Fail Safe Script - Dialogue Transcript

Voila! Finally, the Fail Safe script is here for all you quotes spouting fans of the live CBS movie from George Clooney.  This script is a transcript that was painstakingly transcribed using the screenplay and/or viewings of Fail Safe. I know, I know, I still need to get the cast names in there and I'll be eternally tweaking it, so if you have any corrections, feel free to drop me a line. You won't hurt my feelings. Honest.

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Fail Safe Script





Coming to you live from CBS,

your host, Mr. Walter Cronkite.



Ladies and gentlemen,

you're at an opening night.



Tonight, television takes a giant step.



For the next two hours...



...this network will be presenting

the first feature-length story...


            be broadcast live on CBS in 39 years.



Tonight's show, Fail Safe...


            based on the best-selling novel

by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler...



...and written for the screen

by Walter Bernstein.



You're tuned to CBS.



The clocks are turned back,

and our story begins in just one minute.



What time is it?



Too early.



The Secretary's bringing some...



...muckamuck to lecture to all of us brass.



Taking the train?



No, I'll fly down.



Be back in time for dinner.



That would be fine.



I'll take the children to Manhattan.



We're going to see My Fair Lady.



She's in New York?



The movie.



You had that dream again, didn't you?






Maybe I should quit my job.



The dream's related, I know.



Why don't you come with us to see

My Fair Lady? Audrey Hepburn.



And leave Swenson and General Stark

in a room alone?









Let's take that vacation, Blackie.



-And get you away from all of this.




How did I get so lucky

to stumble onto you?



Come home early.



How long have you been stationed

in Omaha, Colonel Cascio?



Three years, Congressman.

This is the control center to the War Room.



How far down are we?



Six stories.



That seems a little extreme

even for the War Department.



Yes, sir. I'm sure it does.



What we are seeing here

is the naval situation in the Pacific.



Those white ones are our surface vessels

and our submarines.



And those are Russian submarines.



So close to our shoreline?



International waters.

Anyone's got a right to be there.



The Russians aren't just anyone.



What are they doing there,

or is that a foolish question?



Same thing we're doing to them

over there.






Surveillance. Don't worry, Mr. Knapp.

We keep a very close eye on them.



-Thanks to you and your company.

-We just make the computers.



You people do the important work.



Congressman. Follow me, gentlemen.



-Your computers are the best in the world.

-Thank you.



They ought to be. They cost enough.



This is about more than just money.



I got elected to watch

the dollars, Mr. Knapp.



Like Mr. Jefferson said:



''Patriotism is the last refuge

of the profligate.''



Or was it Will Rogers?



-Where you from, Colonel?

-New York City, sir.



New York City.



Your Congressman's Sam Noonan, right?



I wouldn't know. I'm in the Air Force.




Give me the polar projection, please.



Yes, sir.



What we're seeing now is a projection

of the Northern Hemisphere.



It's like looking down at the Earth

from the North Pole...


            an altitude of about   - - miles.



Those are our bombers

patrolling the Russian perimeter.



Shortly they'll be returning

to their base in Alaska.



They'll be replaced by other bombers

with fresh crews.



Men chosen very carefully, sir.

The cream of the cream.



He's got a good arm.



His fielding skills are a little suspect, but....



-He's   -, Jack.

-No, I know.



We'll see. Next spring.



He can hit. I could never hit.



Stands in there,

puts the bat on his shoulder...



...looks the pitcher right in the eye,

takes his cuts.



Five minutes to ready planes.



The other kids duck when the pitch

comes in. He doesn't flinch.



-Brave little--

-Got that from his mom.



Yeah. She was something.



How's he doing?









-Dad! How long will this one be?

-Shouldn't be too late.



-You sure?




Only fools are positive.



-Are you sure?





-Yes, Sport.



You know that chameleon you got me?



I know him well.

We talk about you all the time.



Four minutes to ready planes.



Can you get me another one?



Why, you think he needs a friend?



No, it's just that he's dead.



He was alive yesterday. What happened?



He got cooked.



-You cooked the chameleon?

-Not me, the sun.



We're supposed to keep the shade down

so the sun doesn't get on him.



I forgot, and he got cooked.



When I get home,

we'll give him a proper burial.



You mad at me, Dad?



-Of course not. This weekend--

-Tell Tommy I said hey.



Flynn says hey. I'm flying with him today.



-Is he flying Number  ?

-Are you flying Number  ?



I got to go. I'll be home soon, Sport.



-You sure?

-I'm positive.



Only fools are positive.



-I'll see you.

-I'll see you, Dad.



Three minutes to ready planes.



They're all armed with nuclear bombs.



Two kinds of bombs. Air-to-air missiles

for use against enemy planes...



...and two   --ton hydrogen bombs

designed to detonate over land targets.



Each one more powerful

than what we dropped on Hiroshima.



No comparison.



And you guys are the finger on the trigger.



I think I know what you're worried about.



Somebody goes nuts in here,

the bombs go off and the world blows up.



No way. We have checks upon checks.

Fail Safe procedures--



That don't depend on humans.



That's the scariest thing I've heard

since I came in here.



What Colonel Cascio meant

was that we bypass human error.



Even the best people make mistakes.

We've got the very best.



They get tired, angry,

their minds can wander.



We've compensated for that.



Thanks again to Mr. Knapp

and his systems.



We make them as foolproof as we can.



Maybe you ought to have

a ''fool safe'' procedure.



Protect us from the fools in the world.



-I'd sleep a lot better.

-So would I, but unfortunately--



Excuse me.



What's going on, General?



We've come up

with an unidentified flying object.



Until we know what it is for sure,

we consider it hostile.



So what do you do about it?



We've gone to Condition Blue.

That's our lowest level of readiness.



As you saw, we always have

a certain number of bombers in the air.



They have been told

we're at Condition Blue...


            now they'll now fly

to their Fail Safe points.



-Put that up for me, please.




Different for each group

and changes from day to day.



The Fail Safe is a fixed point in the sky...



...where the bombers orbit

till they get a positive order to go in.



Without that order, they come home.



No bomber can proceed

on its own discretion.



-You get that order by radio, right?

-But not verbally.



This is of course highly classified.



The attack order is transmitted

to a small box...



...on the aircraft

that we call the Fail Safe box.



This box is operated by a code...



...which can function

only at the express order of the President.



