Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> Silkwood (1983) >>

0:00:19 Opening Credits
A banjo plays as we are introduced to Karen, Drew, and Dolly. They leave their humble home in Karen's beat-up car and drive to the Kerr-McGee plant. They punch in late and dress in the uniform of white coveralls.
0:02:59 The Heart of Production
Meet Karen's co-workers. Trainees are on tour in Karen's section, and she, as a "trained technician," tells them what her duties are. The tour guide compares the radiation effects to a sunburn and assures the trainees "they can't hurt you unless you're careless." The lunch bell rings and Karen, in a rush, has to be reminded to "monitor" herself.
0:06:20 Lunch Room (1)
Drew and others discuss "cooked" truck. Karen asks for the weekend off. Meets new employee in x-ray, Winston. Karen scavenges through co-workers' lunches.
0:08:05 Lunch Room (2): This is Only a Test
Back in lab trying to get others to take her shift. A siren rings--a "test"--but they don't do the drill because it "might stop production for ten minutes."
0:10:01 Lunch Room (3): Move on Out, Okay?
After hours, Karen sees crew cutting up "cooked" truck. She "move[s] on out" as she's told.
0:10:53 Lunch Room (4): There's Nothing to Do
Drew convinces Dolly to go with him and Karen to see Karen's children.
0:12:15 Lunch Room (5): This is What I Have Left
Karen, Drew, and Dolly drive past oil refineries on the way to visit the children.
0:13:16 Visiting the Kids (1)
Dolly waits in the car while Karen and Drew sit with Linda in the kitchen. "Are you Mama?" Karen's ex-husband, Pete, says she can only have the kids for the day.
0:15:00 Visiting the Kids (2): No Swearing
Rowdy restaurant scene with kids, followed by Pete telling Karen he's moving to Midland, Texas.
0:17:12 Common Law (1)
Smoking a joint on the drive home. Details of Karen's marriage. Karen sings "Amazing Grace," lamenting that she "could've just taken" her kids.
0:19:50 Common Law (2): Buried Truck
At work, an acquaintance confirms the "cooked" truck was cut up, put in baggies, and buried.
0:20:46 Under Suspicion (1)
Meet Thelma, an older co-worker--she talks about her wig; "you and Drew ought to settle down." Gilda tells Karen the plant closed for a day because of a contamination in their section--Karen is suspected.
0:23:00 Under Suspicion (2): Going to Drew
Karen, angry, tells Drew about it the suspicion. Quincy, the head of the union, is interested. Karen flashes a worker named Zachary. Comment about her going into politics.
0:25:18 Cooked
"Dolly Trashbags" refuses Winston's advances, saying, "try Karen." Thelma is "cooked" (0:25:50). Dolly tells Karen, and she runs to the shower room. The plant's "Doctor" is a vet and tells Thelma she is ok.
0:27:18 Just Wakin' Up (1)
Drew talks about opening a mechanic's shop. Tension begins between Karen and Dolly/Drew—Karen in cleaning frenzy, refrigerator foil mysteries, messing up floor, "if anybody around here's gonna get cancer, we're all gonna get cancer." Outside on porch (0:30:03). Karen worries about Thelma. Drew asks, "you just wakin' up to this?"
0:32:19 Just Wakin' Up (2): Apologies
Dolly up all night—"I love you, Karen."
0:33:34 Just Wakin' Up (3); Nasal Smear
Karen talks to co-workers in her section about Thelma—terrible scrubbing, nasal smear, internal or external. One questions her interest. In the parking lot (0:35:22), Karen tells Thelma to get a nasal smear, make them tell her the count—"There's a lot of liars around here." Overheard by Hurley.
0:35:50 Just Wakin' Up (4): No Birthdays Allowed
Gilda's birthday interferes with production. About sexy present: "Careful, Gilda, it's hot." Hurley: three months late on contract, million in the hole, jobs in danger.
0:37:46 Contaminated (1)
When Karen monitors herself after cleaning up cake, she finds she is contaminated.
0:38:32 Contaminated (2): Acceptable Level
Karen is treated. Scrubbing and urine sample talk.
0:39:18 A Mother's Advice (1)
Karen wants to ask mother to send hair conditioner. Drew says, "I wish I could take care uh you better." Mother concerned with Karen's nails. Science class v. Home Ec. Intimate scene between Karen and Drew—he talks about two sides of her. In bed (0:43:39).
0:45:05 A Mother's Advice (2): Plutonium Gives You Cancer
Dolly and Karen on porch. Karen reads union materials—"acceptable levels is bullshit."
0:46:07 A Mother's Advice (3): Transferred
Drew tells Karen she's been transferred.
0:47:15 New Position (1)
Introduction to Metalography. Karen witnesses Winston adjusting negatives.
0:49:50 New Position (2): Union Involvement
Union meeting—need to rally the troops to keep union intact. Karen is late, but volunteers for negotiating committee.
0:51:52 Feeling No Differently
Drew questions Karen's union involvement—"don't flash 'em." Drew doesn't feel differently about her since she got cooked—"I still wanna fuck you." They listen to Dolly having sex.
