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History Film / FailSafe

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* FailedASpotCheck: Group 6 proceeded on their Go code because they couldn't call back to base and get confirmation of the order, thanks to untimely Soviet radio jamming. Under real-life SAC policies (as far as we know), there should be a second form of authentication separate from the main one to verify the order, to lessen the probability of the Soviets (or someone else) reverse-engineering the codes. (The pilots are shown switching to a secondary receiving channel on the fail-safe box, but that might not have helped much). ''Film/DrStrangelove'' was a little bit better on this, showing their bomber crews getting a confirmation from base amidst skepticism the attack order is for real.


* AMillionIsAStatistic: Invoked and inverted during the dinner party. Groteschele quotes a figure of 60 million casualties the US could expect to withstand in a nuclear exchange (down from an earlier 100 million maximum); when the hosting Senator scoffs at the difference between the two figures, Groteschele replies "Are you prepared to say, Senator, that the saving of 40 million lives is unimportant?" The Senator snaps back that saving the ''60 million'' is important—as in, not engaging in nuclear conflict at all.



* TheBigBoard: ''Fail-Safe'' was one of the first movies (along with ''Film/DrStrangelove'') to have this now-ubiquitous feature.



* TheBigBoard: ''Fail-Safe'' was one of the first movies (along with ''Film/DrStrangelove'') to have this now-ubiquitous feature.



* AMillionIsAStatistic: Invoked and inverted during the dinner party. Groteschele quotes a figure of 60 million casualties the US could expect to withstand in a nuclear exchange (down from an earlier 100 million maximum); when the hosting Senator scoffs at the difference between the two figures, Groteschele replies "Are you prepared to say, Senator, that the saving of 40 million lives is unimportant?" The Senator snaps back that saving the ''60 million'' is important—as in, not engaging in nuclear conflict at all.



** In an attempt to intercept Group 6 before it gets too far, the President (on advice of the Pentagon team and SAC) orders the fighter squadron that had been escorting the group to turn back, overtake them, and shoot them down. Because they didn't follow the group on its course to Russia, they have to use afterburners to catch up, burning all their fuel and resulting in the pilots perishing in the Arctic waters once they flame out, ejection or not. Not one missile manages to make it to the bomber group before they all flame out, but it is hoped that by the Soviets seeing this sacrificial action on their own BigBoard, they will be more likely to believe that the bombers' flight towards Moscow is an accident the US is trying to fix.

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** In an attempt to intercept Group 6 before it gets too far, the President (on advice of the Pentagon team and SAC) orders the fighter squadron that had been escorting the group to turn back, overtake them, and shoot them down. Because they didn't follow the group on its course to Russia, they have to use afterburners to catch up, burning all their fuel and resulting in the pilots perishing in the Arctic waters once they flame out, ejection or not. Not one missile manages to make it to the bomber group before they all flame out, but it is hoped that by the Soviets seeing this sacrificial action on their own BigBoard, [[TheBigBoard big board]], they will be more likely to believe that the bombers' flight towards Moscow is an accident the US is trying to fix.



* YouAreTooLate: Not overtly referenced (and there's no real enemy in this scenario), but bad timing affects everything in the plot. The glitched "Go" code is transmitted at the exact moment the Russians are engaged in preemptive radio jamming, preventing them from getting verbal confirmation and attacking on their "fail-safe box's" authorization alone. The American President doesn't get the Russian Premier to have the jamming shut off until after the pilots are no longer going to accept a verbal stop command, even from the President. And the attempt by the Americans to shoot down their own bombers looks to have been a failure by mere seconds.

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* YouAreTooLate: Not overtly referenced (and there's no real enemy in this scenario), but bad timing affects everything in the plot. The glitched "Go" code is transmitted at the exact moment the Russians are engaged in preemptive radio jamming, preventing them from getting verbal confirmation and attacking on their "fail-safe box's" authorization alone. The American President doesn't get the Russian Soviet Premier to have the jamming shut off until after the pilots are no longer going to accept a verbal stop command, even from the President. And the attempt by the Americans to shoot down their own bombers looks to have been a failure by mere seconds.