Seven minutes to Fail Safe.



When we go to Condition Blue

it goes on automatically...


            seven minutes and starts

a countdown. Nothing unusual.



Why don't you just give them

a direct verbal yes or no...



...and save yourselves all this trouble?



Voices can be imitated.



An enemy comes up on

the same radio frequency...



...imitates the voice of the President,

it can send whatever message it wants.



No, there can't be any interference

with the box. We've seen to that.



There's nothing unusual

about Condition Blue?



No. This is Standard Operating Procedure.



We've sent fighter aircraft up

to identify the bogie.



You said it could be hostile.



We have to regard it as hostile.

That doesn't mean that it is.



-Doesn't mean it isn't.

-This happens five or six times a month.



After Blue, we still have to go to

Condition Yellow, Condition Green...



...and then Condition Red.



And Condition Red is?






Maybe this time it's a real UFO.



From outer space? I wouldn't mind that.



Give us something to worry about

besides the Russians.



I read your memo

on counterforce credibility.



I don't think that's what Groteschele

is going to talk about today.



You mean you don't want me

to bring it up.



Maybe not today.



Someone's got to talk about it.



This whole policy of overkill,

piling bombs on top of bombs...



...figuring even if they hit us first,

we can still destroy them.



-It's crazy.

-It's a crazy world.



-Good morning, gentlemen.

-Good morning, Mr. Secretary.



I think you all know Mr. Groteschele, here.



He's been gracious enough

to give us more of his valuable time...



...on a subject

we're all naturally concerned about.



So, Mr. Groteschele, the floor is all yours.



Thank you.



I shall try not to waste your valuable time.



The subject today is ''Nuclear War.''

Specifically, ''Winning a Nuclear War.''



We know in a exchange

between the Soviets and Americans...



...  - - million people, more or less,

would be killed.



A   - - million or more?



Yes, Mr. Secretary.

That would be nothing but a tragedy...



...nobody here denies that.



Every war, even a thermonuclear war,

must have a victor and a vanquished.



History tells us that the culture

which is best prepared...



...has the best retaliation,

and the best defense...



...will have an ancient

and classical advantage.



To be victorious?



Yes. It would be the victor in that

it would be less damaged than its enemy.



We would be the victor.



That would be our hope.



Your argument doesn't recognize

that thermonuclear war...


            not the extension of policy...


            is the end of everything:

People, policy, institutions--



My argument is if someone

is to survive a nuclear exchange...



...I prefer that it be our culture

and not the Soviets'.



Culture? With most of its people dead?



It's vegetation burned off?



Do you really think

that the world you describe is a culture?



The idea of war has changed since

the advent of the Bomb.



War's function remains the same, Blackie.



Whether it's a spear thrown

or a nuclear bomb.



War is still the resolution

of economic and political conflict.



In these times, in any possible war...



...the overwhelming majority of citizens

are going to be killed.



Does this still suggest to you

that war is a resolution of conflicts?



The situation is no different

then it was   - - - years ago.



There were wars in which

entire populations were wiped out.



The point remains: Who will be the victor

and who will be the victim?



Short of disarmament,

to which I doubt the Soviets would agree...



...what shall we do?



These weapons exist. We can face that

or we can close our minds to it.



Groteschele, this world is no longer

man's theater.



Man has been made into a spectator.



We define policy by discussing the

possibility of a winnable nuclear exchange.



Once one knows where he wants to go...



...he can collect a great amount of logic

and fact to support his argument.



My fear is that both we and the Soviets

are settled on mutual destruction.



We are now rallying our different logics

to support our identical conclusions.



And, if we are not careful, gentlemen,

we will both get the results that we want.



General Bogan, UFO at angels   -,

speed     heading    .



That means the unidentified aircraft

is flying at   -, - - - feet...



...the speed of   - - miles an hour

on a compass heading of    .



Heading right for Detroit.



Pretty cool about it, General.



My guess is a commercial airliner

is off course.



One minute to Fail Safe.



Damn thing's disappeared.

Where did it go?



Into the grass, Mr. Raskob.

Under our radar where we can't see it.



-What do we do now?

-Go to Condition Yellow.



Condition Yellow.



-Put our bombers up there, please.

-Yes, sir.



Our bombers are heading

for their Fail Safe points.



Thirty-seconds to Fail Safe.



Once they get there,

they'll orbit till we call them back.



-What are those other planes?

-Fighter support for the bombers.



It's also automatic

under these circumstances.



Twenty seconds to Fail Safe.



Nineteen, eighteen....



The early warning system indicates

it's not an air breather.



What the hell is that?



Jets create turbulence when they suck

in air through their engines.



We got a warning system

that can pick that up.



If the plane lost power, we couldn't

do that, even if we know it's there.



It could be a Russian rocket coming in

under our radar.



All groups at Fail Safe point.



Right on the money. I told you,

Mr. Raskob, our people are the best.



-How we doing, Jimmy?

-Everyone in orbit, sir.



Let's keep it there. Slow and easy.



So let's say Dr. King sits down

with the powers that be and he says:



''Mr. President, I want it to be equal''

and in a very polite way...



...the President says,

''Dr. King, I can't do it''.



As long as it's polite, sir.



Are you saying

because it's difficult don't try?



That's not what I'm saying. In the Army--



The Army's different. I'd take the Army.



There's a class system, too,

but it's based on seniority.



Let's do it that way.



Everyone in the country

will get paid equally by their age.



All men age   - will make a better salary

than all men age   .



What about women?



What about women?



What's happening now?



-Any word on identification?

-Not yet, sir.



What the hell's going on?



-Let's go to Condition Green.

-Condition Green.



Can you tell us why Condition Green?



No. Colonel, let's get our visitors

out of here.



-Gentlemen, please.

-The hell--



That's an order, Mr. Raskob.



The way I read the situation,

we're one minute away from going to war.



Unless you can get me back to my family,

I'm staying here to see what happens.



You really don't want to throw me

out of here.



There it is!



That's it, gentlemen.



I'm sorry we alarmed you.



Have all parties stand down.



Stand down. All parties stand down.



Stand down, Anderson.



Sergeant Anderson. Sergeant Collins.

You need to take a look at this.



We need a new indicator switch.

This one's faulty.



-Right, Chief.

-Put in the report that at   -:   hours...



...we replaced a PK   - indicator switch

in the Number   bank.



