Saturday, July 16, 2011

FAIL-SAFE (1964)

‘We’re setting up the war machine that acts faster than ability of men to control it.’
Here’s another brilliant and underrated film about war without war, made by the legendary Sydney Lumet, and it is the best American film ever made on the issue of ‘the cold war’. Coincidentally Kubrick’s masterpiece ‘Dr. Strangelove’ based on quite similar subject and plot also released the same year. Where the Kubrick film has satirical and funny punch, this one is an intense drama focusing moral dilemma of the unavoidable situation. The venue of tense filled drama is an emergency meeting about an unavoidable military mistake and the challenging threat is nuclear war with Russia. The rest is all gripping tense filled drama where multiple points of views of characters helming the power stimulates the drama forward… just in the lineage of Lumet’s masterpiece ’12 Angry Men’.
One may witness the signature of Lumet as the film opens with the surreal dream of dying bull. The tension and psychological pressure keeps playing with the helpless men at action. It has brilliant ensemble cast pitting against the unfortunate panic of immediate attention. Walter Matthau as communism biased Professor and Dan O’Harlihy as patriot General Black in moral dilemma are just brilliant. And than there’s the ace of all- Henry Fonda as US president in a claustrophobic setting with a translator and tension on line and he’s just matchless once again in Lumet film. There’s fine room for characters in most of Lumet films and this one is again classic example- i.e. watch the way he introduced all the lead characters unfurling their characteristic traits and personality with crisp dialogues here. The camera work and use of sound is flawless- especially that high pitch shrilling sound!

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