* HiddenDepths: The scene where Groteschele slaps the woman with the nuclear death fetish in his car is supposed to demonstrate that despite his advocacy for hardline tactics against the Soviets, even after the accidental "go" code, he himself is NOT a war-loving sadist, and any advice he gives regarding the crisis and nuclear war is based solely out of a survival instinct and patriotism.

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* HiddenDepths: The scene where Groteschele Groeteschele slaps the woman with the nuclear death fetish in his car is supposed to demonstrate that despite his advocacy for hardline tactics against the Soviets, even after the accidental "go" code, he himself is NOT a war-loving sadist, and any advice he gives regarding the crisis and nuclear war is based solely out of a survival instinct and patriotism.



* SanitySlippage: Colonel Cascio undergoes this during the whole crisis. He's not on perfectly solid ground to begin with, having been accidentally seen by General Bogan having to deal with his alcoholic parents (who he may still live with). From the moment the Americans order their own fighters to attack the bombers in an attempt to stop them, he keeps trying his best to rationalize the whole thing as an elaborate Soviet trap to lower their guard prior to an attack. The emotional strain gets to the point where he freezes up on a conference call with the Soviet air defenses (he's been ordered to reveal top-secret information about the air-to-air missiles carried by the bombers), then attempts to incapacitate Bogan and take control of SAC forces himself to order a full-scale attack on the Soviets. He's arrested by MPs, and is taken away in a full mental breakdown.

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* SanitySlippage: Colonel Cascio undergoes this during the whole crisis. He's not on perfectly solid ground to begin with, having been accidentally seen by General Bogan having to deal with his alcoholic parents (who he may still live with). From the moment the Americans order their own fighters to attack the bombers in an attempt to stop them, he keeps trying his best to rationalize the whole thing as an elaborate Soviet trap to lower their guard prior to an attack. The emotional strain gets to the point where he freezes up on a conference call with the Soviet air defenses (he's been ordered to reveal top-secret information about the air-to-air missiles carried by the bombers), then attempts to incapacitate Bogan and take control of SAC forces himself to order a full-scale attack on the Soviets. He's arrested by MPs, [=MPs=], and is taken away in a full mental breakdown.



* TheSixties: The height of the Cold War. Many of the characters are old enough to be veterans of more recent wars (UsefulNotes/WorldWarII and Korea) and the horror that they've seen has moulded them greatly.

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* TheSixties: The height of the Cold War. Many of the characters are old enough to be veterans of more recent wars (UsefulNotes/WorldWarII and Korea) and the horror that they've seen has moulded molded them greatly.


* AntiVillain: Colonel Grady and his squadron. They have been led to assume through no fault of their own that war has been declared and commit themselves to doing everything they have been trained to do, despite knowing that doing so means possible nuclear annihilation.

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* AntiVillain: AntiVillain:
**
Colonel Grady and his squadron. They have been led to assume through no fault of their own that war has been declared and commit themselves to doing everything they have been trained to do, despite knowing that doing so means possible nuclear annihilation.



* ArtisticLicenseMilitary: Directly invoked by a post-credits disclaimer, claiming that the United States Air Force is aware of the risks of accidental nuclear war and has safeguards in place to prevent the events of the plot taking place.

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* ArtisticLicenseMilitary: ArtisticLicenseMilitary:
**
Directly invoked by a post-credits disclaimer, claiming that the United States Air Force is aware of the risks of accidental nuclear war and has safeguards in place to prevent the events of the plot taking place.



* BavarianFireDrill: Col. Cascio invokes this when he attacks Gen. Bogan in SAC HQ just before they provide position reports on the bomber group to the Soviets. He tells the officers and men in the room that he has been advised by higher authority that Bogan's mentally unstable, and that he was ordered to take command in case things got out of hand—apparently, obeying a direct order from the President to assist Soviet air defenses counts. Thankfully, the [=MPs=] have enough sense to not fall for this, and they drag Cascio out of the Situation Room in the middle of a breakdown.

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* BavarianFireDrill: BavarianFireDrill:
**
Col. Cascio invokes this when he attacks Gen. Bogan in SAC HQ just before they provide position reports on the bomber group to the Soviets. He tells the officers and men in the room that he has been advised by higher authority that Bogan's mentally unstable, and that he was ordered to take command in case things got out of hand—apparently, obeying a direct order from the President to assist Soviet air defenses counts. Thankfully, the [=MPs=] have enough sense to not fall for this, and they drag Cascio out of the Situation Room in the middle of a breakdown.



