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Film / American Meltdown

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American Meltdown (or simply titled Meltdown) is a 2004 made-for-TV movie that stars Bruce Greenwood, Leslie Hope, and Arnold Vosloo.

After a group of terrorists storm a nuclear power plant, FBI agent Tom Shea is called in by the government to try and handle the situation before it's too late. While the government, FBI, and Shea try to figure out the terrorists' motives, police officer Zoe Cox finds herself stuck inside the plant and assists Shea anyway she can.


Unlike most Die Hard-like films, American Meltdown is mostly dialogue-driven, with very few action sequences or shootings involved. The film also has a major twist in the third act. You Have Been Warned.

This film has the examples of:

  • Anti-Villain: Khalid. Not only is he A Father to His Men, but he's not abusive or mean-spirited to any of the hostages. He becomes even more sympathetic once it's discovered that Khalid and his men are all former U.S. soldiers who got terminal cancer after they were exposed to weapons that were developed in America and not properly disposed of.
  • Armor Is Useless: Deconstructed. When Zoe and Manolo are both shot, her body armor stops the bullet. She still ends up receiving a few cracked ribs.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Shea and Sands stop Raul from creating a meltdown, but Sands and his whole team are all mercilessly gunned down by the CAG team, several innocents, including Zoe, have died during the crisis or the riots, and the authorities cover up who Sands and his team really were, and they will forever be known as common terrorists.
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  • Bulletproof Vest: Zoe is shot in the chest, but lives due to her bulletproof vest. Subverted that she immediately loses consciousness, and when she wakes up several minutes later, she's suffering from chest pain due to cracked ribs.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The CAG team manages to kill Sands and his entire team with no resistance from any of them.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The film first focuses on Zoe Cox and her point of view as the terrorists invade the plant. But as soon as Shea comes in, the story focuses more on him while Zoe is cast aside and devolves into a Mauve Shirt. She's also killed very abruptly in the third act.
  • Disconnected by Death: Zoe is shot dead while on the phone with Shea.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Her: Zoe Cox is shot out of nowhere during the last half-hour of the film. Except for Shea commenting how he lost an officer, everyone in the film quickly forgets she existed.
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  • Dying Smirk: When the CAG team find Jesse on the floor, he simply smirks at them before they shoot him dead.
  • Filler: The news broadcasts. None of them do anything to advance the plot and are, at best, unnecessary Infodumps. If the broadcasts were removed, the film would be shortened by ten, possibly even fifteen minutes.
  • Jitter Cam: The camera rarely ever stays still. Throughout the film, the camera either shakes slowly or abruptly zooms in and out. It's supposed to give the film a documentary-style touch but ends up being distracting.
  • The Reveal:
    • All of the terrorists are former U.S. soldiers and never intended on causing a meltdown. They attacked the power plant simply to show how vulnerable radioactive "weapons" are in America, and to show that the government allegedly doesn't care about the people.
    • One of Khalid's men is trying to blow up the power plant after being tortured and possibly brainwashed by terrorists some years before the film starts.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Manolo, one of the security guards at the plant.
  • Wham Line: From the beginning of the third act:
    Shea: "He talked about Afghanistan? Did he talk about training on small bases or fighting for the taliban?"
    Tamara: "Taliban? No, for this country."
    Shea: "(Beat) Khalid's an American soldier?"
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Khalid's overall motivation is to show that the American government doesn't care about its citizens and that they carelessly leave critical installations (such as power plants) unguarded and free to be attacked by terrorists.
    • Shea immediately chews out the CAG team after one of them guns down the primary engineer, even after Shea clearly said he was one of the hostages.


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