Right away, Chief.



Sir, the Fail Safe box.



I see it.



Check Omaha by radio.

Somebody screwed up.



Yes, sir.



Try another band.



Try them all.



It's the Russians.



Jamming our signals to keep us

from getting the go-ahead.



-They're too late for that.

-It's got to be a mistake.



Request permission to verify, sir.



Permission granted.



I read it as ''CAP     .''



I concur your reading

is Charlie Alpha Poppa     .



We will now both open

our operational orders.



Last year, on a flight from Hamburg...



...we lost an engine over England.



One was a heart stopper, but to lose two--



General Bogan.



Why is that group of planes up there

headed for Russia?



In the case of a surprise attack,

people still advocate a return...


            manned bombers for a first strike

retaliation rather than missiles.



Why? They're slower, they can be recalled.

The missiles cannot.



They provide a maximum reaction time

for thought, evaluation...



...the detection of error,

perhaps even a peaceful resolution.



I find this point of view

dangerously old fashioned, gentlemen.



We must speed up in this circumstance,

not slow down.



Time is a....



Colonel Purnell, get me Omaha.






-Colonel Cascio.




Get me the President.



Tell Peter not to even hint to the press

there's an emergency.



Tell the Vice President what's happened.

He'll know what to do.



-We met before at your office.

-Yes, sir. I'm the Russian translator.



I hope there won't be any use

for you today. Nothing personal.



No, they'll get wind of this,

they always do.



Tell Peter to tell the press that it is urgent.

It's not a backbreaker.



Not yet. And, off the record, no leaks.



Any leaks on this, the guy and his paper

are dead, now and forever.



-I'll tell him in those words.

-Where's the list for the Pentagon meeting?



-Right here, Mr. President.

-Give it to Buck.



I think that'll be all for now. Stay close.



Right outside, sir.



Sit down, Buck.



-You know what's happened?

-No, sir.



One of our bomber groups

got the wrong message...



...went off to attack Russia.



The whole thing may get settled down

in a couple of minutes. Probably will.



The bombers will realize their mistake

and turn back or...



...we'll contact them by radio

and recall them.



But if things do get serious

then I may have to speak to the Kremlin.



That's where you come in.



-I'll do my best, sir.

-I know you will.



Who's on that Pentagon list?

I want them in on this.



Secretary of Defense...



...Chiefs of Staff...







Runs an expensive think tank.



Pentagon likes him.

He says what they want to hear.



Is there a General Black on that list?



Yes, sir.



That's Blackie. I'm glad he's there.



We went to school together.

He's very smart and I trust him.



Get me General Bogan in Omaha, please.



We have a little time.



Not much, but some. You can relax.



Easier said than done.



General Bogan, sir.



Yes, General Bogan.



Group   is about    - miles past Fail Safe...



...and continuing on an attack course.



-Do we know what happened?

-No, we do not.



There's a chance they made

a navigational error and they'll swing back.



Has that big an error

ever happened before?



-No, sir.

-Then let's rule it out.



Why haven't we been able to contact them

by radio?



I don't know. We've tried all frequencies.



We can't make contact.



The Russians may be jamming

their radio reception.



Why would they do that?



I don't know, sir.



If we do manage to reestablish

radio contact...



...will they respond to an order to return?



No, sir.



Not even from me?



Their orders are to disregard

all voice transmissions...



...even your voice can be imitated,

Mr. President.



Once they get past a certain point,

they are not to obey any verbal command.



Are they past that point?



Yes, sir. Quite a ways past.



What's the target?






All right. Standard Operating Procedure.

What's the next step?



We got fighter planes in the air.



SOP is that we send them

after the bombers...



...with orders to raise them visually

and divert them.



Will it work?



Sir, these men have been trained

to ignore all visual signals.



They've been taught...



...that the Russians could send up a decoy

to divert the bombers.



That leaves us

with what alternative, General?



To shoot them down.



And who gives that order?



You do, Mr. President.



All right.



Order the fighters to catch up

to the bombers.



Tell them to hold fire until they get

a direct order from me. Is that clear?



Yes, sir.



Thank you.



Mr. Swenson in the Pentagon, please.



Colonel Cascio.



Contact the fighters.

Tell them to go after Group  .



We can't shoot down our own men.



Yes, Mr. President.



May I call you back?



Thank you, sir.






The President may have to order

our fighters to shoot down Group  .



He'd like our advice

before issuing that order.



I oppose it on the grounds

that it's premature.



Our fighters haven't reached

Soviet airspace.



We must do it.



-There's still hundreds of miles away.

-Do it at once, now!



-We've got no alternatives!

-There are always alternatives.



This minute...



...the Russians are watching Group  

trying to guess what we're doing.



You can be damn sure

once our bombers get...



...into their airspace,

they're going to want a good explanation.



And want it fast.



We have to prove to them

that this is a mistake.



By shooting down our own planes?



If it has to be.



Mr. President, it is our....



It is our unanimous view that...



...the fighters should be ordered in.



Thank you.



General Bogan, order the fighters in.

If necessary, shoot down the bombers.



It will be necessary, sir.



I know that, General. Order them in.



Yes, sir.



-Colonel Cascio.




Order the fighters to attack Group  .



They can't catch them.

They've gone the opposite direction.



Tell them to go to afterburners.



They'll use up all their fuel.

If they succeed, they won't make it back.



They'll go down in the Arctic Ocean.



You heard the order, Colonel.



-They're still--




Give the order, immediately.



Give me Tangle Able One.



So, we're going to shoot down

our own men.



We are in voice communication

with Tangle Able One.



You can talk to them on Channel  .



Single-side band.



-Do I tell them in code or in the clear?

-In the clear.



What if the Russians overhear us?



Isn't that what we want?



This is Tangle Able One,

I read you five by five at last transmission.



Tangle Able One,

this is Colonel Cascio of the Omaha staff.



I'm here with General Bogan.



Listen closely.



Group   has flown beyond

the Fail Safe point.



It is on an attack course towards Moscow.



It is a mistake. I repeat, it is a mistake.






You are to go to afterburners...



...and overtake Group  .



If you cannot communicate

with them visually...



...shoot them down.



Roger. Go to afterburners

and if cannot communicate...



...shoot them down.



-Over and out.

-Leave it on.



You heard the order. Any suggestions?



Yeah. They should get

their heads examined.



