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I just watched this on DVD. I'd already read some of the lukewarm comments
by some here but bought it anyway - not having had the chance to see it on
I simply can't fault it. It was well done in every department, it was just as tense as the original and just as well acted. Far from over the top scenery chewing, Dreyfuss's performance was on the money. What, he wasn't "statesman" enough? How many *real* presidents are?
Maybe it was the fact that most of the reviewers had to suffer the standard multitude of commercial breaks wrecking the tension, but viewed in one sitting on DVD, this thing packed a wallop.
And I'm not easily pleased.....
I only heard about this program a day before it aired, and I am very glad
did. The acting was absolutely amazing all around. There was not a
performer who didn't rise to the occasion in this picture. It is all the
more amazing since it was performed live on national television.
Particularly strong were Richard Dreyfuss, Harvey Keitel, and Hank Azaria,
but it is difficult to break away any actors from the strong
The whole effect of the production very well captures the sense of a Cold War drama. From the set design, costumes, performances, direction, and the choice to air in black and white, the atmosphere is as much a player in "Fail Safe" as the actors. One really gets the feeling that they are watching a 1950's era live broadcast.
I must say, that I knew nothing of the original story or film, and I really feel I benefited from that. The story is amazingly suspenseful. I did not know the ending going in, and I won't ruin it for you either. Just trust me that it is unquestionably the best way to view this picture. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the film and was honestly moved by the ending. The script is excellent, and the story even better. While it is clearly a cautionary tale of nuclear war, it never tries to beat its purpose into the viewer. It lets the story tell the story, which is always the best.
If you missed the live broadcast, be on the look-out for a re-broadcast. This is a real accomplishment from CBS, and its a shame that it was not more widely promoted.
I was totally blown away by this production. Despite the fact that the material has been filmed before, I felt like I was watching something totally new and original. This is due in no small part to the fact that director Stephen Frears and crew had the guts to do this as a live production AND film it in black and white. It made me feel like I was watching an old news broadcast. It also had a bit of a glossy look to it, sort of like the black and white films of the '30s and '40s. The performances are uniformly excellent, especially Richard Dreyfuss, Noah Wyle and Hank Azaria. There is no musical score, so you are either hearing dialogue and a few SFX or dead silence, which only adds to the eerie effect. The scary thing is that a scenario like this one could happen. If this is repeated or comes out on video, RUN to see it. You won't see another like it.
This was something I was fascinated to see since I had first heard about it: a live broadcast in real time of an already produced story (twice, if you count _Dr. Strangelove..._) in Black & White, on National TV, using old-style equipment & lighting restrictions, with an absolute stellar cast. Woah! And it works. I was, in a way, looking for mistakes or wrong steps from the actors and crew who are used to being able to go back & do it a second time, but there were so few that it makes no point in listing them. Generally everyone gives what is needed to the effort, and the dedication of the cast to the text is obvious to even the untrained observer in the audience. The story is paramount, and the only thing that suffers in this adaptation is the lack of tension and complexity of some of the characters' sub-plots -- but I may be remembering the original novel which includes all the back-stories for everyone, and the original movie has more tension because that was done in the time of the Cold War Insanity so it is infused with the immediacy of disaster being constantly present, and that's not something you can put into two hours of TV done in the year 2000. Darn fine camera work, direction, acting, and lighting. All of it gives the feel of a Playhouse 90, or Hallmark Hall of Fame, or any of the other 'great TV Drama' shows of the late 50's and early 60's. The only thing that could make it more evocative would be to put that weird hi-contrast halo around the image, but that would get in the way of the great camera work, and wouldn't fit with the wide-screen letterbox of the frame. Even if it hadn't have been done live, it would have been an amazing piece of work, but as it is, it's even more stunning to realize that all of those fine actors were truly 'in the moment' at the same time, and everyone made the same movie for the same two intense hours. This really needs to be re-broadcast, and win Emmies, and be hailed as a return to Acting and Quality on television. MOW's *can* be quality, if you put this kind of effort into them. Watch this to see how.
