"The Man Who Saved the World," about a Russian military officer credited for helping to avert a nuclear crisis at the height of the Cold War, tries to pass itself off as a documentary. Even if it does feature Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov visiting America to be feted at the United Nations and rubbing elbows with glitterati, the film is a disingenuous, thoroughly dramatized reenactment at best and a reality show at worst.
On Sept. 26, 1983, glitchy computers at Soviet defense headquarters set off false alarms that the United States had launched five missiles toward the country. Instead of jumping the gun, the young Petrov (Sergey Shnyryov) waited for radar confirmation. He was right. If it weren't for his prudence, half our nation would have been eviscerated by the Soviet nuclear arsenal.
Petrov is portrayed today as a cantankerous curmudgeon living in squalor, hurling verbal abuse at journalists and interpreters who have the audacity to inquire about his estranged mother. Amazingly, the omnipresent camera lingers long after Petrov tells everyone to get lost.
His embattled translator, Galya (Galina Kalinina), can barely tolerate him. But she inexplicably goes beyond the call of duty to chaperon him across America to visit Kevin Costner on a movie set. Here, Danish filmmaker Peter Anthony's work moves unmistakably past that murky staged-and-scripted reality-TV point of no return. The result trivializes the accomplishments of the man who saved the world.