We haven't a chance

of catching the bombers.



We only got a   -mph edge

on them and they're halfway to Moscow.



-Who's kiddin' who?

-Cut the chatter.



On the mark, go to afterburners.





















Turn it off.



Turn it off!



Did you think they wouldn't do it?



How did General Bogan sound

to you, Buck?






Sound worried?



I'd say a little worried, sir.



He's an old-time flyer. He's a good man.



If he's worried, I'm worried.



You know Mr. Swenson,

the Secretary of Defense?



No, sir.



He gives us any advice, we take it.



Get me the Pentagon

and the Omaha War Room, please.



Right away, sir.



Ready, sir.



Mr. Swenson...



...if our fighters manage to shoot down

these bombers the worst will be over.



I want your people to think what'll happen

if we can't shoot them down.



I've got Omaha on the line as well.



Please limit this discussion

to two subjects:



What happened?

And what will we do about it?



Right, sir.



Back at Omaha, we have General Bogan.



Mr. Knapp of Universal Techtotics.



Congressman Raskob of Nebraska.



They have my permission to listen

and make any comments.



In my opinion,

only two things could've happened:



A compound mechanical failure

or someone in Group   went berserk.



Double mechanical failure?

You know the odds against that, sir?



Mr. Secretary.



Yes, General Bogan.



Mr. Knapp here knows as much

about the electronic gear as anyone.



He's a little reluctant to talk,

but he understands how important this is.



Mr. Knapp.



Look, it's just that the more complicated

these electronic systems are...



...the more accident-prone they become.



How does that apply to our situation?



Well, sir, in this way:



If you pile all these electronic systems

one on top of the other...



...sooner or later

you'll get a faulty transistor or...



...a damaged rectifier,

then the whole thing just shuts down.



Even computers suffer fatigue.

They become erratic...



...they break down,

just like overworked people.



Excuse me. But you're overlooking

one important factor:



Humans control those machines.



Humans can see an error and correct it.



I'm sorry, sir. But you are misinformed.



The fact of the matter is

that these machines are so complex...



...and these mistakes they make

are so subtle...


            a real war situation,

you might not know...



...whether it's an error

or telling you the truth.



May I say something, General?



This is Colonel Cascio of my staff.



I don't think it's a mechanical failure

and I don't think anyone went berserk.



I think it's a move by the Russians.



What kind of move, Colonel?



Sir, I think they found a way to mask

the real position of Group  .



They have the capacity, we know that.



Group   is probably on their way home

now with the radio jammed.



What we see heading towards Moscow

is actually a group of Russian bombers.



Up there for one reason:



To make us believe that we've launched

the first strike against them.



We can think as much as we want

that it's accidental.



It's an excuse for retaliation.



If they wanted to, they wouldn't need

an excuse, they'd just attack.



This way, they made us commit a group

of our fighter planes...



...our first line of defense.



-And made us kill our own men.

-I disagree with Colonel Cascio's analysis.



We must believe this is our mistake

and not the Russians'.



Absolutely, I agree.



This is General Stark.

Project the Russian air defense.



The Russians have seven bomber groups

in the air at this moment.



All are following hold patterns

inside Soviet airspace. Next map, please.



Their fighter groups have a large number

of fighter planes in the air.



Which means?



Which means they must have seen

Group   cross the Fail Safe point.



That's why they scrambled

all those fighters.



And I think they're waiting.



Just as we would.



If they see our fighters shooting down

American planes...



...they'll understand that we're sincere.



-If not--

-If not, I'll tell you what I believe.



-The Russians will take no action at all.

-Even if we cross their borders--



If our bombers get through,

the Russians will surrender.



Would you explain that, please?



The Soviets believe history is based

on a series of non-human events...



...which will eventually assure the victory

of communism...



...if the Soviet Union is left

reasonably intact.



They know that a war would leave

the Soviet Union utterly destroyed.



Therefore, they would surrender.



But that would leave capitalism

the winner.



They wouldn't see it that way.



In fact, many of them believe

that capitalism must play itself out...


            its inevitable historical defeat

before communism can really succeed.



So what do you suggest we do?









They will surrender.

The threat of communism will be over.






Mr. Secretary.



Mr. Secretary, pardon my language,

but I think that's a lot of crap.



Don't kid yourself.



The Russian generals will react

the same way that I would react.



The best defense is a good offense.

They'll attack.



They won't give a damn

what Marx or anyone else said.



You give too much credit

to the military mind.



The Russian leaders are not

like you and me.



These are Marxist fanatics.

They're not motivated by rage or hate.



These are human calculating machines,

believe me.



They know if they hit us,

they can do terrible damage.



They also know that our second strike

will completely destroy them.



They'll look at the balance sheet

and see defeat.



Mr. Secretary, I'm convinced of it.

This is our chance!



I'd never have made

the first move deliberately.



Group   has done that for us by accident.



Now, we must take advantage of it.

History demands it.



We must advise the President that

no effort be made to recall those planes.



Our fighters are firing.



He's out of fuel. He's going down.



They're too far away.



Mr. President, our fighters have failed.



They've all crashed into the sea.



What are the chances of our bombers

actually getting through to Moscow?



We've done the calculations

a thousand times.



One or two of the six will get through.



Even with the entire Soviet defense

apparatus concentrated on them?



Our bombers are too fast.

The Russians won't have time.



Thank you.



Okay, Buck, I'll tell you what we'll do.



I'll speak to the Soviet Premier.



You'll tell me what he says

and his own translator...



...will tell him what I'm saying. Got that?



-Yes, sir.

-I want something more.



I want you to tell me what he's thinking.



As much as you can sense.



Anything you can pick up

that'll give me a clue to his thoughts.



-Think you can do that?

-I can try, sir.



-That's all anybody can do.

-Yes, sir.






Let's talk to Moscow.



They're on the line.



Mr. Chairman.



This is the President of the United States

calling on a matter of great urgency.



''Does it have to do with the aircraft...



''...we've detected flying towards Russia

from the Bering Sea?''



Yes, sir, that's why I'm calling.



Your tracking and radar devices...



...must have detected a somewhat

unusual pattern.



''They reported it to me    minutes ago.



''I presume you are calling to inform me

that this is another of your off-course...



-''...reconnaissance flights.''




''I've warned you that your constant flying

of armed--''



This is a serious mistake.