* DoesntTrustThoseGuys: Both sides have this in spades, as decades of training themselves for an inevitable war against the other results in the crisis worsening.

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* DoesntTrustThoseGuys: DoesntTrustThoseGuys:
**
Both sides have this in spades, as decades of training themselves for an inevitable war against the other results in the crisis worsening.



* FailsafeFailure: SAC's computer system is installed to remove the possibility of human error causing catastrophe, but ends up causing the crisis.

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* FailsafeFailure: FailsafeFailure:
**
SAC's computer system is installed to remove the possibility of human error causing catastrophe, but ends up causing the crisis.



* FamousLastWords: "''[[spoiler:Katie]]...a dream...a dream...the matador...the matador... the matador...me...me.''" Spoken by [[spoiler:General Black.]]

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* FamousLastWords: FamousLastWords:
**
"''[[spoiler:Katie]]...a dream...a dream...the matador...the matador... the matador...me...me.''" Spoken by [[spoiler:General Black.]]



* GoneHorriblyRight: The president and SAC open a line of communication to Grady's fleet ordering them to stand down. But because they have been told that the Soviets might send transmissions imitating their commanders during training, the bomber group follows protocol and ignores the counter-orders.

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* GoneHorriblyRight: GoneHorriblyRight:
**
The president and SAC open a line of communication to Grady's fleet ordering them to stand down. But because they have been told that the Soviets might send transmissions imitating their commanders during training, the bomber group follows protocol and ignores the counter-orders.



* HellIsThatNoise: The horrible shriek of a telephone being abruptly cut off [[spoiler:by a massive nuclear explosion. The man on the other end was the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and the city being destroyed was Moscow]]. The sound is so loud and piercing that it reverberates around the President's bunker...and the Pentagon bunker...and SAC HQ.

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* HellIsThatNoise: HellIsThatNoise:
**
The horrible shriek of a telephone being abruptly cut off [[spoiler:by a massive nuclear explosion. The man on the other end was the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and the city being destroyed was Moscow]]. The sound is so loud and piercing that it reverberates around the President's bunker...and the Pentagon bunker...and SAC HQ.



* HeWhoFightsMonsters: Professor Groeteschele is arguing with Air Force General Black over the merits of launching a first-strike nuclear attack against the Soviet Union in the wake of a technical malfunction that sent a U.S. bomber to drop a bomb on Moscow, arguing that the threat posed by Communism justifies it.

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* HeWhoFightsMonsters: HeWhoFightsMonsters:
**
Professor Groeteschele is arguing with Air Force General Black over the merits of launching a first-strike nuclear attack against the Soviet Union in the wake of a technical malfunction that sent a U.S. bomber to drop a bomb on Moscow, arguing that the threat posed by Communism justifies it.



* MoralDilemma: As the crisis escalates, the Americans are put in a position where they must either divulge the weaknesses of their own forces to the Russians or risk the breakout of nuclear war.

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* MoralDilemma: MoralDilemma:
**
As the crisis escalates, the Americans are put in a position where they must either divulge the weaknesses of their own forces to the Russians or risk the breakout of nuclear war.



* MutuallyAssuredDestruction: Considering the subject matter of the film, this concept hangs heavily over the entire plot.

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* MutuallyAssuredDestruction: MutuallyAssuredDestruction:
**
Considering the subject matter of the film, this concept hangs heavily over the entire plot.



* SpamAttack: [[spoiler:The Soviet last-ditch plan against the two remaining bombers involves taking the rest of their nuclear surface-to-air missiles and detonating them over the bombers' estimated position, hoping to slam the bombers into the ground with a gigantic nuclear wall. It doesn't work, unfortunately.]]

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* SpamAttack: SpamAttack:
**
[[spoiler:The Soviet last-ditch plan against the two remaining bombers involves taking the rest of their nuclear surface-to-air missiles and detonating them over the bombers' estimated position, hoping to slam the bombers into the ground with a gigantic nuclear wall. It doesn't work, unfortunately.]]



* SuddenlyShouting: In places throughout the script, but it get special notice as the pervasive lack of soundtrack gives these events considerably more impact.

