“Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room.”
This is only my third Stanley Kubrick film, but so far it’s my favorite. I can’t imagine how funny this film must have been when it came out in the mid 60’s during the height of the Cold War, because more than 50 years later this black and white comedy continues to resonate in today’s modern political world. It’s sharp, it’s smart, it’s dark, but above all it’s funny. It seems after so many decades that we haven’t learned a thing about the sharp ironies presented here through each character and situation because the story continues to be relatable. The script is hilarious and the delivery from each actor is perfect, with several characters standing out. Peter Sellers does an amazing job playing three very different characters, but I was especially a fan of George C. Scott’s portrayal of Gen. Buck. The scenes in the War Room were by far my favorite in the movie, but almost everything worked to perfection in this sharp and tightly written satire. The effects are a bit over the top but I think it simply adds to the overall craziness of the movie. I know I still have a lot of catching up with Kubrick films, but I don’t see how his other films will top this one, at least entertaining wise. Satires can become a bit heavy handed after its initial first half, but this film maintains the laughs throughout its entire runtime. I’m surprised that I found this political comedy hilarious considering I’m not into politics at all, but I found it impossible not to watch it with a smile on my face. Is there a better political satire than Dr. Strangelove? I doubt it or at least I haven’t come across one yet. What makes this film so relevant is that we are laughing at a nuclear threat in a time when the fear was very eminent.
In the opening scenes we are introduced to General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), who is giving his pilots secret orders to bomb the Soviet Union. Jack has gone mad and is overstepping his authority after discovering a loophole which allows him to order the attack without having to ask for permission from the US government. He has cut off all communication with the pilots so no one can stop his insane plan. Jack is convinced the communists are poisoning the world and he must stop them. When the President, Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) is informed of the General’s plan he immediately calls his advisors to the War Room in order to try to put an end to Jack’s madness. His advisor, General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott), informs the President how Jack was able to overstep his authority and in a hilarious scene through the big board shows the location of every plane as they are approaching the Soviet Union. Against Buck’s advice, the President decides to invite Russian Ambassador Alexei de Sadeski (Peter Bull) to the War Room in order to discuss what is happening and to prove he isn’t responsible for the attacks. Among the men in the room there is also Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers), a former Nazi scientist who is a specialist when it comes to nuclear weapons. The interactions between these characters and their efforts to stop Jack’s plan in order to avoid the world’s anihilation becomes the focal point of the film.
Peter Sellers delivers outstanding work here playing the President, Dr. Strangelove, and Lionel Mandrake, who is Jack’s right hand man and the only one who thinks he can stop him from executing his plan. He delivers three very distinctive characters and I honestly didn’t recognize it was the same actor. George C. Scott is the standout however in his overly dramatic and serious delivery. His character was the one I laughed the most at. The things he says in such a serious tone are absolutely hilarious. I don’t know how much of the lines were improvised or how much of it was actually scripted from Peter George’s book, Red Alert, but all I can say is that every line was executed perfectly by these actors. This is one of those films that has trascended its time and continues to make audiences laugh around the globe.