''All right, tell me. Tell me the mistake.''



A group of bombers,

flying at speeds of    - - miles an hour...



...each containing two   --megaton bombs...


            right now flying towards Russia.



''We shall watch with great interest

while you recall them.



-''If, indeed, that is what you intend doing.''

-I said it was a mistake.



But so far we have been unable

to return these planes.



''Are they being flown by madmen,

Mr. President?''



I wish I could be sure.



My best guess is mechanical failure.



What I can tell you is that it's a mistake.



It is not part of a plan to provoke war.



-This is not part of any general attack.

-''How am I to believe that?''



Because I'm telling you--



''How do I know you don't have hundreds

of planes flying so low...



''...our radar can't pick them up?''



Because I hope to prove to you

that we regard this as a serious mistake...



...and that we take responsibility for it,

and we are trying to correct it.



''Go on.''



You already know.... You have

the same detection devices we do.



You saw that we sent fighters up

to try to catch our bombers.



The fighters had orders

to shoot them down.



''American fighters to shoot down

American bombers?''



-Yes, sir.

-''And who gave that order?''



I did.



Four of those planes have already run out

of fuel and gone into the sea.



This isn't a question of belief,

Mr. Chairman.



Those men are dead already.



''We saw your planes fall into the sea.



''I believe they were making an effort

to do as you ordered.



''I wanted only to hear your explanation.



''And to know who gave the order.



''It is a difficult thing to order men

to their certain death, is it not?''



It is.



''Full retaliation at once. Strike back.



''Full power.



''Mr. President, my advisors are convinced

this so-called 'accident' is a trick.



''They want to strike back at once.



''You realize, in their place

I would probably feel the same.''



But you don't.



''Soviet airspace has not yet been invaded.



''But if it is, we will be forced

to shoot down your bombers.



''And then we will come to a full alert

and prepare all our missiles and planes.''



I understand that, and I hope you will

be able to shoot down our bombers.



But I urge you not to take any steps

that are irrevocable.



I give you my word, sir,

that this is a mistake.



But you must know,

if you start to launch missiles...



...we will have to do the same.



And then there will be very little left

of this world.



''I understand.''



I've arranged a second conference line...



...between our Air Force headquarters

in Omaha and your similar officers...


            the Soviet Union.



We will give you any information

you request...



...that will help you shoot down

these bombers.



''Mr. President, we are perfectly capable

of defending our country.''



-Mr. Chairman, I would think--

-''We do not need your assistance.''



Sir, of course this is your choice,

but you must know...



...we have new masking techniques.



My experts tell me

that no matter what you do...



...some of our planes

will get through to the target.



''What is the target?''






''I will call you back when I see

how the fighters do.''



You can walk around if you'd like.



No, sir, I'm fine. Thank you.



-How far to their border?

-  minutes   -, sir.



-Radio still jammed?

-Yes, sir.



All right, here we go.



Lose the horse, lose the buggy.



Attention, Group  .



We can't penetrate in tight formation.



They'd get two for the price of one.



So, we've got to spread out.

Number   in the lead. Flynn?



-Yes, Colonel.

-You're the one with the decoys.



-Use them when we cross the border.




Good luck.



-Project the Soviet border.

-Yes, sir.



Dear God.



Well, Buck...



...we've invaded Russia.



We are now in a technical state of war.



One hour,    minutes to target.



Go after the decoys. Go!



-Go after the decoys.

-Wipe out the decoys.



-I just want to see their planes and ours.

-Yes, sir.



-They're still going after the decoys.




Get it!



Knock it off!

This isn't some damned football game!



They found one of our planes.



The Soviets have a very slow missile...



...which compensates by having

a greater range than we thought they had.



The slowness made our missile calculate

that they must be decoys...


            it ignored them

and went after the fighters.



That made the bomber vulnerable.



It's going to get worse

before it gets better.



Yes, Mr. Raskob,

it's going to get much worse.



There goes another one.



That's two bombers gone.



If those Soviet fighters shape up a bit,

maybe there's still hope.



Hope? We lose six bombers,

eighteen good men...



...and you think maybe there's still hope?



Nobody wants to lose those men.



What about the hundreds of millions

of people around the world...



...walking around in total ignorance

that they might be killed.



Think about them, Colonel Cascio,

and hope.



The Chairman is on the line, sir.



Yes, Mr. Chairman.



''Mr. President, there is very little time left.

How should we use this time?''



What luck have you had

in shooting down the bombers?



''Luck? No luck at all.



''We have shot down some of them,

but your decoys have been very successful.



''Many of my experts think

they are not decoys at all...



''...that they are real.



''There is pressure to retaliate.''



Why haven't you?

Why haven't you counter-attacked?



''I am gambling that you are sincere.''



Then you must also gamble that

we can help you shoot down these planes.



Please set up that second line.



We will give you any information

that you need.



''I will give orders to have it set up.''






Mr. Chairman, we have been unable

to contact our planes...



...because of a jamming

of the radio frequency.



Are you and your military involved

in jamming the radio signal?



They're arguing again.



''Don't give out the information.

It's too secret. It's a trick.



''The answer is yes, we have done research

on your Fail Safe system.



''We wanted to disrupt

your communications...



'' case of a true attack.



''When your system failed,

it was interpreted as an attack...



''...and we immediately began

jamming your radios.''



Will you lift the jamming now?



If I can contact the group commander,

maybe I can get him to return.



-''Will he return on your command?''

-There's always a chance.



''I will give the order.''



Very good. Please stay on the line.



General Bogan, put me through to Group  .



-Sir, we can't get through to Group  .

-You can now.



What's the group commander's name?



-Grady, sir.

-One hour,    minutes to target.



Try Group   again.

Colonel Cascio, pick it up.



Turkey   this is Ultimate  .

Can you hear me?



Turkey Six this is Ultimate  .

Come in. Come in.



-Turkey   this is Ultimate  .

-They've stopped jamming us.



Come in. Turkey   this is Ultimate  .



We are not allowed--



Colonel Grady, this is the President...



...of the United States.



Your mission has been triggered

by a mechanical failure.



It's a mistake. I repeat, it is a mistake.



I am ordering you and your group

to return to base at once.



We are not allowed

to receive tactical alterations--



Colonel, your authorized go code

is CAP     --



I can no longer receive tactical alterations.



Your primary target is Moscow.



