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A series of human and computer errors sends a squadron of American 'Vindicator' bombers to nuke Moscow. The President, in order to convince the Soviets that this is a mistake, orders the Strategic Air Command to help the Soviets stop them. Written by
KC Hunt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
With one exception (see goofs entry), all shots of US Air Force "Vindicator" bombers are views of the same Convair B-58 Hustler, taken from a stock piece of film after the Department of Defense declined to cooperate with the filmmakers. See more »
After professor Groeteschele concludes his remarks on the casualties that NYC will suffer and the need for excavating large corporations' records (which are vital to the economy), he crosses in front of the "tactical" screen. The screen displays the sixth "defensive" bomber (which carried no bombs) and its spread of "decoy" transmissions. At this point in the film, the Russian fighters have already focused on and destroyed this bomber (to general Bogan's dismay) and the final bomber (which has no decoy capability) has dropped below radar, never to be seen on the tactical screen again. It is likely that this scene was moved during editing. See more »
They're good men, we've seen to that. If their orders are attack, the only way you're going to 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 it's an accident we're trying to correct by any means, we're going to have something on our hands that nobody bargained for, and only a lunatic wants!
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How do you show your good will when your own bombers are about to mistakenly nuke Moscow?
That's the biggest moral dilemma this movie puts in front of its characters. It falls to the President (ably played by Henry Fonda) to make the agonizing decision of how to handle the situation without causing a global thermonuclear war.
From the Soviet point of view, here's what happens. The hot line in Moscow rings. The premier picks it up to hear the American president explaining that three unstoppable bombers are on their way to obliterate Moscow. Oh, but it was an accident. We didn't mean to send them out, sorry. And we can't call them back, because they're beyond their fail safe position (and thus are trained to maintain complete radio silence and ignore any communication they may receive), and we can't shoot them down because they're way out of our range. Sorry. Our bad.
The pacing of the movie moves from a calm, cool tone while various media figures are shown around the facility in charge of all the bombers. Then it picks up a tiny bit as the facility detects a bogie over Hudson Bay. And this is where the situation begins that eventually leads to the erroneous deployment of a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. Although it seems small at the time, this is the metaphorical horseshoe nail that loses the kingdom. ("For want of a nail....") From this point, the movie steadily increases the suspence as progressively more drastic measures are taken in the effort to stop these bombers, with the situation growing more desperate by the moment. I started out firmly positioned on my seat, but by the end I had moved further and further forward towards the edge of my seat until eventually I couldn't even sit still. Too much suspense.
There are quite a lot of technical errors in the film (for instance, due to the Air Force refusing to assist in the film, they had to resort to a fairly limited set of stock footage for the shots of aircraft, which are thus extremely inaccurate) but it remains a good movie. If you can ignore the errors in set design and stock footage and concentrate instead on the dialog (which is where the action is anyway), watching people rise to the challenge or snap under the pressure, this is a movie you will never, ever forget.
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