Why you should watch ‘Chernobyl’

Kieran Hunter explains why the acclaimed miniseries shouldn't be missed

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I know! The title isn’t original in the slightest but this is important.

Television and film for the past few weeks have be dominated with the likes of Game of Thrones and Marvel…my opinions on those will remain reserved but it’s understandable! They are both conclusions to a cultural dynasty that have defined their respected platform for the current generation.

Regardless, there is only one TV show that I can’t stop thinking about.

Right off the bat, if you’re not into the Chernobyl disaster, that’s fine.

If you’re not into true stories, that’s fine.

Just give the first episode a try even if it does not peak your interest whatsoever and see what happens.

The disaster itself is quite frankly drastically ignored in my opinion. A lot of people know the basic outline but don’t give the disaster the attention it deserves, it is one of the biggest events in our history and had the potential to be responsible for more deaths than World War 2…this was a big deal.

As you can tell, from the first time I heard about this HBO miniseries, I was hooked, however, I did not expect the visceral experience that I got when watching the first two episodes and finding it to be a far superior experience than Game of Thrones or even (I’m about to say it) Avengers: Endgame currently.

Like I said, before you call me crazy, just go and watch it for yourself but if that doesn’t persuade you enough, here are a few reasons as to why you not only should watch it but also why it could be one of the best miniseries of all time.

There are no “big names”

When I say “big names”, I understand that Stellan Skarsgård, Jared Harris, and Emily Watson are arguably well-known actors in their own area but that is it. This miniseries really has no one else of that cultural calibre and yet, they are still immensely challenged when compared to every other role.

This is so refreshing to see because it respects the idea that popularity and budget aren’t everything. It’s annoying to see films and shows be dependent on name recognition rather than I don’t know, actually having a good script and concept?

Sure, there are very popular actors and directors out there that are phenomenal at their craft and why wouldn’t they be? However, when I see big names scattered across an ensemble cast and crew, I don’t think that’s amazing news, I get nervous because it feels like a rushed and lazy casting process that’s not based purely on talent.

I understand it’s a business but when I watch the trailer for The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy aren’t what’s capturing my attention, it’s how fucking awesome and intense it looks.

I’m not saying to get rid of big names, that’s illegal, but what I’m saying is that if you need big names to sell your film, your film is probably dogshit and you need to re-write it.

*coughs* Suicide Squad *coughs* Movie 43 *coughs* The Avengers…from 1998.

When I look at something like Chernobyl, you can tell that they put a lot of thought into casting because not only do the real life characters to look at for guidance but also, they have a time period they need to bring to life and it’s pulled off so well.

Great casting choices are one of the crucial ingredients for immersion and the way how you know that works is having a scene without the main characters and still being able to love it.

Chernobyl did that for me at an exemplary level.

It’s from the writer of…the Scary Movie franchise?

When I found this out, I was at first, very shocked and confused because not only did Craig Mazin write some of the worst films of the 2010’s but he turned the Hangover trilogy into a pile of shit which is an unspeakable crime.

But it makes perfect sense.

We can all agree the Scary Movie franchise is bad but being the last phase in the Genre Cycle, it tells us that he knows the horror genre and it really shows, this miniseries is a horror and I will fight anyone else who argues with me on that.

There’s a massive use of drama in it but there’s a lot of horrific elements to this series that it does a better job at terrifying its audience than 99% of horror films made today.

It’s uncensored in its depiction of the events which is relieving to witness because it was a horrible disaster that deserves an equally horrible depiction and being from a writer that understands the deconstructive value of horror is kind of a perfect move and is a perfectly written horror script.

It’s far different from anything in Mazin’s filmography but a welcomed one at that.

Composed Tension

To quote one of my best friends here:

“I have to watch the next episode of Chernobyl later tonight when it’s dark because in the first episode, I found out radiation is hot and it’s too hot today.”

(I’m sorry, Michael)

If there’s one element of cinema that enhances fear and tension into the heart of the audience, it is undoubtedly music.

Think of your favourite scene, it doesn’t even have to be full of tension or horror but I guarantee it wouldn’t be the same without the score or soundtrack supporting it.

The score for Chernobyl is beautiful! Hildur Guonadottir did an outstanding job and it made sense why considering she worked with composer such as Ryuichi Sakamoto and one of my favourite, Johan Johansson who is a pretty obvious inspiration for her when hearing Chernobyl; it completely sucks me in.

That straight up gives me chills and I love every second.

The fact it sounds like a a screeching banshee mixed with the chimes of particles in the wind is utterly compelling and awe-inspiring. Considering which scene this score fitted behind, it’s a perfect fit.

It is the true definition of unnerving tension through sound.

Insane Realism

With the adaption of true stories and events, there has to be some creative diversion somewhere. Artists like to create and it can actually differ from the intended experience of the adaptation if a creator sticks to complete 100% authenticity above creative control.

Regardless, I’ve heard experts of the disaster that have seen the Chernobyl miniseries say the show is largely and significantly accurate to the point where they had access to transcripts that were put into the script.

The only inaccuracies came from production. An example would be that some of the military uniforms had to be changed for legal reasons but in terms of the story and characters, all the main ones are actual depictions of real people! Even a handful of the civilians which I respect hugely.

Conclusion

There aren’t enough people who are in love with this show and it deserves way more attention than it does already.

It is a collection of emotions and themes that pay great respect to a terrible tragedy and you can tell that the creators actually cared about what they were creating.

Please, support this show because like I said, this show has the ability to be one of the best of this generation at least and should be included into the conversation next to Game of Thrones and Endgame at the moment because for the people who are watching, I guarantee this is the one they’re thinking about out of the three.

‘Chernobyl’ airs Monday nights at 9pm on HBO (US) and Tuesday nights at 9pm on Sky Atlantic (UK)

Words by Kieran Hunter

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