What you're asking,

I've been ordered not to do!



Colonel Grady, this is an order

from the President--






Bogan, can we get him back?



Sir, if he follows procedure...



...he'll make radio contact

when he's in sight of the target.



What kind of man is this Grady?



First class, sir. Flew in two wars,

won the DSC in both of them.



Is he married? Is he a family man?



His wife recently died of cancer.



One child, a boy, must be about   - now.



Find his son.



I'll get right on it, sir.



Mr. Chairman, it would be wise of you...


            remove yourself from Moscow

at this time.



That way we will be able to continue

negotiations, even if the worst happens...



...and some of our bombers get through.



''Those arrangements have been made.''

He sounds very different, very determined.



''Unfortunately, Moscow cannot

be evacuated, there is no time.



''And if Moscow is destroyed,

am I to come hat in hand to where?



''Geneva? To set up peace talks

on the ruins of Moscow?''



-There are still ways--

-''There are facts, Mr. President.



-''Your bombers will get through.''

-We will help you shoot down these--



''I will return to you

when I am safely out of Moscow.''



Mr. President.



One hour to target.



Well, that's three down.



Yes, and three more to go.



Excuse me, sir.

Every minute we wait works against us.



The President must send in a full strike.

There's nothing else that he can do.



Now is the time,

before the Russians are on full alert.



We don't go in for sneak attacks,

Mr. Groteschele.



The Japanese did that at Pearl Harbor.



But the Japanese, sir,

were right to do that.



From their point of view,

we were their enemy.



As long as we existed,

we were a deadly threat.



Do you not believe that communism

is our mortal enemy?



The enemy of capitalism?



The only mistake the Japanese made,

they failed to finish us off.



They paid for that mistake with Hiroshima.



We're in the process of making

the same mistake, gentlemen.



You can't erase history,

but you can learn from it.



You've learned so well, Groteschele,

there's no difference...



...between you and what you want to kill.



Destroy Russia? For what?



To preserve what?



Democracy, General!

We have here a God-given opportunity--



To kill?



Why are you in the military, if not to kill?



Yes, Mr. President.



Blackie, do you remember

the Old Testament?



A little.



The Sacrifice of Abraham.



Old what's-his-name used it in chapel,

maybe twice a month.



I remember, sir.



You better keep that story in mind

for the next few hours, Blackie.



I need your help.

I want you to go to Andrews Field.



Orders will be waiting for you there.

Are Betty and the kids at home?



She's in New York with them.



I may be asking

a great deal of you, Blackie.



I'll do whatever you say.



Good luck.



Yes, sir.



Contact our Ambassador in Moscow...



...and the Soviet Delegate

to the United Nations.



Patch them in to this line

so they can hear the Chairman.



Right away, sir.



And what about the second conference line

between Omaha and Soviet Headquarters?



Ready and waiting, sir.



General Bogan, you're hooked up

to the Soviet Command.



Will you test the line, please?



When it's working...



...patch me in,

and put me on the intercom...


            that everyone can hear.



Yes, sir.



This is General Bogan,

Strategic Air Command, Omaha.



This is the translator for Marshal Nevsky,

Soviet Air Defense Command.



Marshal Nevsky sends his greetings.



The same to him.



Our reception is five by five.

How do you read us?



We read you five by five.



I have no instructions

on what we are to discuss.



Neither have we.



Only that we should set up

communications with you.



Just a minute, please.



Mr. President, we're all hooked up.



Thank you.



This is the President of the United States.



Whatever orders I give

to American personnel...



...are to be considered as direct orders

from the Commander in Chief.



They are to be obeyed fully

and without reservation.



Gentlemen, we have to do

everything we can...


            prevent these planes

from reaching Moscow.



The Soviet Premier has behaved

as I hope I would under similar conditions.



He has delayed retaliation.



And I think he sincerely believes

that this is a mistake.



But we have to convince him

and his chief advisers...



...that this is, in fact, so.



Therefore, I am ordering

all American personnel...


            cooperate fully with Soviet officers...


            shooting down our invading bombers.



You are to give whatever information

they request.



Any hesitation of any kind...



...will cause

the most dreadful consequences.



I cannot emphasize

that too strongly, gentlemen.



I expect you all to behave as patriots.



And I wish you success.



General Bogan...



...a number of our fighter planes

have been destroyed by a missile...



...that seems to home

not on the infrared source...



...but the radar transmitter.



Is that possible?



Colonel Cascio will answer your question.

Answer the question, Colonel.



That is a direct order.



An order, Colonel.



Just a minute. Major Handel.



General Bogan.



Sergeant Collins!






-You're the backup man to Cascio?

-Yes, sir.



Get over here!



-General Bogan, we must--

-Sergeant Collins...


            the missiles on our bombers

have both an infrared...



...and radar-seeking capacity?



-Yes, sir.

-Louder. That is a direct order.



Yes, sir.



The Soviets are listening!

I want this loud, and I want it clear.



It has both capacities, sir.



Can the radar-seeking mechanism

be overloaded...


            increasing the strength of the signal?



Tell them!



Yes, sir, it can be overloaded by increasing

the transmission power output...



...and sliding through radar frequencies

as fast as possible.



The firing mechanism reads

higher amperage as proximity...


            the target and detonates the warhead.



Thank you, General Bogan.



We will get back to you.



Thank you, Sergeant. That's all.



What the hell was that all about?



We've told them how to destroy

all our missiles...



...and all our planes.



-They're getting close.

-Tell me something I don't know.



It's too hairy up here.



Send out the code.

We're going below the radar.






Are they going down? I didn't see it.



They're trying to avoid the fighters,

by going in under their radar.



-Will that work?

-God only knows.



Forty-five minutes to target.



I'm sorry, General. I just couldn't do it.



Everything just went, I don't know, blank.



I'm okay now.



Forget it, Colonel,

it could happen to anyone.



I do think there's Soviet entrapment.



We know they've been fooling around

with our Fail Safe signal.



I think they wanted this to happen.

We have to tell the President it's a trap.



They're using this time

to get their missiles ready...



...and fly their bombers into position.



We have no evidence

they're moving bombers.



They may be flying them in the grass.



They may have missiles up in orbit

that are undetectable.



I am not reporting

what I don't know for sure.



We should recommend

a full-strength strike immediately.



That's not our decision.

It's the Pentagon's or the President's.



