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Fail Safe

Fail Safe(1964)


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  • A Balance of Error...

    • joe santus
    • 12/1/16

    In reality, the US is neither the all-righteous light nor the root-of-all-evils darkness, as Hollywood has fictionalized it at various eras of motion picture history. Of course we as the USA see ourselves as "right", but, then, human nature being what it is, so do most other nations and peoples. We're just another nation of fallible, limited, inherently-flawed people seeking to survive and flourish, who are as often wrong as we are right in our choices, behaviors, reactions, and relations as most any other nation has been or is. We're no more but also no less self-righteous and self-serving than any other nation; just, being the "bigger kid on the block", we sometimes mistake the effectiveness of our overwhelming size for "absolute truth and justice" prevailing."Fail Safe" fictionalizes "what happens when two self-righteous enemies arrogantly each think they have everything under control" with excellent acting, atmospheric mood-setting, and sustained tension. Both the USSR and the USA are responsible for tech failures which result in a world facing nuclear annihilation (a threat daily feared in that era by those of us aged 60 and older). Like the Cuban Missile Crisis of two years prior to this film, the US and the USSR face a dilemma which each has equally contributed to making, by their suspicions, rivalry, fears, nationalism, and senses of moral superiority. Neither is any less liable nor guilty; but, only by both making choices which sacrifice their own self-interests is there any possibility of escaping global destruction.The message as pertinent in 2016 as in 1964: just as true love means recognizing a beloved's errors and wrongs and being loving enough to point them out in hopes the beloved can improve; , so, true patriotism means loving one's country enough to see it CAN do wrong, sometimes huge wrongs, and being willing to address those wrongs. True love is not blind.

  • Sincere Henry Fonda creates a believable core

    • 10/20/16

    This film is excellent. I loved Henry Fonda, find him to be believable and unique, don't think anyone could ever suggest he is anything but reality based and sincere. This film is such a good tonic for any and all violent human actions and the potential for their final result. . Well worth the time.

  • Excellent Movie

    • Jim Smith
    • 10/19/16

    First class presentation. Riveting. Definitely not a comedy. Best watched when not in a joyous mood.

  • Hollywood Fiction

    • J. D. Jitters
    • 10/19/16

    Again, Hollywood and it's anti-American thinking has to create a film that shows America as the enemy. It is all ways going to be America who will cause a world disaster, not our adversaries but Hollywood's adversaries are not the enemies that we all know, communism but instead conservative thinkers. Note, that Hollywood never takes into consideration the Cuban missile crises that there friends the Soviet Union caused, because that's real life. I wish just once that Hollywood would for once see and understand who the real enemy is! But what the heck, that would mean they were normal in there thinking and that's wishful thinking.

  • Unsafe at any speed...

    • Graham Thomas
    • 10/19/16

    Propaganda, good propaganda, to make a social comment. Urgent then, cogent now. Worth seeing, Fonda in top form. Say what you will, directors then at least had a point of view.

  • Fail-Safe

    • Michael Whitty
    • 8/23/16

    In both "Fail-Safe" and "Doctor Strangelove" which came out in the same year and both stories sent planes to bomb Russia "Fail-Safe" was the dramatic one using the serious possibility of an accidental strike. There is communication between the U.S.President and the Russian Premier that if a bombing on Moscow happens then a bombing on New York will happen. The cold war in the 60s was a touchy thing especially after the Cuban missile crisis and "Fail-Safe" did a good job of increasing the communication between the powers.

  • I don't think this movie was meant to entertain.

