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      Fail-Safe

      Released Oct 7, 1964 1 hr. 51 min. Mystery & Thriller List
      93% 29 Reviews Tomatometer 91% 5,000+ Ratings Audience Score During the Cold War, U.S. bomber jets are equipped with fail-safe boxes that instruct pilots when and if to attack. When an attack order is inadvertently administered due to a system malfunction, the President of the United States (Henry Fonda) must scramble to fix the mistake before the bombs are dropped on Moscow. He manages to stop almost all the bombers headed for Moscow, except for one determined pilot who manages to complete his mission, with deadly consequences. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Premiered Jan 23 Buy Now

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      Fail-Safe

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      Fail-Safe

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      Critics Consensus

      Fail-Safe strikes an impressive chord with its grim, high-minded exploration of the ultimate Doomsday scenario.

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      Audience Reviews

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      Bob W Dr. Strangelove without the laughs but with tons of suspense. A must for people who want to understand just how high the stakes were during the Cold War and how close we might have come to total annihilation. A masterpiece of suspense from the great Sidney Lumet and a crackerjack cast -- including Walter Matthau's uncharacteristic, shocking portrayal of a sociopathic doom-monger. (Doom is still possible but it's currently less likely to come over the world all at once, the way it once might have -- assuming Putin doesn't go nuts, anyway.) Rated 5 out of 5 stars 09/22/23 Full Review Red T It isn't perfect but it is an All Time Classic. There is no music in this and at first this has a very dry feel but it gets intense on the backs of a riveting story, excellent acting, and makes up for the slow/dry 30 minute start. This definitely could've benefitted from a surreal soundtrack especially in the first 30 minutes and it could just not rely on it afterwards. The pacing still is incredible despite a solid but slow start. The key is once Henry Fonda shows up this gets way more focused, the acting gets more intense, and the editing while very good overall gets insanely good. The cinematography is really good also with the black and white really matching the camerawork of the Manchurian Candidate. This also has one of Lument's trademarks of most of the movie takes place in 3 claustrophobic rooms. The grainy look of this gives it a found footage ascetic similar to Godzilla and works really well. The only issue is really when the stock footage is used and jet fighter shots kind of feel out of place. This is a film that doesn't have lots of action and most of the time we see triangle blips on a screen moving at 1 mile an hour. But it becomes riveting and is a testament to Lument's direction. It does a great job of not relying on any explosions, dogfights, or big screen spectacles. This is a bit jumpy at first on top of being dry and slow at first but the underlying commentary and gut wrenching choices make you think throughout and is so powerful especially with the end. This is something everyone should see once. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 07/04/23 Full Review Shioka O Tense dialog! War drama by Sidney Lumet. Superb performance. This was released almost the same time as Dr. Strangelove. This one is serious direction. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 09/29/22 Full Review Audience Member This one goes in the "heavily exceeded expectations" category as I had never even heard of this film until I started tackling Sidney Lumet's filmography. Fail Safe utilizes a minimalistic approach to create a tightly plotted, cold war thriller that had me fully engrossed and on the edge of my seat for most of the duration. Fonda was the MVP for me, cemented in that impressive final scene, but Hagman offered excellent support. Walter Matthau is a personal favorite of mine and I enjoyed seeing him in a more serious role. I really dug the conclusion as well, surprising me while at the same time making the film far more impactful. Edit: It is interesting to read about the problems that came about for this film as a result of the similarities to Dr. Strangelove Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/20/23 Full Review paul l Good and grim.. Stanley Kubrick forced Columbia Films to wait at least 6 months after Strangelove to release this more realistic WW3 movie.. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Michael M Fail Safe is the scariest movie I've ever watched. Perhaps recent geopolitical events have lent it a little additional power, but I think it will remain relevant so long as WMDs exist. Regardless of whether one supports disarmament, it is important to carefully examine the possibility of an accidental apocalypse. There are obvious comparisons to Dr. Strangelove, which came out the same year and has a similar premise, but I think a more interesting comparison is with one of director Sidney Lumet's previous features, 12 Angry Men. Both films are largely composed of tense conversations in claustrophobic rooms, with camerawork that focuses on the anguish and frustration on the actors' faces, but the stakes in Fail Safe are much greater than one man's life - the filmmakers use these humble sets to convey a looming global catastrophe, and extremely effectively, too. Perhaps it is heretical of me to make such a comparison, but I think Fail Safe actually edges out 12 Angry Men as the lofty summit of Lumet's career. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 04/11/22 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

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      Critics Reviews

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      K. Austin Collins Vanity Fair Lumet... has a knack for landing a tight, winning premise. Fail Safe, a box office failure in its time that's been considered a classic ever since, is no exception. May 11, 2020 Full Review Adam Nayman The Ringer Fail Safe imagines a no-win situation backing a sturdy, dependable American president in the proverbial corner, where, in a bit of sentimental and masochistically crowd-pleasing fantasy, he manages to do the right thing. Apr 29, 2020 Full Review Kim Newman Empire Magazine An impressive and disturbing brink-of-doom thriller. Rated: 4/5 Oct 21, 2015 Full Review Raquel Stecher The Movie Palace Podcast I was literally on the edge of my seat... It really did make a huge impact on me... This is an under-the-radar classic. Aug 22, 2023 Full Review David Nusair Reel Film Reviews ...a progressively absorbing and electrifying drama... Rated: 3.5/4 Mar 11, 2022 Full Review James Kendrick Q Network Film Desk doesn't pull any of its punches, and it has the strength of its own convictions to see things through the logical end, horrible though it may be Rated: 3.5/4 Feb 11, 2020 Full Review Read all reviews

      Movie Info

      Synopsis During the Cold War, U.S. bomber jets are equipped with fail-safe boxes that instruct pilots when and if to attack. When an attack order is inadvertently administered due to a system malfunction, the President of the United States (Henry Fonda) must scramble to fix the mistake before the bombs are dropped on Moscow. He manages to stop almost all the bombers headed for Moscow, except for one determined pilot who manages to complete his mission, with deadly consequences.
      Director
      Sidney Lumet
      Executive Producer
      Sidney Lumet
      Screenwriter
      Eugene Burdick, Harvey Wheeler, Walter Bernstein
      Distributor
      Columbia Tristar, Columbia TriStar Home Video, GoodTimes Home Video [us], Columbia Pictures
      Production Co
      Columbia Pictures Corporation
      Genre
      Mystery & Thriller
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Oct 7, 1964, Wide
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Apr 16, 2012
      Sound Mix
      Mono
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