Those people don't know the situation

the way we know it.



An enemy trying every trick in the book....



They're in the political game,

we know what to do.



If we act now,

we have enough bombers in the--



That's enough.



Colonel, you're talking mutiny.



Keep it up and I'll have you removed

from the War Room.



The Russians are back on the line.



Yes, Marshal Nevsky.



Please give us the longitude and latitude

of your two planes left in the air?



Sergeant Collins.



I can do that,

but we can't give you their altitude.



We're getting distorted signals.



Will you please give us the position

of the two planes?



We can fly fighters at different altitudes.



I will.



Sergeant Collins, give the Russians

the longitude and latitude of our bombers.



Yes, sir.



    - north.



    - east.



On a heading of   -  degrees.



The Ambassador and the Soviet delegate

are on and have been briefed.



Thank you.



Jay, where are you?



On the top floor of the embassy

in Moscow, Mr. President.



Where are you, Mr. Lentov?



In the UN building in New York.



Whatever happens...



...both of you stay exactly where you are

until I release you or the Chairman does.



Is that clear?







Chairman's on.



''I suppose there is a reason

for these other people to be with us.''



There is, sir.



''Then let us hear your reason.''



Not tough. Like he's ready.



''In a few minutes,

the bombs may be falling.



''I have brought our forces to full readiness.



''Without satisfaction,

I must release those forces.



''So, what do you propose, Mr. President?



''My experts tell me that one or two

of the bombers will likely get to Moscow.



''Have you made a decision?''



Yes, I have.



It is my decision.

I take full responsibility for it.



Mr. Swenson, are you on the line?



Yes, Mr. President.



-General Bogan?

-Here, sir.



This is what will happen,

if even one of the bombers gets through.



It will drop two   --megaton bombs

on Moscow.



Our Ambassador will probably hear

the sound of engines...



...seconds before the bombs drop.



He'll certainly be aware

of the defensive missiles going off.



A few moments later,

the bombs will explode.



I'm told that what we will hear...



...will be a high, shrill sound.



That will be the Ambassador's telephone

melting from the heat of the fireball.



When we hear that sound,

the Ambassador will be dead.



Jay, do you understand

you are to stay exactly where you are?



I understand.



''Is this your plan?



''To sacrifice one American

for five million Russians?''



-No! Listen to me.

-''Do you really think that--''






I have ordered one of our bombers...



...into the air from Washington.



In a few minutes,

it will be circling New York City.



It's carrying two   --megaton bombs.



The moment I know Moscow has been hit...



...I will order those bombs released.



Ground zero will be

the Empire State Building.



When we hear the shriek

of Mr. Lentov's telephone melting...



...we will know that he is gone...



...and with him, New York.



Holy Mother of God.



How can he do that?



What else can he do?



Five million people.



This, Mr. Knapp,

is where we've always been headed.



There is no other way, Mr. Chairman.



Unless you feel...



...that the offer itself is enough...



...showing good intentions.



''Would you think it was enough...



''...if Russian bombers were flying

against New York?



''Could you accept

only my good intentions?''






''I would like to say

that your action is unnecessary.



''Unfortunately, I cannot.''



Well, let's hope that I won't have to do it.



Colonel Grady, we're at   - - feet.






What do you see out the window?



Lights. Village lights, I guess.



Movement on the roads?



Yeah. Cars, a few trucks.



But no blackout?



Everything looks normal.



You'd think they'd be in bomb shelters.



How far from Moscow are we?



Thirty-eight minutes to target, sir.



-How many planes left?

-Us and Number  . They got the rest.






Still here, Grady.



What's your condition?



Slight wing damage from shrapnel...



...but all it's done is reduce our speed,

down to      an hour. Drag even.



Still got any of your decoys?



A few.



We have the bombs, you don't.



I'll need you to take those fighters

off my tail.



Whatever you say.



Thanks, Billy.



No sweat.



You take care, now.



You, too.



General Bogan?



Yes, Marshal Nevsky.



Why has one of your planes

appeared again?



That's Number   the decoy plane.



It's trying to draw your fighters away

from the plane that's carrying the bombs.



I see.



It's not armed.

You don't have to worry about it.



Thank you.

We shall try for a kill in any case.



You pull your fighters away,

the other bomber will slip by.



You'll never catch it.



It has no bombs aboard.

It's of no danger to you!



You'll let the other bomber through!



Jesus! Jesus!



Excuse me.



Excuse me, one moment.



There has been....



Marshal Nevsky has collapsed.



It appears....



I don't know....



General Koniev....



General Koniev is now in command.



General Bogan.



Nevsky sent his fighters

after a plane that had no bombs.



That means the other bomber

will almost certainly get through.



He can't recall them?



No time. Our bombers are very fast.



Nevsky realized it too late.

It was too much for him.



General Bogan, this is General Koniev.



Do you have the remaining plane

on your screen?



No, we do not.



We are unable to pick it up on radar

and it's flying so fast...



...that our anti-aircraft is almost useless.



I must assume your plane will get through.






We have only one chance left.



I intend to concentrate

all our remaining rockets...


            the estimated path of your plane

and fire them simultaneously.



Our hope, is to set up

an impenetrable thermonuclear ceiling.



It has a chance.



Thirty minutes to target.



You know, General, we almost met once.



In a most unlikely place.






In Persia, during the war.



Korammshar on the Gulf.



You were delivering planes to us

and I was there to accept them.



But our paths never crossed.



I just remember the heat.



Yes. It was unbearable.



Like being in a steam room.



And your pilots, I remember them...



...the way they took off in those planes.



They'd lift up their wheels

before they were off the runway.



Never saw anything like it.



They were in a hurry to get the Germans.



General, what is your location? Moscow?



No, I was ordered to leave.



Your family....



It's a hard day, General.



Yes, a hard day.



Goodbye, comrade.



Goodbye, my friend.



They're going to fire off all their rockets

at once.



Colonel Grady, sir?






The indicator shows a number

of rocket engines...



...ignited ahead of us.



They should show on the radar screen

in a moment.



What do we know of them?



They home in on heat producing engines,

like an airplane.



They can't be aiming at us, we're too low.

They'd blow themselves up.



What are they doing?

What else do we know?



If they're like ours,

they don't work at low altitudes, only high.



They're going to explode them on top of us

and hope to knock us down with the blast.



They can do it, too.



