Based on the harrowing account of whistle blower Karen Silkwood, this 1983 film directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Postcards from the Edge) is as much a character study of a woman galvanized by injustice as a story of... more » the dangers of nuclear power and the extremes of corporate greed. When Karen discovers unsafe conditions and reckless protocol at the plant where she works, her actions in uncovering the dangers that lie at the plant not only cause a rift between her and her lover (Kurt Russell) and her best friend (Cher), but they threaten her very life. Streep gives yet another bravura performance as a wild child in Oklahoma forced to confront the harsh realities of her life, and the supporting cast, from Cher to Russell to Diana Scarwid is first rate. This true story of the woman who disappeared under mysterious circumstances while trying to find the truth is a well-told, challenging, and emotionally complex tale. --Robert Lane« less
"Based on the true story of Karen Silkwood, a worker at Kerr-McGee's Cimarron nuclear plant who was contaminated with plutonium on several occasions and later died under suspicious circumstances, "Silkwood" was panned by some critics who questioned its accuracy. The film clearly implies that Silkwood was murdered because she was about to expose safety violations at her plant; en route to her late-night meeting with a New York Times reporter, she was run off of the road.While the movie does deviate from the facts in some instances, it is largely faithful to the important details of the Silkwood case. Richard Rashke's "Who Killed Karen Silkwood" (1981, 2000) - written after Silkwood's parents pursued (and won) a civil case against K-M and based on court documents - presents ample evidence that Silkwood was indeed deliberately contaminated with plutonium and was murdered just days later. In fact, the film doesn't even address the most serious accusations - that Silkwood was part of a larger conspiracy that involved a number of state and federal agencies, that she was spied on by both K-M and the FBI, and that she may have stumbled across an international plutonium smuggling ring.As a documentary, "Silkwood" does an acceptable job of outlining Silkwood's murder and the events leading up to it. Some of the dramatizations are disappointing but understandable. The lesbian storyline involving Silkwood's roommate Dolly (played by a refreshingly unglamorous Cher) struck me as silly and extraneous, particularly since, in real life, Silkwood's roommate was merely an acquaintance (not a good friend), and Silkwood was the one suspected of being a lesbian.Nonetheless, as a drama, "Silkwood" certainly deserved its five Academy Award nominations. The actors all give convincing performances, especially Meryl Streep as Silkwood and Kurt Russell as Silkwood's on-again, off-again boyfriend, Drew Stephens. The movie is a chilling piece of work that will haunt you long after it's over. Especially creepy are the decontamination scenes. Yet, for those who decide to delve deeper into the Silkwood saga, the story only gets scarier..."
Meryl Streep is Electrifying!
scott a kennedy | Fremont, CA | 11/27/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Meryl Streep earned her third Best Actress Oscar nomination in a row with her powerful and sobering portrayal of the real-life Karen Silkwood. The filmmakers took liberties in retelling the story, but Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher are simply fantastic. If you love well made drama with real performances from stars as well as supporting characters this is a must see. And if you love Streep, there is no choice, you must own this! She'll blow you away!"
You can't go wrong with Meryl Streep and Mike Nichols.
Kelly A. Garbato | 09/29/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mike Nichols is one of the best directors in Hollywood history ("The Graduate", "Working Girl"), and Meryl Streep is the greatest there ever was and there ever will be ("Sophie's Choice", "One True Thing", "Kramer vs. Kramer".) I don't think anyone needs convincing to view this film. The film is based on a true story, and the subject matter it deals with is very important. Karen Silkwood's bravery and courage gives you hope, even though you know the film will end tragically(if you know who Karen Silkwood was). The film is horrifying to the viewer, if the viewer allows him/herself to relate to the situation and the characters. Cher is great as Silkwood's gay roomate. Streep can make you cry and make you laugh, but what a lot of people don't know is that she can also sing. She sings "Amazing Grace" so well. Mike Nichols has a way of engaging his viewers, that is so mysterious and great."
As seen through the eyes of a nuclear chemist:
scott a kennedy | 03/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie while I was doing chemistry research with nuclear waste at one of several national laboratories here in the US. I cannot tell you which one it was- I *can* say that it wasn't LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory), although the contamination there is appalling (look it up on the web!).It was absolutely haunting to watch "Silkwood" and then go to work the next morning. There is so much the government doesn't tell the general public about the disastrous conditions in the labs, where we worked, that literally date to the days of the Manhattan Project. If the press only knew just a *few* of these things, the shockwaves would shake the US. I saw plenty of "accidents" (more like disasters) involving spills of concentrated solutions of plutonium compounds ... and was contaminated, once, myself.The movie just gave me chills. No, in real life, they don't scrub you down with harsh brushes if you're contaminated (plutonium and other fission products are VERY dangerous if they enter through a break in the skin, into the bloodstream), but there was definitely enough in this film to give me chills at work.I'm still a chemist, but won't work with plutonium again. And, hopefully, this review will remain anonymous.... Through this review, and stories I've told my friends, I've done my share of "whistle-blowing", and it's not a safe thing to do. See this movie, and you'll think twice about how you feel about the "blue collar" workers involved in the mass production of nuclear warheads in the US."
Streep is very convincing as Karen Silkwood
Susan K. Schoonover | Boulder, CO | 05/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am always amazed at the vastly different characters Meryl Streep has believably played in her long career. Her portrayal of Oklahoma nuclear plant worker/activist/martyr is particularly memorable. Though I believe the movie was actually filmed in Texas the filmmakers do a great job of creating working class Oklahoma in the 1970's. Both Kurt Russell and Cher are surprisingly good in their parts and the secondary characters are also well cast. An important movie that should not be overlooked."