Every shocking moment, every vacant stare, every fatality, is necessary and in service to the central message of the film. And that message is clear. Just as the eponymous Inspector warns the audience at the end of Priestley’s classic play An Inspector Calls, if humankind will not learn to stop fighting each other, then they will be taught that lesson – in fire and blood and anguish.

Writer Barry Hines (who also gifted the world Kes) never attempts to sugarcoat this message, nor does he attempt to sensationalise it. Instead, he allows the twin horseman of truth and fact to simply state the terrible aftermath of nuclear war. This would be hell on earth. Unimaginable, unthinkable suffering, on a massive scale.

And yet… I have chosen to watch Threads for the first time in the midst of a very real global pandemic. Just as others have been reaching for the Matt Damon vehicle Contagion or returning to the grim world of 28 Days Later. What does this tell us about us a society? Maybe a part of us really does long for the end of the world…

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