joked about shoddy Soviet technology, but it was no laughing matter to Col.
Stanislav Petrov. One night while commanding a Soviet early warning station,
the system erroneously reported the launch of five American nuclear missiles.
In contradiction of standing policy, Petrov insisted on visual verification
before proceeding with his own launch. Danish filmmaker Peter Anthony follows
the older and crotchetier Petrov as he starts to receive his global accolades
and dramatizes that 1983 Cold War night in The
Man Who Saved the World (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
is rather eerie how history repeats itself. On the night in question, Petrov’s
colleagues were still brazenly justifying the accidental shooting down of KAL
flight 007, even though it was an obvious mistake and an international PR
disaster. Years later, Russian backed Ukrainian separatists similarly bragged
about shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, before realizing their
stupidity. In 1983, the incident further heightened the tension for Petrov’s
colleagues in the Soviet Air Defense, priming them to expect western
retaliation. That is exactly they assumed was happening, but Petrov was not so
forward from the dramatic recreations, we see the Petrov of today is rancorous
and unsociable. Even though he was profoundly right, the 1983 incident did not
lead to his promotion, but rather the contrary. Frankly, he never really had
much affinity for the military, but when his wife finally succumbed to her long
term illness (perhaps not receiving the fullest possible medical treatment, as
the film maybe sort of implies), Petrov became an angry, bitter man. He will be
quite the handful for Galina Kalinina, who agrees with some trepidation to serve
as Petrov’s translator during his NGO-sponsored tour of America.
nobody ever saved so many by doing so much or so little, depending on how you
look at it. Russian actor Sergey Shnyryov viscerally conveys the extreme stress
Petrov withstood during the longest twenty minutes of his life. However, the
real life Petrov’s oracle of doom act gets a little tiresome. Yes, the 1983
near launch is deeply scary, but it was precipitated by Russian systems
failures. However, his warnings of nuclear Armageddon certainly argue against
welcoming further nations into the nuclear club, especially those governed by
religious extremists with vast fossil fuel deposits and a history of supporting
terrorism. Seriously, what rational person would want to see a country like
that go nuclear?
is also a Kevin Costner fan, who conducts himself like a worthy ambassador when
Petrov and Kalinina visit him on set. The Colonel also met De Niro, but Mr.
Tribeca is predictably monosyllabic in his cameo. However, nobody is more awkward
than the desperate-to-be-recognized Matt Damon, whom Petrov does not know from
The film compellingly recreates the slightly
Strangelovian 1983 Soviet war room and Petrov scores some convincing points.
Unfortunately, Anthony refused to ask the swords-into-ploughshares Colonel some
blindingly obvious questions about Russian military interference in Ukraine and
Georgia, or he refused to answer. Either way, the absence of such discussion is
embarrassingly conspicuous, to such a point that it actually takes a toll on
the film’s credibility. As a result, it only really holds up when directly
covering the fateful night of 1983. Feeling inconsistent and incomplete, The Man Who Saved the World truly
inspires mixed emotions when it opens this Friday (9/18) in New York, at the
Labels: Documentary, Kevin Costner, Stanislav Petrov