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."