The China Syndrome is a moderately compelling thriller about the potential perils of nuclear energy, whose major fault is an overweening sense of its own self-importance.
Jane Fonda limns a TV anchorwoman stuck in a ‘happy news’ rut, who hires freelance cameraman Michael Douglas for a series on energy that she hopes will break her into the world of hard news.
While filming at a nuclear energy plant, they witness a control room crisis involving supervisor Jack Lemmon, which is surreptitiously lensed by Douglas. The resulting footage becomes a political hot potato, as station manager Peter Donat buckles under pressure from power company exec Richard Herd.
It’s not until the final half-hour of China Syndrome that its promise catches up to its punch, and the wind-up packs a solid wallop.
1979: Nominations: Best Actor (Jack Lemmon), Actress (Jane Fonda), Original Screenplay, Art Direction