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With the end of the arms race between the United States and Russia this film does not have the urgency of the earlier production. While the cast is composed of some very talented actors, they are simply not a match for the original cast. This goes to prove my point that some films should not be remade. Richard Dreyfus just doesn't come across as the president. And most of the other cast members were miscast as well. The story was close enough to be the original, and the look of shooting in black and white was a good choice. It is only in that medium that the stark horror of what has happened could be told. While this was certainly not a bad film or an awful film it simply misses that something that the 1964 feature had. I have rated it 7 out of 10.
What we have here is a movie about a possible, but terrible situation.
The only way to avoid a Nuclear war is by killing over 5 million people.
First to the more...technical aspects. I think the black and white thing is quite smart, especially because it does show how the world would be after such an event. The real-scenes don't look that bad, because the whole movie is in black and white, so that would be another small positive aspect.
The actors are ok, though there was this thing that troubled me...the atmosphere seemed much to cool for such an event. And then there was that guy who told the Russians about the American planes and the rockets, who seemed like taken out of another movie. He just didn't fit in the picture.
There were some fine actors though, and that can only be a good thing. But...the whole action just seemed insane, and unbelievable.
Not the events themselves, but the fact that all the decisions seemed so pre-defined. It probably is so, but the movie could've presented this fact in a nicer...package.
The action itself is terrifying, and the decision the president takes, is quite the only "right" one. These facts are quite actual, especially with a possible war in Iraq. People could die, and then I ask myself why some just don't have a real heart...how can some have such messed up priorities? Like the professor with G...and I don't know what. Anyway, a complicated name with a German resonance. The fact that you place a bunch of papers in front of the people...yes, let's assume it is quite realistic to say that they will die, but who can do such a thing?
I think this movie should represent a lesson...and it just tries to show how things might be. Though I doubt all people are as reasonable like the American president there... The film succeeds in showing that the people who are in command, and make the decisions, should not think only of their fellow citizens but of the enemies' too. All are human, and all are the same...the only thing that separates them are the politics lead by only some people.
Then again, communism wasn't a too good thing...from this point of view the movie is outdated, and the threats these days are a little different. It is a quite optimistic version of what could happen. In my opinion...
I think it's worth a 7, or 7.5...you might want to see it, but only if you are interested in such stuff.
And one more thing...I think the title is really good too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a member of the "Baby Boom" generation I lived as a child with the
specter of nuclear war hanging over me. As I type this I remember how,
12 years of age just how frightened I was during the Cuban missile crisis.
Just before this global crisis occurred a book was created which was so
written that I do not believe it will ever be improved upon in ANY medium.
That book was 'Fail Safe' by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler.
The movie version released in 1964 faithfully represented the book as it was written and you felt the coldness of what I believe is the best third person narrative description I have ever read. The third person narrative of the book was almost like a character in the story and it was palpable, cold, and horrible in it's indifference and was captured in the 1964 movie perfectly.
I was very very disappointed with the liberties taken with the TV version, not only did they change parts of the story (an unforgivable crime when presenting a masterpiece), but to my taste the casting was WAY off the mark. For instance, Henry Fonda played an excellent portrayal of the president in the movie version .... Richard Drefuss wasn't even on the same planet with Fonda's performance and his over-acting ruined the seriousness of the situation - Fonda's cool disposition in his performance (like the book) was like fingers on a chalkboard that increased the nervous intensity of the '64 movie to the sublime.
I think the TV version was a desperate attempt to remake the movie and employ the same effects .... but it didn't work. I cannot in good conscience recommend the TV version as much as I would the 1964 movie version or better yet - the book, but I feel the TV version did score one home run ... it made people aware of this little gem . I feel sorry for those who had never read the book or seen the 1964 movie before because as you know (without including spoilers) you can't experience this story twice the same way.
Give George Clooney great credit for recognizing the excellence of "Fail Safe," and for putting it on TV, live in b&w, with a world-beating cast. That said, his version is a big disappointment. It lacks the harrowing tension that Sidney Lumet's direction provided the movie, and the razor-edged camera work. And, except for Brian Dennehy (always good), the cast was mostly leaden and unconvincing.
I have to admit that enormous kudos should go to George Clooney and the CBS
network for bringing back the live teleplay back to primetime. Let us hope
that this will be the start of other projects such as this. For those who
haven't seen the 1964 original film must have been so riveting in Cold war
America for its time.- this remake should be compared on two basic levels.
First - the fact that the original screenwriter, Walter Bernstein updated his own work should have been a plus but it actually turns out to fail here. Obviously certain storylines have been compressed for live TV - but somehow the scenes have less dramatic impact than they did in the original. The cutting down of the Walter Matthau character speeches and the cutting of the nervous breakdown of the Fritz Weaver scene which were vital to the original have been deleted.
Secondly- doing a live television from a screenplay limits the character development. The cast in the remake has more starpower but they mostly come off as rather cardboard characters who we care nothing about. Also - alot of the comparison has to do with editing - obviously alot of quick cuts and camera angles are sacrificed for live television.
In general - I give the producers an A- for attempting something grand here but a B- for the overall grade. I felt that I was looking for technical mishaps more than being engrossed in the story.
Finally - maybe its just that the story has become so dated in 35 years that we really think that this could not happen today?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have always thought the process of remaking good films to be one of
Hollywood's most ridiculous and ignoble vanities. If the film was good
enough to be remade in the first place, the original version must logically
be compelling. But more importantly, the original version is just
that...original. This is not live theater. Modern audiences are--through
the glory of video--able to see the original versions of practically every
even moderately significant film of the last 80 years. This assures that
the original will exist in the public domain in spite of any remakes.
a remake can do only two things if it closely follows the outline of the
original: fail miserably in comparison, or damage the original by
it in some way. Neither outcome seems beneficial to the second version.
