Introduced by Walter Cronkite and broadcast live (the first live feature-length production on TV in nearly four decades) on CBS when it was presented in 2000, "Fail Safe" is a retelling of the 1962 book and 1964 film. Directed by Stephen Frears, this is a tight, intense and engaging retelling of the drama that relies on powerful performances from the all-star cast.
Early in the picture, an unidentified flying object is spotted over the US and command scrambles to try and identify it. When the threat is revealed to be no threat at all, the command tries to recall the flighter squad, but it's too late, as the order has been transmitted due to a computer error. Due to a transmission flaw and Russian jamming (as well as orders to not respond to visual signals and radio orders), the squad gets closer and closer to Moscow with nuclear weapons on-board, while remaining unaware that the order to attack Moscow has been recalled.
The government and military debate the next course of action, deciding to send a group of bombers to shoot the attack group out of the sky. However, when they fail, the group contacts Russia in an attempt to get Russia to act to stop the accidental attack. As the minutes tick past, the situation becomes more and more chilling.
"Fail-Safe"'s visuals aren't much to look at; while the film does use ace cinematographer John Alonzo, the shot-on-video production does have a deliberately 50's look (and looks very much like it was shot on video), with sets that appear as if they're from a production of the era. The film is an actor's showcase, with a group of all-star actors (Richard Dreyfuss, Harvey Keitel, Sam Elliott, Don Cheadle, George Clooney (who produced), Noah Wyle, Brian Dennehy, Hank Azaria, James Cromwell and others) all providing powerful performances that remain riveting. Overall, this is an exceptionally tense, tight and moving production that makes one wish for more productions like this to be made for television.
VIDEO: Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, "Fail-Safe" was shot on video and does look it. Sharpness and detail are not outstanding (and some moments do look a tad softer), but considering the shot-on-video filming, the picture likely appears as crisp as one could hope. A few minor instances of artifactingg are spotted, but are hardly noticable. No edge enhancement is spotted. Overall, this was an above-average effort, but not without a couple of issues.
SOUND: Completely dialogue-driven mono audio, which remains clear and crisp throughout.
EXTRAS: Just the trailer for the upcoming "Ocean's 13".
Final Thoughts: Overall, this is an exceptionally tense, tight and often moving film that makes one wish for more productions like this to be made for television. The DVD sadly offers no extras, but fine audio/video quality.
The Film B+