"We are Union Carbide, united in our efforts to build a better future for everyone."
Despite the fact it's already indicated at the beginning that they have incorporated certain facts in a different way, just to increase the dramatic effect of the film, I was stunned and shocked after watching this docudrama. Frankly, I had never heard of this industrial disaster that took place in Bhopal in 1984. A human tragedy that could have been avoided. But greed and indifference were the main causes leading to this human tragedy. Martin Sheen plays Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide, and is perfectly casted for this movie. He manages to portray Anderson as a man with some human feelings, while on the other hand his business instincts prevail again and he asks casually why an amount of pesticide isn't sold. However his contribution is outplayed by the typically Indian actors. Bollywood movies are unknown territory to me and I guess they usually aren't the epitome of superb performances or a stunning footage, but I'm convinced that the message of this movie was much more important.
December 1984, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. In a Union Carbide pesticide plant, a chemical reaction of water with Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) ensure that a deadly toxic gas cloud spreads over the surrounding slum. The next day there are around 2,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands of residents affected by the toxic cloud. Soon after another 8,000 victims would die because of that. 30 years later, there are still problems and casualties caused by this disaster. The combination of inadequate security, human errors and mismanagement caused this terrible disaster. Had the slip-blind plates been placed so water wouldn't mix with the chemical substance, if only the scrubbers were functioning (but they were under repair), had the refrigeration worked and was the torch installation not taken out of service, this could have been prevented.
A terrible topic about the disastrous consequences caused by human negligence and greed, which is played in a fair way by Indian actors. Especially by Rajpal Yadav as Dipil. A person who's lovable and sometimes comical at the same time. A rickshaw-puller whose vehicle was recreated into pleated iron after transporting a corpulent passenger, who's desperately looking for some work, so he can support his family, pay for the impending wedding of his sister and mainly keep his wife satisfied. He sees a chance to work in the factory as an ordinary handyman. Afterwards he's offered a better paid job (after the previous person dies because a drop of Methyl Isocyanate dripped on his arm, which subsequently is indicated as a typical accident because of an irresponsible act of the concerned person). Essentially he's technically incompetent for this job. But finally it's a dead simple task : he has to keep an eye on a pressure gauge and let someone know when it falls below a certain level. A beautiful rendition and a character that arouses pity every time. Motwani (Kal Penn) is a local reporter who fills his own newspaper with rumors and allegations against Union Carbide. In retrospect, he proved to be an important character in reality. These two together with Martin Sheen, are the key players in this drama. Mischa Barton is presented as the American journalist Eva Gascon, but soon she vanishes from the scene and you wonder what importance her part was anyway.
The known outcome is visualized in a simple yet effective way. Thousands of dying victims, coughing up blood and suffocating. Children looking around apathetically. Helpless doctors trying to save victims with the insufficient available resources. And while this drama unfolds, the chairmen of Union Carbide are trying to find a way out so they can put the blame on anybody but themselves. The fact that there's a description in the contracts about the slip-blind plates, is sufficient enough to conclude it's the factory managers fault. The final settlement made with Union Carbide was a compensation for damages of a lousy 470 million dollars. It shows once again what a human life is worth for such industrial giants. Sickening.
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