    • TXIAm74
    • 7/17/16

    I feel this movie had a strict message.A lot of details were included to ensure the sterile look and feel was portrayed in this movie...and I think that was to be one of the main points: follow the strict protocols, as the pilots literally verbalizes, eventually, after the movie illustrates this repeatedly. And to prove that the best of all the well-laid plans, such as the Matthau think-tank-ers, can't begin to account for EVERY iteration - AND variation, which man may twist and turn within the atomic war path.Pay attention to the close up angle shots of the faces, the facial sweat, etc. The simplicity of the bunker room with Fonda and Hagman.The discipline one must attain transitioning from personal to professional lives, was portrayed in the sub plots.All calculated I believe.Note - I don't have any aversion to the Atomic weapon or that technology. I only have hesitation of our current generation of inexperienced technicians who have only read the theories, but instead are in positions, acting like seasoned mechanics with decades of hands-on experience. It's like comparing a kid with a toy stethoscope to a 20 yr trauma doctor. We build things far more advanced than we can handle, 90% of the time. Then we continue to enhance it while basic things are left in disrepair. Ts are not crossed. Is are not dotted. There is no forgiveness with this kind of weapon. So before anyone says I'm too harsh, the weapon is much more intolerant and has only the discretion that the operators (man) give to it (prior to launching it).

  • Red Alert

    • Clichae,H.A.
    • 7/16/16

    Two reviewers, out of several, saw in this movie the defeatist programming to which we've been subjected since 1945 & both have my admiration.

  • Making judgements without knowing facts

    • denscul
    • 12/26/14

    During the history of he cold war, over half a century of two sides having military means of delivering nuclear weapons, there has NEVER been a scenario as is depicted in this film. Fictional accounts that provide entertainment and tension are fine, but can not be placed in any genre other than science fiction. Films such as this scared the hell out of me growing up in the 50's when the atomic bomb was first used, and last used, generated tons of sci fi films that were creative fancies. If, as some claim, have knowledge of the flaws in the "fail safe system, let them defend their statements, but please do not refer to films as a primary source. I wish I could prove my bone fide knowledge of the method of insuring that mistakes are not made. Even our enemy the Soviets and now Russia have never had any situation depicted. The US has never had a nuclear accident that has caused One Accidental Death. Not many inventions can make that claim. The assume destruction of nuclear weapons is what protects their non use. And each side realizes that those who pull the trigger, and that requires more than one person, would die. Unlike any previous wars of mankind, the Generals, Admirals and politicians will die along with the young men, and now women who were the only ones previously to face the jaws of death.

  • Exceptional performances, script and production

    • Movie lady
    • 8/11/13

    This is one of my favorite movies. The taunt, tense incredibly literate script is beautifully acted by a sterling cast. Who wouldn't want Henry Fonda as the president in this kind of monumental crisis? The movie is very faithfull to the book, and the lack of background music is a wonderful and appropriate touch. So realistic it's chilling.

  • All too realistic...

    • DaveC
    • 12/31/11

    Norad has experienced some close calls and glitches. I have too much experience with software and hardware to trust the disclaimer at the end of the movie. It is a tense thriller!

  • ...speaking of a sleeping pill.

    • tragic figure
    • 12/31/11

    I actually did fall asleep twice during the viewing, but I did wake while both sides were negotiating.What I did see was very tense- I would like to see the rest of it now.

    • 9/25/11

  • One of Sidney Lumet's best films.

    • Terry
    • 9/25/11

    "Fail Safe" has often been described as "Dr. Strangelove without the laughs". But even though the plots are virtually identical, I think it's an unfair comment. "Fail Safe" is a superb film on its own. Let's remember...this and "Dr. Strangelove" came out during the very height of the Cold War...the Cuban Missile Crisis happened just a couple of years before. And "Fail Safe" played out perfectly on those fears. Lumet did a superb job invoking such tension. Everyone in the cast is excellent. But of course, most people single out Henry Fonda as the President. He evokes calm, but look at the anguish on his face when Moscow is destroyed....and he realizes that he has to sacrifice millions of Americans to avert an all out nuclear war. And as I mentioned, this chillingly played out during the Cold War. The very last moments...when Lumet quickly flashes street scenes of New York before the screen goes's still horrific more than 40 years later. A excellent, excellent film still.

