While the imbecilic new leader of the free world and de facto tyrant-in-training prepares to deregulate industry, dismantle the EPA (and the FDA), and ramp up international tensions, it’s a fair guess that if our complete decimation of the environment doesn’t get us, our escalating capacity to murder on a grand scale will. Sure, we can keep our chins up and our resolve strong, and try to remain positive—but all that and a can of soup will leave you hungry.
It's all played out very matter-of-fact, and with no music or sermonizing to skew emotions, its decidedly sober, quasi-documentary approach lets the viewer know early on that as things go from bad to worse, the stoic, unflinching THREADS will offer no spiritual reprieves.
After weeks of rising tensions due to an alleged U.S.-backed coup in Iran, Russian troops cross its northern border, which prompts the U.S. to send its own soldiers to protect the much-coveted oil fields. (familiar?) When an American nuclear submarine disappears in the Persian Gulf and the mounting evidence points to Soviet involvement, an irreversible course is set.
As we get to meet and know the Kemp and Beckett families, respectively, there is a growing sense that their stories are not the story, but rather just further detail in a singularly grim cinematic tapestry. With very little in the way of traditional character motivation or individual conflict, it's as if we're being set up to watch lab rats respond to some awful trauma. THREADS goes about the forbidding, untidy business of disassembling our civilization with a cold, uncompromising candor necessary to compel its audience to action. It is a message of certain, utter doom, meant to entertain nobody.
At the bar, now weeks into the growing crisis, Ruth tells Jimmy she's pregnant. "It's not the end of the world." It's all handled rather perfunctorily, with Jimmy, hesitant at first, deciding it best they marry, and the two families getting together over dinner to hash it all out.
But as the young couple begins setting up house in a new apartment, the crisis reaches its boiling point.
Soon after, we meet yet a third group of characters, the Sheffield Emergency Response team, which convenes in a basement office and begins pondering the worst.
It isn't simply the graphic realism I refer to. After the bombs fall (210 total megatons on the UK alone), all that remains on the other side of that equation is endless suffering, hunger and hopelessness.
I had initially planned to focus much of my attention on the implacable force of the second half of THREADS, if only because the anti-nuke movement which propelled this essential film to fruition has all but ceased. But I feel this prolonged dirge through hell has already spoken its heart and mind and much further dwelling on this subject will do me no good whatsoever. Just a couple of moments remain that I would like to leave you with.
After the bombs have their way with Sheffield, Jimmy Kemp's parents hide behind a makeshift shelter (a kitchen door) for what seems like days, too sick and weak and injured to muster much more than occasional muted cries of anguish and vomiting.
And the fires rage on all around them.
And Mrs. Kemp, in a crawl, spots a shoe. His shoe. He's buried in rubble, but at least the boy was spared a worse fate.
Sobbing weakly yet without respite, it takes all but her last shred of energy to hoist herself forward so she can grab hold and kiss the last piece of her boy she'll ever see, his sneaker.
Across town, the Beckett's have fared a bit better using their basement as a shelter. Of course, the fallout has made everyone ill, regardless.
And Ruth Beckett, too distraught for food, responds in kind when her mother insists she eat for her unborn child's sake. "I don't care about this baby anymore!"
Through a haze of toxic smoke and fallout, she plods tentatively onward, from one awful scene to the next, a reluctant arrival to hell.
When a hysterical young boy approaches her screaming for his mother, eyes bulging psychosis, she regards him briefly but keeps pressing forward.
During this excursion, it becomes clear that the lucky ones are already dead. The survivors, for however long they may last, are either terribly burned or sick or injured, with many having simply gone mad.
The entire movie, uncut, if you can ignore the Italian subtitles.