Chernobyl ★★★★★

This really blew me away. I don't have HBO so I saw a few episodes on a recent flight to Denver, then immediately rented the rest from Netflix once I returned home.

Excellent and disturbing account of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and its aftermath. The decision to follow various characters lives' impacted by this, as well as the major scientists and Soviet officials who sparred over revealing the truth, made it immensely watchable. It was both a disaster epic and a political thriller at the same time, with a lot of science thrown in.

Even though he's a talented actor who's been in many films, I had only seen Jared Harris in "Mad Men", so I was uber-impressed with his characterization of the tortured Soviet scientist struggling with his conscience and principles. Emily Watson plays his colleague, and her character is actually a composite of the many scientists who sought to help and inform the public. Stellan Skarsgard is also outstanding as a Soviet politician who has a gradual transformation through witnessing and participating in the effort to save lives and understand how this could happen.

The only odd aspect of the film was the decision to have most of the characters speak with a British rather than a Russian accent. But once I accepted this, the writing, acting, direction and photography made this a small matter indeed.