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.