The Man Who Saved The World

Here’s an interesting one, both in form and content, the docu-drama story of Stanislav Petrov, a Russian of whom you’ve probably never heard but to whom you apparently owe your continued existence. He is The Man Who Saved The World (15) ***

Petrov was on duty one night in 1983 at the height of the Cold War between the USA and USSR. The alarms went off in his control bunker signalling America had launched five nuclear warheads on Russia. Petrov should have pressed the red button – but his gut told him to ignore Kremlin protocol and investigate further. His actions prevented the apocalypse but ruined his life.

Director Peter Anthony, from Denmark, intercuts a re-staging of the drama of that night with the real Petrov – initially an irascible alcoholic – in the present day, making a redemptive journey to the United Nations and across America, meeting Robert de Niro, Matt Damon (of whom he has, rather brilliantly, never heard) and his hero Kevin Costner.

It is mainly in Russian with subtitles and is a bit confused, with Petrov’s interpreter becoming a focus for the story, probably to illustrate how the younger generation should respect history. “I am not a hero,” says Petrov. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

As he tells Costner what would have happened had he pushed that red button (soberingly illustrated by an ‘end of days montage’), we just have to hope, in this age of “loose nukes”, that there are many more such heroes around and in the right places.