37 user 4 critic

By Dawn's Early Light (1990)

The crew of a nuclear bomber attack the Soviet Union while the President of the United States tries desperately to regain control of his military after his helicopter crashes during a ... See full summary »



(novel), (teleplay)
4,824 ( 153)

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Moreau (as Rebecca DeMornay)
Colonel Fargo
Ronald William Lawrence ...
General Renning - 'Icarus'
Looking Glass Colonel - 'Sam'
Randal Patrick ...


The crew of a nuclear bomber attack the Soviet Union while the President of the United States tries desperately to regain control of his military after his helicopter crashes during a limited nuclear exchange in this film with a scenario similar to Fail-Safe (1964) and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Originally a made for cable movie, it concentrates on the relationship between a veteran pilot and his female co-pilot and the president's attempt to wrest control away from a war-mongering successor. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Four People. Three Minutes. Two Choices. One Chance For Survival.


Drama | Thriller | Action


TV-14 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

24 April 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Grand Tour  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The call-sign of the USN Admiral (Jeffrey DeMunn) aboard the Boeing E-4 command plane was "HARPOON". See more »


In the cast credits, the character that reads "Lt Hooker" should read "Sgt Hooker"? After Maj O'Toole's death, Maj Cassidy tells Sgt Hooker that he has just received the first battlefield commission of this war, which means he is now a Second Lieutenant. See more »


Cassidy: You would have turned a Minuteman key without thinking!
Moreau: They gave me time to think.
See more »


References Cool Hand Luke (1967) See more »


Written by Dan Baird
Performed by The Georgia Satellites
Courtesy of Elektra Entertainment
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
Administered by BMI
See more »

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User Reviews

Uncannily close to the real thing
1 June 2005 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

There have been many attempts to portray some of the overall horror of supposed conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. For many who have been in the forces, By Dawn's Early Light came very close to everything we were taught, everything we had to prepare for, if the real thing ever happened.

Whilst some films seek to show the madness of nuclear conflict (Strangelove) and others try to portray what might happen if things went wrong (Fail-safe), By Dawn's Early Light shows the picture from both the crew doing their job, delivering nuclear ordnance, to the President trying to turn the war off whilst his successor, badly advised, seeks to strike back with all his might to destroy the enemy and win the war. In the end, the conclusion that both the crews and the executive branches reach, is that global thermonuclear war IS madness and that the only safe solution is not to play.

In the film, the conflict is started with a renegade/terrorist attack on the Soviets. All we can hope, is that when the first terrorist nuclear weapon is used (probably on the west), the executive branch realise that the only solution is to find a way to a) take the weapons out of the hands of the irresponsible and b) try not to take retaliatory action.

The performances by James Earl Jones, Rebecca De Mornay and Powers Boothe are exceptional. The film would have been better without the personal relationship between the last two, but even with the limited budget for special effects, they managed to pull off a believable and tense drama.

If America ever has to commit to nuclear war, I hope they have men of the character of James Earl Jones's General. A man who follows orders, but is just as prepared to question if the orders are illegal and insane and act against them.

15 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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