The Most Intense Television Production Ever Aired
For those who've never seen it the movie starts out in a conventional manner, focusing on several families going about their lives in an industrial city in England, using an incredibly effective narrative structure overlaid documentary style. So you see the fictional events transpiring in real time with background information given to you as things progress.
You know there's going to be some pretty bad shit happening down the pike and this is one of the two unbelievably powerful strengths of this flick. The news from the world outside peoples' daily lives gets grimmer by the day and it slowly permeates their busy little bubbles. I've never seen a better representation of this in any movie, ever. Of course this was pre internet, mid 80s, and a lot of younger people have no conception of a world where people don't have instant access to information and aren't preoccupied with social networking. But slow recognition of the truth will never go away and it's hardly ever been presented better.
When the attack comes, it's bad, very bad. Plucky British resolve evaporates and the world is changed forever. This seems to have been the movie's true intent - showing the hellish aftermath of a nuclear exchange and for a TV movie from decades ago, well, I don't think it'll ever be equalled. It was the first production I know of that touched on EMPs, radiation sickness and nuclear winter. It doesn't pull any punches whatsoever. Exploding nuclear weapons over cities is a shattering, bloody, puking insanity and you're right in the fucking middle of it as you watch people die the most miserable deaths you can imagine. I don't know anything about the impact that this had on television watchers in 1984 but I imagine it was substantial and extremely controversial. It's a jaw dropper.
Just one other thing. Geopolitics were different then, some countries were aligned in different ways, the Soviet Union still existed but some stuff apparently will never change. The war starts in Iran.
You can watch it on Google video here.