• Fail Safe
    3 minutes 51 seconds
    Added: May 9, 2008


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Fail-Safe Reviews

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Lanning :

Super Reviewer

April 27, 2006
This is the flip-side of the coin upon which you find Dr. Strangelove. Riveting performances and incredibly tense telephone exchanges lead to an ending you will not forget. The closing sequence is so impossibly unacceptable that it becomes absolutely believable in its inevitability. True, it's a bit dated, but If they'd found a part for Peter Sellers in this, I'm sure I would give it a full five stars : ) A seriously amazing movie that came out just months after Dr. Strangelove . Definitely the second best anti-war movie ever. Freakin riveting.
Pierluigi P

Super Reviewer

July 27, 2007
An incredibly dramatic and intense depiction of the exagerated armamentistic career and the state of paranoia among superpowers, triggered not only by mechanical failures but by fanatism, extreme rigurosity or simple lack of human decency. Lumet's concatenation of silent and claustrophobic close ups work as a time bomb in a countdown to explotion with each passing second and the screenplay has the necessary ideological ambiguity of a tragedy, divergent positions over the same issue bouncing around, leading us to feel uneasy and desperate to work out a solution ourselves if we were among the politicians that decide our fate in the war room.
For some, like the pragmatic but souless character played by Walter Matthau, human casualties are only statistics, war is effective to preserve the economical strenght of his country; others like the President played by Henry Fonda, are willing to take any action to straight the balance. An executive decision that seems far fetched, but makes the film even more powerful and rounds up more biblical and mythological allusions to make it seem timeless, therefore a highly probable worst case scenario.

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2010
This movie is pretty much exactly the same as Dr. Strangelove except that it's more dialogue driven, as Lumet's movies usually are. It also has some boring scenes as Dr. Strangelove did. Overall it's pretty good too.
Ken S

Super Reviewer

May 5, 2007
How do more people not know about this movie? It's amazingly good.

I actually screamed holy shit 4 separate times.
Aaron N

Super Reviewer

December 10, 2006
Gen. Stark: They're good men, we've seen to that. If their orders are to attack, the only way you'll stop them is to shoot them down.
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: We've got no alternative! This minute the Russians are watching their boards, trying to figure out what we're up to. If we can't convince them this is an accident we're trying to correct by any means, we're going to have something on our hands that nobody bargained for, something only a lunatic wants!

At the same time Dr. Strangelove was made, so was this movie. It was also released months after Strangelove, which probably diminished the impact. It deals with the same plot elements, but this movie plays everything very straight. The result is a well acted, well directed, well written film on how the Cold War, nuclear arms, and the machines people worked with could turn into a drastic situation.

A number of actors including Henry Fonda as the president and Walter Matthau as a political scientist must deal with an impossible situation to deal with.

A technical malfunction has caused a plane to leave its fail safe position, and now it is headed towards Moscow with the intention of dropping to 20 megaton nuclear bombs on the city. Now it is up to all the various military and congressional leaders to find a way to deal with this event.

Director Sidney Lumet makes great use of the limited settings he provides, which take place in a bunker, a control room, a board room, and few other areas. This is all done in a semi-documentary style with intense close-ups and natural silences between characters when dealing with options they are left with.

There is no soundtrack or musical score at all in this movie, making the claustrophobic tenseness of the situation all the more thrilling, especially when dealing with later developments as the story unfolds.

Following the first 25 minutes where all the characters are introduced in a sort of jumbled manner, the plot goes underway, and maintains its pace in a very effective manner from then on.

This is a very good film dealing with realistic consequences of the time and is still frightening in a sense.

Prof. Groeteschele: And the Lord said, gentlemen, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

Super Reviewer

July 27, 2007
A brilliant drama made at the height of the cold war in which US president Henry Fonda must use all means at his disposal to avert a nuclear war from being accidentally triggered. An extremely sobering dramatization of the consequences of nuclear armament, it draws inevitable comparison to it's contemporary Dr Strangelove. It obviously has a much more serious and understated tack, but even in this day and age when the idea of nuclear war has never seemed more distant, it still packs a punch.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

October 23, 2006
This is one of the most amazing movies I've ever seen. It obviously doesn't have the same effect it did 40 years ago, but it's still jarring nonetheless.
Byron B

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2007
I'm puzzled by the matador/bull-fighting dream scene in the opening that the audience is reminded of at the end.

Dr. Strangelove has the US president meeting in person with his advisers in the war room, when talking to the Russian president no translator is needed, and the technology behind the mistake and satellite surveillance is practically ignored. Then of course you've got Sellers in three roles and the same plot is dealt with in a very humorous manner.

