Silkwood (Nichols, 1983)

Karen Silkwood was a nuclear power plant employee, potential whistle blower, and union organizer who died suspiciously after agreeing to meet with a reporter from the New York Times to discuss contamination and faulty medical practices occurring at her workplace. Meryl Streep plays Silkwood as a midwestern gal of grit and sass in Mike Nichols stirring film adaptation, giving the doomed heroine a genuine sadness throughout her multiple exposures to plutonium, criticism from fellow workers, and separation from her crumbling family. Silkwood doesn’t break the mold for this particular sub-genre, but it’s a grueling personal ordeal and Nichols instills a disturbing ambiguousness to the treachery involved, painting Karen into corner after corner, showing an isolated woman trying to transcend society’s indignation for her growing ambition. The performances from Streep, Kurt Russell, and Cher are all top notch, but we should expect nothing less from the director responsible for so many great performance-driven films (Postcards From the Edge being my personal favorite).