  • Liberal Solutions

    • jack the hat
    • 9/18/10

    I love it when we get a liberal script of our future, if war breaks out, even by accident. Note with interest, that the President (henery Fonda) blows up New York and not Washington DC---what bravery on his part. To make it even more personal the president (Henery Fonda) knew that his wife was visting New York at the time he ordered the bomb dropped. America is to blame again according to our pinko friends in Hollywood and not her enemy.


    • Lynda C.
    • 7/28/10

    For me Sidney Lumets' best. Henry Fonda and the supporting cast are at their best, the scenario is so plausible it gives me goosebumps. Watched it when released and to this day political and espionage thrillers are my first love.Thanks TCM

  • Excellent!

    • AnnieD
    • 7/25/10

    This is another movie I saw for the first time several years ago and it's become one of my's the straight companion to "Dr. Strangelove". Henry Fonda is superb as the President, and Walter Matthau is a surprise as an SOB intellectual. The scenes where Henry Fonda is on the Red Phone with the Soviet Premier are squirmingly tense. I highly recommend!

  • As good as a movie can be!

    • Steve
    • 2/4/10

    This is a work of art. Stop what you are doing, close the doors, take the phone off the hook and watch FAIL-SAFE. Watch it like it is worth watching because this is one great flick! A great movie has to have a great story. This one is hot and comes as close as a movie can come to the suspense of a great book. It appears low budget in retrospect but the actors maintain an intensity to keep you glued with suspense. FAIL-SAFE isn't about special effects or blockbuster stunts or ruined by some boring ass love story. Instead this is serious as serious can be. It's a mans movie I guess. It's my favorite film.

  • FAIL-SAFE (1964)

    • Jay
    • 7/6/09

    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.

  • No Dr. Strangelove

    • Bruce Reber
    • 6/30/09

    "Fail Safe" is a stark doomsday thriller about the possibility of WW3 being triggered by the U.S. accidentally nuking Moscow that is played totally straight. Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove, OHILTSWALTB" came out earlier that year, a totally hilarious comic satire on the insanity of the entire concept of Nuclear war and global annihilation, so I guess after audiences saw Armegeddon played for laughs in Dr. Strangelove they didn't much care to see it shown as a distinct and nightmarish possibility in "Fail Safe". This was 1964, the height of the Cold War, when each day practically everyone in the world knew that global nuclear destruction could happen at any minute, particularly in the wake of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Both are excellent films, but I give the edge to Dr. Strangelove, for the reason that if I and the rest of humanity have to get vaporized by atomic bombs, I want to laugh myself silly while it's happening.

  • Good for one viewing but that's all you'll want

    • Elwood Harvey
    • 7/12/08

    Why Stanley Kubrick chose to make a parody of this movie is beyond me. Fail-Safe is a very chilling and effective tale in my opinion. I was on pins and needles all the way up to the bitter, terrifying end. Kubrick's lackluster parody does nothing to make me laugh or to help me "stop worrying". To those who say this kind of thing could never happen, I certainly hope you're right but I'm not so sure that I have that much faith in our government or any government that is comprised of imperfect humans....

  • More effective than sleeping pill

    • R Andrews
    • 10/4/07

    This movie is ridiculous and a bore...just watch Dr. Strangelove for a lesson on mutually assured destruction that actually entertains. Lumet wrote a great book about making films, but, alas he his a second rate director. As in almost all his movies, his earnestness is boring and high-handed. And most of the characters lack all nuance.This material attracted another 2nd rate entertainer when George Clooney was in a recent live teleplay version on CBS. His earnestness in Good Night and Good Luck put me to sleep too.

  • Outlandish Story

    • Sid
    • 8/18/07

    Sidney Lumet has spun quite a yarn here as the U.S. defense broke the fail safe standards as a madman and a motley crue fly out to the Soviet Union to drop the bomb on Moscow. As mentioned by the producers that this sort of thing couldn't possibly happen. How can one fathom such an nightmare, still this film is quite a chiller. What makes this film so frightening is that these bombs exist and what Henry Fonda does at the end. This is a product of it's time because of the nuclear war scare.

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