This movie looks at the same issue dramatically and plays it for thrills. First, you have O'Herlihy playing General Black, an adviser to the US Secretary of Defense (Hansen), then Matthau playing Professor Groeteschele, a civilian political scientist adviser to the same. They take on a reversal of the traditional positions. General Black is a dove when it comes to war matters and the Professor is a hawk. Then we have Overton playing General Bogan and Weaver playing Colonel Cascio. They both work in the control room monitoring the maps and sending orders to the fliers. Binns as Colonel Grady is one of those fliers who is heading off on a routine patrol in a bomber plane. A computer malfunction sends Grady's bomber toward Russia by mistake and the President must be contacted. Henry Fonda plays the President in the same trustworthy, intelligent, kind-hearted, and decisive manner that many of his characters have been. And Hagman is Buck, a young translator brought in to help the President if Russia must be contacted. Well they're all in different locations talking back and forth over conference calls and radio. The Defense Secretary and all his advisers keep arguing politics and war theory, the control room keeps an eye on the progress in the sky, the fliers follow orders to the exclusion of attempts to recall them home because anything could be a Russian trick, and the President tries to be diplomatic and has to make the final decision. It's mentioned again and again that WWIII is on the verge of happening because we let our machines get out of hand. It's also about how we defend ourselves with the destructive forces that are in existence being as they are. There is also a theme of watching that we do not become what we are trying to fight against.

It was good with some really surprising moments, but it just wasn't as stylish as Dr. Strangelove. And I love the satiric tone of the other movie. I think the tone of Dr. Strangelove has definitely led to it being more popular. For people who don't get the humor, this may be a thriller they'd appreciate, but on the other hand this movie, Fail-Safe, includes some tough pills to swallow. People who look at war like a football game, like some of the soldiers in the control room do, cheering to see a loser lose need to look at the bigger picture. People who think that any cooperation with a political rival, even when for the mutual safety of many lives, is a bad thing would probably not enjoy the message here. So actually, people who like Dr. Strangelove probably like this too, and people who do not like one probably don't like the other.

Super Reviewer

March 24, 2013
Once it picks up after its slow start, Fail-Safe is a riveting, quickly-paced Cold War thriller with a stunning conclusion. It's a shame it was so overshadowed by Stanley Kubrick's similar (albeit comedic) work.
February 27, 2012
Remember when movies had to have acting and dialog? You'll find a lot of that here, plus tension, drama and what appears to be stock footage of jets. While dated, the story holds up, and oddly enough is as relevant as it was back then.
July 29, 2011
Having seen Dr. Strangelove prior to this, I must say that I found this version of the story better and more realistic. Although the cold war is over, this is what could have eventually happened, and in actuality, since nuclear warheads do still exist, it could potentially still happen. When The President announces how he plans to resolve the situation, it is suspenseful as you wonder whether or not he will actually go through with it, and when he does, it is beyond shocking. As the final scene played out, it shook me in a way that no other movie ever has and as the credits rolled I had to simply take a deep breath and regain myself. Very powerful stuff.
February 4, 2010
Fantastic. The more exciting (and realistic) version of "Dr. Strangelove." Wonderful suspense. Great non-traditional ending.
July 6, 2009
One of the best anti-war films of all time, and also one of both Henry Fonda and Director Sidney Lumet's best films. Amazingly tense, extremely well written and acted. The frightening scenario is very believably done. The pace is non-stop exciting. A great classic.
June 15, 2009
Overshadowed by the film "Dr. Strangelove," "Failsafe" provides a serious version of a nuclear weapons crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union. The plot in "Failsafe" is remarkably similar to it's satrical cold-war counterpart with the National Command Authority having to prevent full scale nuclear war after one its bomber squadrons accidentally receives the "Go" code to strike Moscow. A computer communication malfunction at the US Air Force's Strategic Air Command is the culprit, and within minutes, the President dispatches fighters to shoot down the bombers after his service chiefs recommend the course of action. The fighters are unsuccessful and the President begins working with the Soviet Premier to prevent the bombers from reaching their target. Under the President's orders, SAC is on line with the Soviet High Command to help intercept the bombers. After one of his Air Force generals predicts the likelihood of a bomber getting through, the President seeks a solution to prevent nuclear retaliation, which provides a shocking ending to the story.
January 8, 2008
A fantastic cold war era movie. Great cast and stunning suspense. Moscow and New York City are both nuked.
September 29, 2007
Forget that it's black-and-white, you HD junkies: Fail-Safe proves to be a timeless political thriller, despite its outdated Cold War premise. A rare early appearance of Walter Matthau in a dramatic role, well acted all around. A great Lumét film.
June 2, 2007
An underrated classic that will keep you on the edge of your seat. A truly frightening film with powerful performances by screen legends Fonda and Matthau.
January 18, 2007
Another nuclear nightmare movie without the comic stupidity of Strangelove. Henry Fonda and his Trusty Translator (Bewitched Fans shudder here) face the Ugly Choices. I'm a hawk and still enjoy this one. From the Burdick book.
October 15, 2006
Loved this. Absolutly stunning character study in the same class as 12 Angry Men about a mistaken atomic bombing on Russia. Fonda and Matthau were brilliant.
August 4, 2006
This movie hit me with a bang when I was a kid. I still think it's a wake-up film for the US and yet very indicative of its time.
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