Just in time for our nation to decide who will get the nuclear launch codes comes Robert Kenner’s documentary Command and Control, which asks a question almost too terrifying to contemplate: How have none of the nuclear weapons built during the Cold War ever gone off accidentally? The answer turns out to be the dumbest of dumb luck. Based on Eric Schlosser’s nonfiction book of the same name, the picture focuses on one very bad night in 1980 at the Damascus, Ark., missile silo when a socket fell out of a worker’s wrench. It punctured the fuel tank of a Titan II missile that was carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built, and filled the facility with toxic, highly flammable gas that could have exploded at any minute — and holy shit, it’s a wonder that humanity has survived this long, considering all the technological terrors we’ve constructed and believe we can tame. (See also Alex Gibney’s recent Zero Days.) Damascus was not an entirely isolated incident; Command and Control the movie isn’t able to go into as much detail as the book, but we’re told smaller-scale accidents happen all the time, and while providence and built-in safeties have prevented nuclear explosions, it’s a mathematical certainty that one of the 70,000 warheads will go off sooner or later. Sleep well, America!
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