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* SuddenlyShouting: SuddenlyShouting:
**
In places throughout the script, but it get special notice as the pervasive lack of soundtrack gives these events considerably more impact.



* SuicideMission: In an attempt to intercept Group 6 before it gets too far, the President (on advice of the Pentagon team and SAC) orders the fighter squadron that had been escorting the group to turn back, overtake them, and shoot them down. Because they didn't follow the group on its course to Russia, they have to use afterburners to catch up, burning all their fuel and resulting in the pilots perishing in the Arctic waters once they flame out, ejection or not. Not one missile manages to make it to the bomber group before they all flame out, but it is hoped that by the Soviets seeing this sacrificial action on their own BigBoard, they will be more likely to believe that the bombers' flight towards Moscow is an accident the US is trying to fix.

to:

* SuicideMission: SuicideMission:
**
In an attempt to intercept Group 6 before it gets too far, the President (on advice of the Pentagon team and SAC) orders the fighter squadron that had been escorting the group to turn back, overtake them, and shoot them down. Because they didn't follow the group on its course to Russia, they have to use afterburners to catch up, burning all their fuel and resulting in the pilots perishing in the Arctic waters once they flame out, ejection or not. Not one missile manages to make it to the bomber group before they all flame out, but it is hoped that by the Soviets seeing this sacrificial action on their own BigBoard, they will be more likely to believe that the bombers' flight towards Moscow is an accident the US is trying to fix.


* AIIsACrapshoot: Minor version. The whole situation starts because the computers that held the attack codes (because the military thought them to be a better option than giving the codes' authority to any single man) have a minor, apparently routine electronics malfunction that -- unknown to Air Command at the time -- made them broadcast the code.
** The Russians get it, too, as the radio jamming that made it impossible to either recall the bombers or for the group to confirm their orders at the most critical time was based on their own computer systems predicting that the routine staging of bombers at their fail-safe points (which have been stated to occur once or twice a month with no consequence) might be a real attack. When the President asks the Premier on what basis the computer made that call, his answer is basically "a lot of math I don't know a lot about, and it's not really accurate, but it gives us 'something' to work with."

to:

* AIIsACrapshoot: AIIsACrapshoot:
**
Minor version. The whole situation starts because the computers that held the attack codes (because (as the military thought them to be a better option than giving the codes' authority to any single man) have a minor, apparently routine electronics malfunction that -- unknown to Air Command at the time -- made them broadcast the code.
** The Russians get it, too, as the radio jamming that made it impossible to either recall the bombers or for the group to confirm their orders at the most critical time was based on their own computer systems predicting that the routine staging of bombers at their fail-safe points (which have been stated to occur once or twice a month with no consequence) might be a real attack. When the President asks the Premier on what basis the computer made that call, his answer is basically "a lot of math I don't know a lot about, and it's not really accurate, but it gives us 'something' ''something'' to work with."


** The book adds in some background to this: Groeteschele's family were German Jews, and his father had seen what was coming with the Nazis and emigrated out of there quickly. Said father often argued that point with his fellow Jews in America, claiming that if the Germans suffered enough deaths trying to exterminate the Jews, they might have rethunk the Holocaust. So it's a little of this trope and WellIntentionedExtremist.

to:

** The book adds in some background to this: Groeteschele's family were German Jews, and his father had seen what was coming with the Nazis and emigrated out of there quickly. Said father often argued that point with his fellow Jews in America, claiming that if the Germans suffered enough deaths trying to exterminate the Jews, they might have rethunk rethought the Holocaust. So it's a little of this trope and WellIntentionedExtremist.


* MultitaskedConversation: Buck, the Russian translator, is saddled with this, especially as he has to not only relay the Premier's words, but also provide clues to the President of the Premier's emotional state—Buck's not actually speaking on the phone circuit, but is monitoring the conversation. But when the President reveals [[spoiler:his proposal to nuke New York City to level the scales in case Moscow is destroyed]], Buck's statement of "Holy Mother of God" could be either aken as his own reaction, that of the Premier, or both.

to:

* MultitaskedConversation: Buck, the Russian translator, is saddled with this, especially as he has to not only relay the Premier's words, but also provide clues to the President of the Premier's emotional state—Buck's not actually speaking on the phone circuit, but is monitoring the conversation. But when the President reveals [[spoiler:his proposal to nuke New York City to level the scales in case Moscow is destroyed]], Buck's statement of "Holy Mother of God" could be either aken taken as his own reaction, that of the Premier, or both.



