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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2015
By Dawn’s Early Light premiered on the May 19th 1990, 25 years ago last week. I can remember first watching this late on Saturday night in the early 1990’s and was taken aback then, as a teenager by the chilling tone, the seemingly realistic take of these scenarios in what was destined to become the last World War Three thriller to be made during The Cold War.

Beginning at just after 05:00 Zulu, the film take place over the a period of just eight hours in which, after being hit a ICBM, The U.S.S.R. launch a retaliatory strike on the U.S., wrongly believing that they have attacked them. It soon becomes clear that a dissident movement within the Soviet Union has launched the nuclear attack, leaving the Russian Premier to make a series of proposals to the American President, Martin Landau.

1, take the hit and call it a day. 2, retaliate and call it even or 3, all out nuclear war. This decision needs to be made within minutes as ICBM’s are on route and the military leaders on both sides are pressuring their leaders to a respond, with escalation being their primary options. The frightening part is that all makes sense…

And that’s your set up. Watch the film. If this isn ‘t one of the best, if not THE best World War Three film out to date then I don’t know what is. Dr. Strangelove (1964), WarGames (1983) and Crimson Tide (1995), yes, they’re all up there with the best but the simplicity and brevity of this story as well as the quality of the television production values and tremendous acting makes this an underrated and outstanding drama. Then to ice the cake we have Trevor Jones’ score, Jones’ also composing the music for Thirteen Days (2001), another marvellous entry into the genre, though Thirteen Days was the only TRUE story to be referenced so far, has produced a tense and moody score, adding that extra something to the already tight package.

The frightening aspect to re-watching this though so many years later and after the events of 9/11, are the similarities in the tone. Especially to Paul Greengrass’ United 93(2006), which like this film in the opening 30 minutes or so, takes place largely in control rooms. The reaction to the first nuclear detonation in the Soviet Union is chilling as the gravity of the unfolding catastrophe becomes clear and not dissimilar those of in United 93 which was lauded as being an incredibly accurate portrayal of the days events, and both feel that way.

This is a chilling clinical representation of how a nuclear war could unfold and how quickly the world could fall apart. But it is not a cold film. Granted, there is the sightly overwrought romance between our two leads, B-52 bomber pilots Powers Booth and Rebecca De Morney, both showing the films age, but at the heart of this cold, Cold War thriller in which many of the lead characters are only referred to by their code names such as “Condor” and “Alice”, the ethical debates come thick and fast as well as the issue of so many millions of people being lost so quickly.

It is organised chaos and a chilling reminder who ugly The Cold War could have become and how lucky we were that it didn’t come to this. 9/11 was the next step in this type of warfare and it is also a chilling fact that several times during this story including the final solution in order to stop the crisis is to use planes to “ram” or “take out” other aircraft. There is even a reference at one point to using commercial aircraft as suicide bombers to take out Soviet bombers.

An unfortunate reality of this kind of conflict but still interesting that this film so concisely ties up one war with the methods of how the next one would start. Just an observation of life mirroring art mirroring life?

But basically, if you haven’t seen it, watch it. A small time TV movie with just as much, if not more clout that so many big budget movies tackling this subject matter. But having said that I would also highly recommend all the films mentioned in this review and one more cold war TV movie, a British one this time, the 1984 Docudrama Threads. completely different to this film but an equally effectively look at why Oppenheimer’s work needs never to be used again.

Oh and the book which this is based upon is titled Trinity’s Child, in reference to the Trinity test in 1945, the first nuclear destination in which Oppenheimer realised his folly. Just though I say how I loved that title!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2006
Must agree with the frst review, a very under rated film. The plot is very good and the editing keeps the pace right up there. If you strip away the Hollywood glossy this is a very thoughtful film.
At the time, Yes it could have happened, hope for the human spirt is still strong. Buy it, it a good evenings watch !
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2009
The premise of this movie is the clever depiction of fearful conundrums. The choices people make and how relationships, personal morality and instinct weave to generate outcomes that can have momentus consequences. I feel this movie depict the scenarios very well, I thought the acting good. The 'over done' parts were leaning towards an expression of passion uncertainty and fear, and and flaws are more than compensated by the drama and skilled actors, who are first rate actors. This, overall, is a great movie. It's gripping and I highly recommend it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 20 April 2009
This movie offers a plausible and frightening scenario for the start of Worls War 3. It's a little dated now, and some of the acting is a bit hammy, but it's an old favourite of mine. If you enjoy the 'what if?' of nuclear destruction, you'll enjoy this film. Lots of technology, but rooted in the human factor - all too believable.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2005
The film is a very good dipiction of what may have happened if the cold war had continued. It explores the relationship of two US airforce personel who have a relationship and how this affects their ability to react in a time of war and how the overall sensibility of mankind rises above the orders of the military. The first time I saw this film I was wowed, a very underated film.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 12 September 2009
Saw this ages ago on the TV when it was first out and it was right on the spot.

Agree that a few years on its a bit dated but the idea is still possible - not giving away any plot here!

Suggest you watch it as compared to other period WW3 films of the era this is a top ten
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VINE VOICEon 19 October 2010
I'm not going to give away what happens in this film as not knowing keeps you on the edge of your seat. You think you know, but you're not quite sure, and you could be wrong...

The story of how a nuclear incident could escalate, the decisions that happen along the way, the battle between the sensible and lunacy. A story of human decision making with a little bit of technology thrown in.

The start of this film does not give a feeling of confidence that this will be a good film, with some of the acting being particularly poor. However, sit through the first few minutes and the rest of the film is gripping stuff, even if the acting doesn't get much better.

Recommended, despite the acting.
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on 13 August 2014
This is a during/post apocalyptic film that makes you stop and think what might have happened if the US and USSR had 'pushed the button', and if it could have been triggered by an independent 'third party'.
The bedroom scene at the beginning is an irrelevance, just padding to make a weak illicit affaire between the B52 Captain and his co-pilot seem more important than it really was.
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on 15 August 2011
A great thriller, strong acting and an interesting storyline. The film follows two plots, one is the crew of a nuclear bomber, the other is the miltary high command as they debate what to do and argue with themselves, they dotn really cross except for a brief mention of the bomber by the miltary. Both stories exceeded my expectation.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 May 2010
The odds on a nation intentionally engaging in a nuclear war have always been long, but accidents, terrorists and renegade generals exist outside the realm of rationality, so the premise of this film has a lot of bite because it is the scenario most people would agree is the likeliest to occur. Indeed, one could easily imagine such a scenario coming to pass today, with Russia still a little on the shaky side, Pakistan on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown and North Korea being...well, just being itself, really.

This is a tight little film that gets going very quickly. The initial scenes, where the accidental war begins, are very effectively staged and convey a sufficient sense of impending apocalypse and terrible confusion. Sadly, the film does rather lose its' way with the overly-played "human drama" of the B-52 crew, and the climax does stray onto the wrong side of Tom Clancy territory, but it is in the main an intelligent and commendable production that, had it concentrated more on a documentary approach, could have been a classic. Martin Landau makes for a rather vapid President of the United States but the standard of the playing elsewhere is good, particularly Darren McGavin as the Acting President, James Earl Jones as the commander of the "Looking Glass" aircraft and Jeffrey DeMunn as the admiral who desperately tries to persuade the Acting President to turn the war off.
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