List Film

Pandora’s Promise (2 stars)

Lecturing documentary from Robert Stone about nuclear power

Pandora’s Promise

If there is one thing which can be sure to universally attract grumbles from a room full of people, it’s the process of being lectured at. What’s even more bothersome is a lecture which propounds the notion that we are all misinformed creatures worthy of patronization. In Robert Stone’s latest release, one can’t help get the feeling that he hasn’t quite learned this lesson throughout his career; producing a documentary which comes off as more of a smug, bullish indictment of a society than the informative and enlightened exposé it could have been.

Pandora’s Promise attempts to build an argument for the claim that nuclear power can be a safe, clean and sustainable energy source whilst providing a realistic solution for the deceleration of global warming. Stone recruits a number of anti-nuclear turned pro-nuclear advocates to provide us with various facts and figures, chopped between images of nuclear power plants, which stand like impressive industrial monoliths under the gaze of Stone’s camera.

To Stone’s credit, he is making a brave statement: trying to debunk a very popular liberalist belief, something not often dared to be done in American documentaries. However, whilst there may well be substantial truth in what is being said here, we never get a chance to digest it. There are too many sporadically divulged facts and not enough room for contemplation. It’s a manic myth busting mission, one which seems ill-conceived from the beginning, choosing to focus on how one can change their opinion rather than actually attempting to do so in a persuasive manner.

This is a one-sided documentary, which is sadly a phrase that has become synonymous with the documentaries of Robert Stone. Pandora’s Promise gives up enough information to tease the curiosity of doubting individuals but unfortunately as a piece of subversive, cogent filmmaking – it’s a box of empty promises.

Limited release from Fri 15 Nov.

Pandora's Promise - Official Trailer [HD] - In Theaters This June

Pandora's Promise

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 80 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Robert Stone
  • Cast: Stewart Brand, Gwyneth Cravens, Richard Rhodes
  • UK release: 15 November 2013

Documentary seeking to bust many of the myths surrounding nuclear power and to propose it as a safe, clean and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the facts are too few and there's little time to digest them, and Stone's smug, bullish, patronising approach is not persuasive.


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