1990s By Dawn's Early Light (1990)

Published on July 19th, 2012 | by Chris

1

By Dawn’s Early Light (1990)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
3
On July 19, 2012
Last modified:October 3, 2012

Summary:

By Dawn's Early Light examines what might happen if the USSR were provoked by a rogue terrorist with a single nuclear weapon. Of course, the answer would be to start World War III, right?

By Dawn's Early Light (1990)In a sort of "rehash" of a classic theme made famous early on in other cold war movies like Fail Safe etc., By Dawn's Early Light examines what might happen if the USSR were provoked by a rogue terrorist with a single nuclear weapon.  Of course, the answer would be to start World War III, right? Right.

The President (Martin Landau) is then faced with having to deal with the Soviet President's decision to execute a partial retaliation, and whether or not he should do the same, do nothing, or escalate into all-out mutually-assured-destruction.

Well wouldn't you know it, its just not quite that simple.  He's knocked out of the air, pretty much everyone else in succession is dead, and that leaves it up to the Secretary of the Interior (Darren McGavin) to act as President and completely get all hawkish with the help of Col. Fargo (Rip Torn) and start blowing up the joint.

Not to dwell too much on the politics, there is the second story of B-52 pilots Cassidy (Powers Boothe) and Moreau (Rebecca DeMornay) who have to deal with the moral issues of dropping nuclear weapons on civilian populations, as well as keep a quickly-falling-apart rookie crew in line.

And then there is the guy caught in the middle, code name "Alice" (James Earl Jones) on board the SAC control plane who must make a fateful decision and save the world (damn, spoiled it, didn't I.)

There was a lot of potential here for a balls-to-the-wall suspenseful and stressful thriller, but HBO just couldn't deliver the goods.  It just felt way too obvious and mechanical.  There was really never any point where we went, "hey! didn't see that coming!" or "wow, that was pretty dark…."  A lot of pretty shoddy camera and editing work involved also.  One zoom you could almost see the guy doing the camera slip as the shot "bumped"… doh!

And the code names and atmosphere.  Everything and everyone has a bloody code name.  Alice, Condor, Looking Glass, Trinity, E-4, Cottonmouth, blah blah blah.  Nobody has a real fricking name except the guys on the B-52, and I didn't care enough about them to remember.  Oh, and does everyplace have to be so bleeding dark and badly lit? From the SAC Omaha war room to the White House bunker, there's like 1 40 watt lightbulb over a desk.  The conference room on board Air Force One was better lit.  Done for mood or ? I don't know, but come on.

It was marginally interesting from a historical point of view though.  Stacked up to other period cold-war pictures like "Red October" it fails miserably.  But its an interesting view into an age we've all forgotten.  5/10, because it wasn't a complete waste of time, but I was hoping for a lot more.

Clip time, here's an extended look at this mediocrity.

By Dawn's Early Light By Dawn's Early Light
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Description

By Dawn's Early Light (DVD)Nuclear war-- a nightmare that may become grim reality for the world in this riveting thriller. When a fanatical group opposed to friendly U.S./Soviet relations explodes a nuclear missile over a Russian city, it begins a chain reaction of accusations and actions that begin the groundwork for WWIII...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Brand: HBO HOME VIDEO
Manufacturer: HBO Studios
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • James Earl Jones
  • Rebecca De Mornay
  • Powers Boothe
  • Martin Landau

Features

  • Nuclear war-- a nightmare that may become grim reality for the world in this riveting thriller. When a fanatical group opposed to friendly U.S./Soviet relations explodes a nuclear missile over a Russian city, it begins a chain reaction of accusations and actions that begin the groundwork for WWIII. As the clock ticks toward total nuclear annihilation, the American presidentand the Soviet president

Reviews

Customer reviews
Average Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Surprisingly Great Film, March 11, 2011
By 
(VINE VOICE)   
Robert Stone (Midwest / Ohio) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: By Dawn's Early Light (DVD)
I found this film via the suggestions made on Amazon while picking up my old favorites On the Beach and Fail-safe (Special Edition). I found The Bedford Incident in the same way. I must say that for an HBO production this really has a theatrical feel to it and I suspect could even have been shown in theaters successfully when it was made. It is a chilling and tightly directed thriller about one of the ways we could, and still can, annihilate ourselves. The acting is absolutely superb from each and every cast member. With greats like James Earl Jones and Matin... Read more

74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pray it's only a nightmare. . . ., December 14, 1999
By 
John A. Kuczma (Adairsville, GA USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
In the tense, edge-of-the-seat tradition of Fail Safe, By Dawn's Early Light is a vivid depiction of how the hair-trigger reactions of the superpowers can be manipulated by persons outside ordinary power circles, and how the technology and pre-ordained response patterns take on an inexorable life of their own.
As a retired military man, I found that this film grew more frightening as the initial nuclear exchange faded into the background and both the civilian and military leadership struggled with the apocalyptic question of how or even whether to turn off the brutal cycle of escalating retaliation. The technical accuracy of the film, both in the equipment and the tactics displayed, heightened the effectiveness.
What makes this movie stand out from other doomsday thrillers is its ability to show the terrible strain of responsibility and indecision on people at all levels of the command structure, and the personal price paid by those who could handle the pressure... Read more

4.0 out of 5 stars Great realistic story of how WWIII might be, January 29, 2018
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: By Dawn's Early Light (DVD)
Product as expected. Great realistic story of how WWIII might be.

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By Dawn’s Early Light (1990) Chris

Summary: By Dawn's Early Light examines what might happen if the USSR were provoked by a rogue terrorist with a single nuclear weapon. Of course, the answer would be to start World War III, right?

2.5


User Rating: 4.7 (2 votes)


About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



One Response to By Dawn’s Early Light (1990)

  1. One of a kind. I don´t know any other movie handling the topic of an actual nuclear war like this. Also I was happy to see Powers Boothe again, the guy who also played the fighter pilot in the original »Red Dawn«.

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