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In 1974, Cimarron Plutonium Recycling Facility employee Karen Silkwood was killed in a car accident. The circumstances surrounding her death have been controversial ever since, leaving more questions than answers. Was Silkwood murdered because she knew too many company secrets, or did her pill-popping do her in? Were her contaminations by radioactive materials at the nuclear plant part of a company plot against her, or were these contaminations self-inflicted? Working from a loose adaptation of Silkwood's story (written by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen), director Mike Nichols attempts to incorporate many possible angles in his 1983 film Silkwood — portraying Karen Silkwood as a hard-living woman who becomes politically aware and active when she discovers the dangerous working conditions at the Cimarron plant. The overall story isn't much for generating cinematic excitement, but Nichols gets help with a terrific performance by Meryl Streep in the title role. Streep is able to use the odd dichotomies in Silkwood's life and personality to create a whole character with which the audience can empathize. Outstanding supporting roles played by Kurt Russell as Karen's lover and Cher as Karen's friend and roommate help to make the picture a rich character study. Nichols also uses some nice touches, such as creating a dark mood by contrasting the wide-open spaces of Texas with the confining atmosphere of the industrial nuclear plant. Unfortunately, in the final scenes Nichols seems unsure how to bring the story to a close, so he allows Hollywood sentimentality to overtake the story. However, overall the film still stands up as decent entertainment — often funny, occasionally exciting, and generally enjoyable. MGM's DVD release of Silkwood offers an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with monaural Dolby Digital audio. Trailer, keep-case.
—Kerry Fall

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