0:54:33 Working on Corpses (1)
Karen and Drew meet Angela and agree there's "nothing wrong with" her lesbian relationship with Dolly. Angela moves in and gives her opinions about Kerr-McGee—own everything, employees look "like they died before they died." Bad fight between Karen and Drew.
1:00:01 Working on Corpses (2): Preparing for Washington
What to wear—Angela's advice. First flight. Meet Paul Stone. Stop at Lincoln Memorial.
1:02:14 Moral Imperative (1)
Meeting with Stone and Richtern—want to concentrate on health hazards. Karen tells them in private (1:04:40) about negatives being touched up. They tell Karen about The New York Times reporter—she hesitates—Richtern insists it is a "moral imperative." Meeting with Stone continued (1:06:59).
1:02:51 Stand-Up Girl
Drew asks Karen not to take anything from the plant, says she doesn't owe the union anything. She tells him she is doing what she wants—"Let's not have a fight now." Flashes him, but only t-shirt shows. "Amazing Grace" begins as she drives away.
1:07:34 Moral Imperative (2): Mounting Tension
Slides at Quincy's. Pictures of Karen and Stone make Drew jealous, plus he is increasingly angry about her "spyin.'" In the car afterwards, she tells him it's a "moral imperative" (1:08:53).
1:10:17 Thinking and Drinking
Drew, drinking on steps, tells Karen he quit his job because he doesn't "give a shit." She doesn't understand why he isn't concerned with the Kerr-McGee workers being "poisoned." He says to himself, "Don't give me a problem I can't solve."
1:13:29 Two People (1)
Drew moves out. Karen asks him to stay, but he says he's only in love with "one" of her. One last hug and kiss.
1:16:41 Two People (2): Those Don't Look Like Antihistamines
Karen snooping for documentation. Winston catches her. Allergy medicine.
1:18:50 Two People (3): Canaries
Union meeting—doctors talk, canaries, plutonium causes cancer, no acceptable level.
1:21:36 Already Involved (1)
After the meeting, Winston a skeptic about dangers of plutonium, why didn't we hear from you before? he asks Stone, worry about losing jobs. Stone tries to break it off with Karen (1:22:36).
1:23:30 Already Involved (2): More Problems At Home
Karen gets Stone's answering machine and tells him the union was voted in. Fight with Dolly about food shopping, Angela losing house key.
1:26:20 Already Involved (3): Company v. Union
Company starts rumors about the union—blood drive. Not cooperating with union contract negotiations.
1:27:46 Accusations (1)
Phone call to kids. Nasty fight between Dolly and Karen—each blames the other for Angela, Drew moving out. Another suggestion of Dolly's interest in Karen. Ends with mother/child embrace on porch.
1:33:09 Accusations (2): Can't Please Anyone
Gilda tells Karen there is missing plutonium, but it is none of their business.
1:35:05 Accusations (3): Documentation
Phone call with Stone, stresses need for documentation. Karen rifles through files and is busted, told she is the wrong person to do the dangerous work she is doing. Winston, Curtis, and Hurley gang up on her (1:38:00).
1:39:20 Unpopular (1)
Gilda won't talk to Karen.
1:40:02 Unpopular (2): Contaminated Again
Karen is contaminated again, with an increasing cough.
1:40:49 Unpopular (3): Accidents
Karen hits a deer, and Drew tows her car, spends the night. She spills her urine sample in the bathroom.
1:44:56 Hot (1)
Karen is still "hot" when she walks into work.
1:45:22 Hot (2): Hot House
House is found to be contaminated, is stripped of everything—S.O.S., kids' pictures. Dolly taken for questioning. Mr. Hurley asks Karen if she brought plutonium into the house to hurt the company. She wonders if her urine sample was spiked. "I'm contaminated. I'm dyin.'"
1:51:02 Hot (3): Drew's Reaction
Drew finds stripped house and walks through, teary-eyed. Winston is outside and tosses empty beer can at house. Drew punches him, goes home to find Karen there (1:54:20). "They're trying to kill me." Resolve to go to Los Alamos doctor.
1:55:53 No Secrets Left
On plane to Los Alamos, article in The New York Times says all nuclear plants are missing plutonium, written by same reporter Karen is to interview with. Dolly denies telling the plant about Times, x-rays.
1:58:17 Doctor's Report
Dolly and Drew are okay, Karen has six nanocuries in lungs, but this is not an accurate measurement. Call to Stone—"I'm ready" to see the reporter (1:59:54). Drew talks about future with house and children (2:00:20). Karen is silent and worried—"They wouldn't come out right."
2:04:49 Amazing Grace
The song continues as Karen leaves union meeting with documents. Headlights are close as someone is tailgating her, then we see her car wrecked at the side of the road, and she is slumped over the wheel. The car is towed past the union meeting, where Dolly is crying and not looking. Karen's tombstone. Again we see the second flash and drive away sequence.
2:08:08 Aftermath and End Credits
Circumstances of death unknown, though officially an accident. No documents found, but alcohol and tranquilizer found in bloodstream. Plant shut down one year later.