91 user 15 critic

Fail Safe (2000)

Not Rated | | Drama, Thriller | TV Movie 9 April 2000
Cold War tensions climb to a fever pitch when a U.S. bomber is accidentally ordered to drop a nuclear warhead on Moscow.


Stephen Frears, Martin Pasetta (as Martin A. Pasetta Jr.)


Eugene Burdick (novel), Harvey Wheeler (novel) | 1 more credit »

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From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video

Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 3 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Walter Cronkite ... Himself - Host
Richard Dreyfuss ... President
Noah Wyle ... Buck
Brian Dennehy ... Gen. Bogan
Sam Elliott ... Congressman Raskob
James Cromwell ... Gordon Knapp
John Diehl ... Col. Cascio
Hank Azaria ... Prof. Groeteschele
Norman Lloyd ... Defense Secretary Swenson
Bill Smitrovich ... Gen. Stark (as William Smitrovich)
Don Cheadle ... Lt. Jimmy Pierce
George Clooney ... Col. Jack Grady
Harvey Keitel ... Brig. Gen. Warren Black
Doris Belack ... Mrs. Johnson
Grant Heslov ... Jimmy


Cold War tensions climb to a fever pitch when a U.S. bomber is accidentally ordered to drop a nuclear warhead on Moscow.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The World on The Brink of Accidental War -- UNFOLDING LIVE!


Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

9 April 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Fail Safe See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Broadcast live on April 9, 2000. See more »


General Bogan refers to the enlisted missile technician as "Sergeant Collins" even though he is clearly wearing the stripes of a Chief Master Sergeant. In the A.F. a Chief Master Sergeant is always referred to as "Chief" and never as "Sergeant". See more »


Col. Jack Grady, Command Pilot Group 6: [answering the phone] Tommy?
Tommy Grady, Col. Grady's Son: Dad! How long is this one gonna be?
Col. Jack Grady, Command Pilot Group 6: Shouldn't be too late.
Tommy Grady, Col. Grady's Son: Are you sure?
Col. Jack Grady, Command Pilot Group 6: I'm positive.
Tommy Grady, Col. Grady's Son: Only fools are positive.
Col. Jack Grady, Command Pilot Group 6: Are you sure?
Tommy Grady, Col. Grady's Son: I'm positive.
See more »


Referenced in Micmacs (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

Less Is More
12 April 2000 | by sora-2See all my reviews

What I liked best about the live version of Fail Safe was that the restrictions of live TV forced the filmmakers to concentrate on those two old-fashioned values: acting and writing. Without the opportunity to edit or use fancy visuals, director Stephen Frears was forced to keep his camerawork and pacing crisp, simple, and efficient. As a result, the actors were really allowed an opportunity to shine. Every line of dialogue had to be well-delivered, and every gesture and facial expression had to be meaningful. The absence of music, black and white photography, and slow pacing allowed time to steadily absorb what was going on and churn it about in my mind; and I loved every minute of it.

Admittedly, the story of Fail Safe seems a bit dated in the post Cold War period, and the originally film itself paled in comparison to the similar Dr. Strangelove. But as an experiment in the art of storytelling, it was a triumph. The best qualities of watching a live play married with the television's ability to reach mass audiences.

I'm hoping that this does signal a resurgence in live TV, because it opens up real possibilities for what the medium could be used for. For one, it forces both directors and actors to all be just a little smarter and more alert - no opportunity to fix mistakes. It makes them more self-consciously aware that the folks at home better be entertained or at least interested in what goes on onscreen.

I'm hoping that next CBS or some other network experiments with some original live fare. After all, back in the 50's, live TV produced some great scripts, some of which were re-made into movies (Marty, Requiem for a Heavyweight) and made the careers of people like writer/producer Rod Serling and actors like Paul Newman.

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