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Film / Countdown to Looking Glass

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Countdown to Looking Glass is a 1984 Canadian Alternate History and Speculative Fiction film starring Scott Glenn and Helen Shaver among others, centered around the events that lead up to a nuclear war between the USA and the Soviet Union, as depicted in a series of evening newscasts that becomes a 24 Hour News Network.

Notable for its realism at the time (though not so much anymore) and for occasionally being Harsher in Hindsight. One of the less famous of the nuclear war movies of the 1980s along with Threads, The Day After, and World War III. Notable along with Threads for being on the "hard" end of the Speculative Fiction spectrum in that, at the time, such an attack could have happened exactly as it depicted and that it even bears some relevance in the present.

It is available in its entirety on Youtube.


Tropes included in this film are:

  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends with a video clip of Looking Glass taking off
  • California Doubling: More like Canada Doubling. The entire production was made in Canada but was supposed to be occurring in the US. This becomes very, very obvious at points.
  • Deadline News: Michael Boyle, aboard the USS Nimitz in the end when the nuclear war begins. Even were the war to have stopped then and there, the initial radiation from the first blast would have been deadly at that range...
  • Downer Ending: Once you go nuclear, you can't go back...
  • Emergency Broadcast: At the end of the film, the Emergency Broadcast System is activated with an EAN.
  • Emergency Presidential Address: Of the "not the President, we're all screwed" variety.
  • Everybody Smokes: That said, for being set in the 1980s and during the Cold War becoming very, very hot it is a Justified Trope.
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  • Hope Spot: Several times. Unfortunately, neither reason nor an Intrepid Reporter can stop the race to war...
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Implied as the story goes on with reports of evacuations and of mass protests in Hiroshima and at the UN...
  • Meaningful Name: CVN is also the network the film centers on, and it is also the US Navy designation for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, such as the Nimitz (CVN-68).
  • Lost in Transmission: In regards to Deadline News above, there were two nuclear bombs detonated outside of the Nimitz while Michael Boyle was reporting, the first nuke detonated far away while Michael was reporting on the flight deck (with Michael assuming it was a nuclear depth charge dropped by one of the Nimitz's picket ships to attack a Russian submarine), the second nuke detonated much closer and shook around but didn't sink the Nimitz, a sound of an nuclear explosion and the camera image blurred and frozen shortly after Michael reporting how "calm" the Strait of Hormuz looked after the previous fireball dissipated implies Nimitz was incinerated/sunk by a third nuclear explosion.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Eric Sevareid. Newt Gingrich also appeared. The main anchor in the film is played by Patrick Watson, a well known and recognizable Canadian TV journalist in one of his few acting roles.
  • Nuke 'em: What the US and the Russians eventually see as the only option...
  • Oh, Crap!: A chain reaction Oh, Crap! at that: Mick / Michael sees the explosion of the first nuclear bomb of World War 3 behind him, and when the video relays this to the studio, before he has time to speak, the anchor Don has his Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Phony Newscast: Unlike similar productions like Special Bulletin, however, the film isn't completely shown as a newscast, as it cuts away for dramatic sequences.
  • Tempting Fate: As newscaster Don Tobin says in the film:
    Tobin: Reasonable people, once they've looked the Devil in the face, aren't going to shake hands with him.