1990s By Dawn's Early Light (1990)

Published on July 19th, 2012 | by Chris

1

By Dawn’s Early Light (1990)


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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

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Third World War Movie of US vs USSR With A Great Cast., April 22, 2015
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This review is from: By Dawn's Early Light (DVD)
Contains Spoilers! In the vein of Dr. Strangelove, Battlestar Gallactica and Failsafe this is the tale of US and Russia actually starting, but not completing, a nuclear war with an outstanding cast including James Earl Jones, Martin Landau in one of his best roles, Rip Torn as the ultimate antagonist, Darrin McGavin, Powers Booth as a B-52 captain (not quite as entertaining as Major Kong in Strangelove, but a great performance) and Rebecca DeMorney as his co-pilot and conscience. A Nuke hits Russia and they think it was America that did it. They retailiate. The President (Landau) has crashed in his escape helicopter and is taken to a center where those burned from the nuke that hit Washington are being treated. The Secretary of the Interior (McGavin) is now acting president (shades of Gallacitca where the Secretary of Education becomes President) and he's ordering a full out strike based upon Rip Torn's prompting despite another Naval advisor's more moderate prompting. The B-52... Read more
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Cold War Tensions Boil Over", April 6, 2015
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This review is from: By Dawn's Early Light (DVD)
The last time I viewed this movie was back in the early 90s, (I use to own a VHS copy of it), so I was very pleased to acquire a DVD copy of it compliments of Amazon, I enjoyed it way back then and this movie had lost none of its appeal to me since those days, as soon as I read the cast list I knew it was going to be a great watch and I certainly wasn't dissappointed, it has a great cast of actors, James Earl Jones, Powers Boothe, Rebecca De Mornay, Martin Landau to mention a few, a great tale of Cold War Tension depicting the futility of a Mutually Assured Nuclear Destruction philosophy that the U.S. and Soviet Governments of the day adhered to, the plot centres primarily around the crew of a B52 Bomber but also featuring supporting story lines from ground and aircraft command, I found it riveting from start to finish and one of those rare movies I can watch over and over again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, May 13, 2017
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This review is from: By Dawn's Early Light (DVD)
very pleased with purchase would buy from you again
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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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