Showing 1 - 1 of 1 Reviews for Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Posted on 6/11/11 02:50 AM
The 1964, the Cold War was at its peak. The Cuban Missile Crisis was fresh in the minds of many, and the degree of nuclear age paranoia was at an all-time high. Yet even with all this in consideration, Stanley Kubrick took a risk in releasing a film titled Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The story is one to possibly strike fear into the hearts of the many who watch it. An Air Force general, mad with suspicion of Communist conspiracy, orders a surprise missile attack onto the Soviet Union. Back at the Pentagon, the President and other officials race against time to get their hands on the recall code to stop the command. Soon, it it is revealed that the Soviets have conceived a "doomsday device", which is to be immediately detonated in the event of a nuclear attack and would, simultaneously, signal the destruction of life itself.
Now, with a plot, such as this, why would it not induce a wide-spread paranoia, as films such as these tend to do, especially when released at such a crucial time? The answer lies in the brilliance of the way Kubrick presents it all - as a satire! Now I'm really into films dealing with the Cold War era, satire or otherwise, but this one is my absolute favorite. It totally hits the nail on the head with everything it does. It chooses to express what it needs to say by means of humor. Though it isn't just any sort of humor. It captures the full absurdity of wartime and the profound effect the nuclear arms race had on reality. In my opinion, no other film has come even close to capturing this as accurately as this film does.
The skeleton of the entire movie, I believe, lies in the characters involved in the plot. Kubrick molded the screenplay in a way where each major character represents a thread - or even stereotype - within modern day political society at the time. We have the maniacal general, whose motives are questionable, but nonetheless present. We have the demure, collected president, who tries heedlessly to keep his country drawn together. We have another general, this one war-hungry and ready to accuse the Soviets of the slightest wrong-doings. We have the never-quit aircraft commander, who is more than likely the main representation of our military system of this time. And then we have Dr. Strangelove himself, a former Nazi whose main motivation, it seems, is to work heedlessly to produce a better bomb.
Of course, these characters would have no life in them (literally) if not for the absolutely amazing leading cast, which drive the movie forward and onward. Sterling Hayden does an excellent job in portraying the obviously insane General Jack D. Ripper. He plays him with such deadpan seriousness and overall hilarity. Peter Sellers represents what could possibly be the most versatile acting I have ever seen. He plays three characters in the film, and I believe what makes his performance so amazing is just how different each character is; the contrast between the neurotic President, the bumbling General Mandrake (who plays a part in convincing Gen. Ripper to terminate the attack order), and the all-around bizarre Dr. Strangelove. I don't think much of Sellers otherwise, but this is undoubtedly his best work. I also must not fail to mention George C. Scott, who plays General Buck Turgidson, and never fails to portray his over-the-top, frantic Communist paranoia with such precision. If Sellers didn't absolutely steal the show, Scott would be the best performance of the bunch. Lastly, an honorable mention must go to Slim Pickens, as Major Kong. Who can forget the famous scene where he rides the nuclear missile on its way down? Correct answer: no one, ever.
The same elements that make this film gut-bustingly hilarious are also what make it truly disturbing. Yes, there are many laughable characters, and quotable lines ("Gentlemen, you can't fight here; this is the War Room!"). Yes, this is a classic example of American-made satire at its very finest. However, would it be fair to classify this film within the realm of "comedy"? Maybe so, but it's not the type of comedy we all know, with the primary means of entertaining and amusing the audience. Granted, this film is very entertaining and amusing, but it also serves to educate. In other words, this is not a light-hearted piece of work at all. Kubrick dares not to cut any corners with this film; what he expresses onscreen, as ridiculous as it all may seem, was actually very candid for the time. The events aren't actually very unlikely, and could very well possibly occur. The all-to-familiar horrors of nuclear war gradually materialize before our eyes - all caused by the mistake of one individual. With this kept in mind, it really does all seen so real, and at the same time, very surreal. Nonetheless, Kubrick's impressive direction never steer the film into a depressing direction; it remains, overall, very comical, and it works. Thus, we take hold of the film by the reins, and boy, is it an enjoyable ride.
Kubrick is my favorite director of all time, and this is my most favorite film of his. I think the reason that this film in particular has passed the test of time is not just because of direction, screenplay, acting, cinematography, and other components that really play the part in making it a great film. Rather, it could be used with means of observing the Cold War situation of the era. Of course, the film is satire, but this does not negate its historical function of a storytelling device. Only Kubrick himself could make such a film, which still holds its staying power, nearly 50 years after its release. In complete honesty, you really can't get any better than this.