Chernobyl 1986 review – a typical disaster film with the exploration of the human psyche

July 21, 2021 (Last updated: February 14, 2023)
Abirbhab Maitra 1
Film Reviews, Netflix


A heartfelt disaster movie with its own cliches of the genre.

This review of the Netflix film Chernobyl 1986 does not contain spoilers.

On 26th April 1986, humanity had witnessed one of its worst disasters in the form of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. A catastrophe that created shockwaves across the whole world. After the atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, humanity learned about the devastating power of atomic energy.

This catastrophe has been explored earlier with various films (Chernobyl Diaries) and TV projects (HBO’s Chernobyl) with different themes of their own. As I have not seen all of the other earlier works, I have sat to watch Russian director Danila Kozlovsky’s film Chernobyl 1986 with a fresh mind with no preset notion or comparisons. And after watching, it quite works for me.

The story reveals our protagonist Alexey, a firefighter, who struggles with his personal life. He is good at his work but has his own personal demons harboring within himself. How the incident of Chernobyl changed his life forever is the main prospect of the story.

A typical structure of disaster films, Chernobyl 1986 has its own cliches of the genre. But the part I love so deeply is the attachment of the human psyche to the movie’s overall theme. From 2012 to Unstoppable, all have heroes, with their own heroics. But here, the director never shows his hero that heroic. Rather he is treated as an anti-hero in the film. He is selfish; he is too egocentric and also has a tendency not to accept responsibility. In the beginning, we come to know that he has a lover with whom he has a son. But years earlier, he abandoned them.

He does not have the heroic abilities we used to see in films of this kind. Rather he is a flawed character who transforms with the progression of the story. This actually indicates natural human nature. That’s why I feel so much connected with the character of Alexey, as he is the representative of who we are.

But with the other characters, I don’t connect much as they are underdeveloped in their own sense. The second pivotal character is the girlfriend of Alexey, Olga. But her character is underdeveloped to feel her emotions. And with a lack of detail, the emotional scenes between these two characters feel stretchy.

But the standout thing in Chernobyl 1986 is its action sequences. The raw and realistic action sequences capture the utter madness of the disaster with the help of Kseniya Sereda’s energetic camera movements, and with the complementary background score by Oleg Karpachev creating the atmosphere of the entire setting. I found parallels with the opening visuals of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan with some of the scenes of action and tension.

The actors have done a good job of portraying the emotions. They portray the utter horrors of the tragedy in precision. Lead actors Danila Kozlovsky and Oksana Akinshina have done an outstanding job of portraying the emotions perfectly.

Chernobyl 1986 may not get out of the trappings or the cliches of disaster films, but with well-designed action scenes, heartfelt emotions, and the portrayal of the human psyche, this is worth watching.

What did you think of Netflix’s Chernobyl 1986? Comment below.

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1 thought on “Chernobyl 1986 review – a typical disaster film with the exploration of the human psyche

  • July 23, 2021 at 7:13 pm

    Maybe I remembered differently but….

    Alexie abandoned his girlfriend 10 years earlier. He only found out about his son when he followed or found out which apartment she lived in after spending the evening together. Had he not followed her he would still be oblivious…. I know I know they’re fictional characters in a film ???

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