The Worst-Case Scenario


Best of 2017

We’re away until January 3, but we’re reposting some of our favorite pieces from 2017. Enjoy your holiday!

Still from Threads.


The audience at the 1984 press screening of Barry Hines and Mick Jackson’s BBC TV film Threads apparently walked out in numbed silence. One of them, the novelist Russell Hoban, concluded in The Listener,

This is not a film to be reviewed as a film; its art is that it cancels all aesthetic distance between our unthinking and the unthinkable: here is the death of our life and the birth of a new life for our children, a life … of slow death by radiation sickness and plagues and starvation and quick death by violence.

Threads is a virtually faultless film, but as Hoban suggests, its unrelenting bleakness makes it all but impossible to recommend to someone one likes. That said, it has recently won a “Ten Films That Shook Our World” poll, and tonight, April 10, it’s showing at the Barbican Centre, in London. Spoiler alerts are irrelevant; the movie will spoil your day however you see it. In its harrowing vision of Britain after a nuclear war, pretty much everyone dies eventually, while rats, maggots, and the class system endure. As vividly as it defines the experience of living through the Cold War, we no longer have the luxury of viewing it as a historical document: in January 2017, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists declared us closer to doomsday than we’ve been since the early eighties.