Take, for instance, Gus Van Sant's "Psycho" project. We all understand that he loved the original film, but that film was so individual and brand new--both in concept and execution--that his copy was bound to fail. Now, I have seen the original, but not the remake, so I can't comment on it directly. The concept just seems horribly wrong, not to mention self-indulgent and creatively bankrupt.
This brings me to the "Fail-Safe" remake, produced live and in black and white for CBS television. In this case, I have seen both versions. The original is a wonderful film, and would most likely be a respected classic had it not been for its direct competition with "Dr. Strangelove." Regardless, "Fail-Safe" deserves just as much praise as "Strangelove," if not more. So I understand completely why George Clooney loved the original. And I have nothing against live television, either. That said, I found the "Fail-Safe" remake to be a horrible, pretentious disservice to the original film.
First, there is no reason to do this story in black and white, live, or on network TV. It depends so greatly on its buildup, on the tension and sense of inevitable failure, that it has to be commercial-free. All credibility is lost in between "Acts." Also, the live filming is an unnecessary gimmick. The remake just wasn't tight. It wasn't claustrophobic, and it wasn't clear. (Much of this depends on the acting, which I'll get to.) Let it be known that I love black and white. And when the original was made in black and white, color was available, but b&w was still common. It no longer is, which means that for the remake b&w was a specific choice of the filmmakers, and that is a serious pretension. They were trying to show off. It wasn't even particularly well-shot.
But the main flaw of this remake was that this new script (by the same screenwriter) is very similar to the original script, but not as good...not to mention inappropriate for live television. And the acting suffers for this, especially in comparison to the original. There is not a single performance that even matches the original performances, let alone surpasses them. And some of the new actors came off as either unprepared, miscast, or both. The role of Blackie is vital to this story. And any resemblance between the way Harvey Keitel (usually a good actor) read the part and the way actual human beings speak is strictly coincidental. The pacing of lines for everyone was never better than average, often horrible, and occasionally so unintentionally funny that the group of people I was with laughed uncontrollably. Dreyfuss was decent, but miscast, and could never hope to match Henry Fonda. Wyle was also decent, but his is the easiest role. Also, the Congressman went from being a reserved, conscientious doubter of the military to a laid-back, Southern light-comedy character lost in the wrong movie. Brian Dennehy was similarly miscast...not serious enough. Clooney played Clooney rather well, but the script ruined his character... ...which gets me to the script. (SPOILER-lite...) The MLK, Jr. scene was a silly addition, too self-consciously topical. Replacing Clooney's wife with a kid is, on the other hand, much too modern and manipulative. Not to mention the fact that the bomber's conversation with his wife in the original was never specific enough to make him certain of her identity, but the catch phrase in the remake damages the credibility of the climactic decision. Also, the Professor's big early scene is taken out in the remake, and his philosophical speeches, essential to the film, are almost used as background noise...that is, when they aren't just cut entirely. This was very disappointing, since I really liked the function of Matthau's character in the original. Similarly, the Colonel Cascio in the remake was (in addition to being a bad actor in terms of line delivery) robbed of the scene with his parents AND his breakdown scene...which was such a great, scary moment in the original. The remake just isn't as deep and the characters aren't as developed or interesting. And as a final injustice, the Matador dreams were removed, and with them went the wonderful final line...which Keitel probably would have read poorly anyway.
I really wish that when decent Hollywood professionals wanted to pay homage, they did so with applause or by actively promoting the original work. And when they want to make remakes, I wish they remade movies that had good ideas but were horribly executed. For instance, leave "Fail-Safe" alone...and remake "The Blair Witch Project"...leave the concept alone, add a budget, a script, a few payoffs, and a point. Actually, don't bother. They'd just end up casting Harvey Keitel as Heather.
On the other hand...they might cast Harvey Keitel as Heather. :o)
This was done live so it gets all the credit it deserves. Unlike a motion picture in which several takes for one scene may be done and then the best one put into the final edit each actor/actress has one shot and that's it. Everyone rose to the occasion. The choice of a black and white presentation gave the viewer a bit of yesteryear TV when many programs were done live. Additionally the original 1964 film was in B&W so it also gave the viewer the same atmosphere. Comparing this production of FailSafe to the 64 film shouldn't be considered.
Ambitious live TV, although not as tense as the original film. Richard Dreyfuss was excellent as the President, although Hank Azaria couldn't duplicate Walter Matthau's intensity as Groteschele. Great performances by George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Brian Dennehy, and Noah Wyle.
While featuring a great cast, and initially shown live in prime time, the pacing is surprisingly slow and you never quite reach the "fever pitch" that is touted. The acting is very subdued, yet was enjoyable to see what CBS referred to as "Live television after 39 years"... if only to see if any mistakes were made (And I cannot claim to have seen any). Being so dated, the producers felt they had to make a political statement at the end, warning us of who has nuclear capabilities. Scare tactics falling on deaf ears too many years after the Cold War. All in all, too boring for my tastes.
Have you seen the orig 1964 movie version of Fail Safe? It was in Black and White.
Remember the time period they were trying to re-create -- Cold War America (the early 60's) - Black and White was all they had then --
Black and White was a refreshing change.
Perhaps you're a fan of colourisation of movies ---
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