** The President's wife only appears in a photograph on a newspaper front-page. Apparently to compound the impact on the film's original audiences of the First Lady's life being sacrificed, she greatly resembles Jackie Kennedy.

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** The President's wife only appears in a photograph on a newspaper front-page. front-page photo. Apparently to compound increase the impact shock on the film's original audiences release audience of the First Lady's life Lady being sacrificed, she greatly resembles is modeled on Jackie Kennedy.


* DrivenToSuicide: General Black, after [[spoiler:he is forced to drop nuclear weapons on New York City and kill five million New Yorkers, including the President's wife and his own his wife and daughter]].

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* DrivenToSuicide: General Black, after [[spoiler:he is forced to drop nuclear weapons on New York City and kill five million New Yorkers, including the President's wife and his own his wife and daughter]].

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* ItCantBeHelped: [[spoiler: The Soviet Premier invokes this sentiment regarding how the entire crisis wasn't anyone's fault, that it was a result of circumstances beyond anyone's control. In the novel, the President apparently agrees with that statement, but with an air of resignation. The President in the film however, soundly rejects that idea—"accidents will happen" is not a sufficient excuse for either leader to deflect responsibility for two cities destroyed and millions dead as a result of the nuclear war ecosystem they both control, and they have to figure out a way for the two nations to go on after this.]]

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* ThisIsSomethingHesGotToDoHimself: [[spoiler: When Gen. Black is flying the mission to destroy New York, he tells his flight crew that he alone will fly the aircraft and drop the bombs, to lessen the burden of guilt on them. The RADAR/defensive systems operator only gives a 10-second hack to bomb release at Black's request.]]

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** [[spoiler:There's some discussion in the Pentagon after the announcement of the sacrifice of New York, as to whether or not the city's population should be warned. It's decided that with such little time to evacuate or shelter-in-place, it would merely cause panic. The President's wife happens to be in [=NYC=] that very day on a publicity trip; it's assumed he knows full well she's there. Groteschele bluntly points out moments later that shelter or no, 3 million people are gonna die in the immediate effect of the blast.]]

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* GeneralRipper: An inversion, because ironically it's the ''civilian'' Groeteschele who's raring to drop bombs on the Russians, even citing things like "survival of the fittest". Practically all the military establishment around him comes out sounding more cautious and levelheaded by comparison.


%%* ApocalypseHow: By the end of the story, the Americans trade a likely Class 4 for a very bittersweet Class 1.

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%%* * ApocalypseHow: By the end of the story, the Americans trade a likely Class 4 (WorldWarIII with all of its continent-wiping atomic horror) for a very bittersweet Class 1.1 (the complete atomic annihilation of New York City to appease for doing the same to Moscow).

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* BavarianFireDrill: Col. Cascio invokes this when he attacks Gen. Bogan in SAC HQ just before they provide position reports on the bomber group to the Soviets. He tells the officers and men in the room that he has been advised by higher authority that Bogan's mentally unstable, and that he was ordered to take command in case things got out of hand—apparently, obeying a direct order from the President to assist Soviet air defenses counts. Thankfully, the [=MPs=] have enough sense to not fall for this, and they drag Cascio out of the Situation Room in the middle of a breakdown.
** The novel elaborates further, with Bogan thinking (after recovering from getting whacked on the head) about his chances of a successful takeover: the most junior officers would go along with the "new" chain of command, the ones in the middle would vacillate, and the most senior officers wouldn't fall for it. Timely intervention by the [=MPs=] makes such thoughts academic, though.

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* KnightTemplar: Col. Cascio, full-stop. He's so committed to the "Soviets are tricky, evil bastards out to destroy the US" narrative that even as it becomes clear what has happened and that the US forces must be eliminated before they can strike Moscow, he still holds to the idea of Group 6's attack being a Soviet bluff or trap, and cheers on Group 6's attempt to evade and eliminate Soviet air defenses. It gets to the point he even tries to incapacitate Gen. Bogan and take command of SAC forces to prevent further collaboration between SAC and the Soviets.

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