Would those rockets go after missiles?



Don't see why not.

A missile produces heat.



-How many air-to-air missiles are left?

-Two, sir.



All right.



The second you see their rockets...


            fire those missiles

for maximum elevation straight up.



Straight up?



Straight up. With any luck,

the rockets will home in on our missiles.



Give them just enough extra boost

so they stay    - - ft above the rockets.



Yes, sir. We have to report in, Colonel.



No time for that.



They're expecting it, sir. It's SOP.



We're in range. We have to report in.



Keep an eye on that scope.



Ultimate   this is Turkey  .

Can you read me?



Grady, this is the President.



Keep receiving.

Whatever you hear, keep receiving.






Dad, it's me, Tommy.



I'm okay and there isn't any war.



It's a big mistake. It's a mistake.



Is that really your son?



-I don't--

-No, that's not your son, Colonel.



They're just imitating his voice.

That's not your son.



I'm sure, Dad. Do you hear me?

I'm sure. Say it, Dad.



You know what comes next, say it.



''Are you positive?''



''Only fools are positive. '' See?

Nobody else knows that.



Grady, this is not a trick.



There is no war.



I want to see you again, Dad.



Listen to him. Nobody can fake this.



-I can't.

-Here come the nukes.



For the sake of your son!



Fire one.



Fire two.



-Keep them at    - - feet above the rockets.

-There is no war.



-   - - - feet.




-  -, - - -.

-Higher, go after them.



  -, - - -.   -, - - -.






-Turn it off!

-  -, - - - feet.



-I love you. Come home.

-We can't trust it.



  -, - - -.



  -, - - -.



We're too low.

We'll be slammed into the ground.



   -, - - -, we're leveling.



-I love you, Tommy. You're my boy.

-   -, - - -.     - - -.



-Remember that, I love you so much.

-Sir, turn it off.



Hang on!



We're going up.



The nukes are catching up.



Stand by for a ram.

We're going to catch some of it!



Hang on!



We'll make it now.



How far to Moscow?



Seventeen minutes, sir.



There's only one decision left to make

and then our job is done.



We decide from what height

to drop the bombs.



We've already taken on enough radiation

from the blast...


            best we'd last a couple of days.



I intend to take us in at   - - feet...



...and when we are over the target,

climb to   - - - feet.



Bombs are set to go off at   - - - feet.



We'll go with the bombs.



What the hell...



...there's nothing to go home to anyway.



May God forgive us.



Get me an outside line to New York City.



Fifteen minutes to target.



Mom? Mom, listen to me.



We don't have much time.

I want you and Dad....



Mom, listen.



What do you mean? Where is he?



I forgot about the Red Sox.

Is Francis there?



So, you're alone.



Mom, wait.



I will.



Just stay on the phone with me.



Just stay with me.



Are there any papers

or documents in New York...



...that are absolutely essential

to running the United States?



General Stark?



No, sir.



Important documents,

but none absolutely essential.



Will there be any time to warn people?



With a little time

a lot of lives could be saved.



On this short notice...



...all you'd produce is panic.



What about this?



Maybe he doesn't know.



The First Lady is in New York.



He knows.



Dear God.



Gentlemen, we are wasting time.



I've made some rough calculations...



...based on the effect

of two   --megaton bombs...



...dropped on New York City

in the middle of a normal work day.



I estimate the immediate dead

at about three million.



I include in that figure those buried

beneath buildings.



It doesn't make any difference

if they reached a shelter or not.



They would die just the same.



Add another million or two who'll die

within about five weeks.



Even if there are no irreplaceable

government documents in any buildings...



...many of our corporations

keep their financial records in New York.



Fortune has smiled on us there.



Paper is a wonderful insulator,

it is possible even probable...



...that these records will have survived.



Our first priority would be excavation.



Not of the dead.



But of these records.

Our economy depends upon it.



Our economy depends on it.



Are you married, Buck?



No, sir. Not yet.



We've gone steady for a while,

but we haven't set a date or anything.



Is she in the government?



State Department.



She's a translator like me.



Spanish, French and Italian.



We met in translator school.



When she gets mad

she can curse in four languages.



You did good today, Buck.



You didn't freeze up.



A lot of other men would.



You're the one who didn't, sir.



If you're going to get married...


            ought to do it soon.






Use the time.



It goes fast.



The Chairman is on the line.



Mr. Chairman.



''Mr. President. I have activated...



''...only those parts of our defense...



''...that still have a chance

of shooting down your bomber.



''Our long-range missiles have already

begun to stand down from the alert.



''But we think we do not

have much of a chance.''



I agree.



''And yet who can be blamed?

Can you blame a machine?''



Men built those machines.



''Men are not perfect, Mr. President.''



Men are responsible...



...for what they do.



Men are responsible for what they make.



We built those machines,

your country and mine...



...we put them in place.



Two great cities will be destroyed.



Millions of innocent people will die

because of us.



What do we tell them?



''Accidents will happen?''



I can't accept that!



What do we do, Mr. Chairman.

What do we say to the dead?



''We must say this will not happen again.

But do you think it's possible?''



Mr. President--



Yes, Jay.



I can hear the sounds of explosions

coming from the northeast.



The sky is very bright,

like a long row of sky rockets.



It's all lit up.









Yes, Mr. President.



Moscow has been destroyed, Blackie.



Release your bombs according to plan.



I understand.



You've all been briefed on this mission,

so there's nothing more to say.



I have only one last order.



No one else is to have anything to do

with the release of the bombs.



I repeat.



I will fly the plane and launch the bombs.



The ultimate act will be mine.



Is that clear?



On course, sir. Approaching the target.



We'll count down from   -.

Give me the signal.



On a heading of    degrees south.



Winds northwest at   miles an hour.



Altitude:       feet.



Ground Zero set at      feet.



Lob point is in   .

































Richard Dreyfuss as the President.



Noah Wyle as Buck.



Brian Dennehy as General Bogan.



Sam Elliot as Congressman Raskob.



James Cromwell as Gordon Knapp.



John Diehl as Colonel Cascio.



Hank Azaria as Professor Groteschele.



Norman Lloyd as Secretary Swenson.



William Smitrovich as General Stark.



Don Cheadle as Lieutenant Pierce.



George Clooney as Colonel Jack Grady.



Harvey Keitel as General Black.


Special help by SergeiK