As you view Fail Safe, you can feel the tension mounting as a nuclear nightmare unfolds in front of you. The story deals with a squadron of bombers who receive a go code as a result of a mechanical error. The rest of the movie is filled with anticipation and tension as the president tries to convince the Russian premier that the bombers are there because of a mistake, and the only way to preserve Moscow is to destroy the bombers. To talk about this movie to those who haven't seen it would ruin the story. What I can say is that once you start watching, you will not be able to turn away. The acting from all the performers keeps you watching as they propel the action forward. The black and white format gives it a feel of reality, and the omission of music adds to the effect . You know it's fiction but something in the back of your mind says that this could happen, and thus you're compelled to watch. For those who didn't see this in April, watch for a re-airing. Better yet, wait till it hits the home video circuit. That way, you'll be able to watch this captivating, tension filled, nailbiter with no interruptions
Haunting in stark black-and-white, "Fail Safe" may not match blow-for-blow
the devastating impact the 1964 version made on me, but it came very
My respect for George Clooney continues to grow. The former "E.R." hunk pushed for this project to be performed live, and he is proving to be a trailblazer in contemporary television. His family's deep roots in entertainment have given him the insight and passion to champion television of yesteryear. Several seasons back, it was Clooney's lobbying efforts that brought a live performance of "E.R." to the air waves.
This production of "Fail-Safe" was truly exquisite. What a thrill it would be for classic TV/film buffs to have similar live productions air -- scripts used on the 1950s "Playhouse 90" or those penned by Rod Serling, such as "Patterns," would be a good beginning. With the amount of insipid viewing options available today, shaking a little dust off other older quality shows would expose a new generation to the zenith of 1950s and 1960s television. "Fail Safe" was nearly perfect; the Cold War storyline still holds up as riveting drama in the year 2000. And it was all the more effective performed live and in the oft-ignored B/W.
The one disappointing flaw was Richard Dreyfuss in the role of the president. As fine an actor as Dreyfuss is, he was sadly miscast. He lacked the strength and leadership expected of a major world leader. In the original production, Henry Fonda was far more convincing and commanding. Better choices would have been Tommy Lee Jones or Billy Bob Thornton or Edward James Olmos. As the production progressed, I found myself visibly wincing at Dreyfuss's wimpy performance, particularly at the film's final emotional crescendo. He seemed too casual, more whiney, than someone trying to avert worldwide nuclear disaster would be. He came across often as annoyed, rather than alarmed.
However, the other supporting cast members -- George Clooney, Brian Dennehy, Harvey Keitel, Hank Azaria, Noah Wyle, James Cromwell, and Sam Elliott -- were superb in their roles. Wyle was astonishingly effective as the youthful translator -- his performance matched in strength that of a youthful Larry Hagman in the original film.
If you missed seeing "Fail Safe" (2000), buy or rent a video tape of it -- while it won't hold the same magic as seeing it live, seeing it at all is an imperative for those who savor fine television, or just want good, gripping story-telling.
I really looked forward to this live TV special and I was not disappointed. I also liked the black and white presentation. I remember quite well the live Playhouse 90s and Studio Ones of the fifties. When tape and film came along a lot of the edge was taken out. I hope that this starts a new trend. I would like to see one once a month. I would like to see how many new stars that rely on film and retakes to be good enough to be in a live show.
one of the best TV films I have seen in recent years! However, I must say that I thought the original was a very good film indeed, so I might of been biased. The thing that I liked about the latest remake was that the producers decided that the TV broadcast was going to be just like the original and not brought up to date. This gave the film a claustrophobic feeling to it and made it more real. So many films today are just explosions and S.F.X. that the real stories are left behind. A well made movie, and a joy to see Richard Dreyfuss back to his top form.
I never thought I'd get into a live action drama like this, but I thought
was INCREDIBLE. The actors were superb and the storyline was gorgeously
done. I was surprised that they were making live episodes of television
shows, I didn't think anyone would be able to pull off a live 2-hour
but they did, and if it isn't nominated for several emmys, it will be a
Kudos to the whole cast and crew for the most amazing movie in a VERY long time.
'Fail Safe' is one of the best and exciting events I've had the pleasure to witness in years of television viewing. The quality of production, the acting, the 'period' feel, and its ever-timely anti-nuke message is pure enjoyment. I've seen many new films this past year and NONE moved me like this Live -made for TV- program did. Only talented professionals on and behind the screen could make this event happen with believable style and real thought-provoking emotion. Thank you CBS and Mr. Clooney for taking this giant leap forward by leaping back to the details that made TV great and original in the early days.
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