Cold War tensions climb to a fever pitch when a U.S. bomber is accidentally ordered to drop a nuclear warhead on Moscow.Cold War tensions climb to a fever pitch when a U.S. bomber is accidentally ordered to drop a nuclear warhead on Moscow.Cold War tensions climb to a fever pitch when a U.S. bomber is accidentally ordered to drop a nuclear warhead on Moscow.
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.
- Apr 15, 2000