Friday, August 11, 2017

Movies Every Day 11: The Day After (1983)

"You know what Einstein said about World War III? He said he didn't know how they were going to fight World War III, but he knew how they would fight World War IV...with sticks and stones."

Why I'm Watching

  • I picked up this film back in January when the Doomsday Clock was reset to two and half minutes to midnight, and have been meaning to watch it. Now seemed like a good time.
  • I remember seeing part of this TV movie when it originally aired but was too upset to watch all of it and want to find out what I missed.
  • I don't have enough anxiety in my life.

The Gist

A conflict between the US and Soviet Union leads to nuclear missiles being launched from both sides, raining down fire and fury, death and destruction, the likes of which the world has never seen. 

Things I Like

  • Folks in Kansas are going about their normal, boring daily routines, hearing special reports about escalation of tensions between the US and another nation, and dismissing the possibility of nuclear weapons being used, much like we are now.
  • The scenes with military personnel firing missiles and stating it's not an exercise have a documentary feel that provides a realism to the action.
  • People freaking out, general mayhem and stampeding when sirens begin to go off effectively demonstrate the level of panic.
  • The power going out was bad, but all the motors in cars stopping was worse.
  • It's a bit of a punch in the gut.

Things I Don't Like

  • It appears to be heavily edited, giving a disjointed feel to the action.

Interesting Moments

  • After the Emergency Broadcast System warns people to take shelter, we see people in long lines at phone booths. 
  • The farmer ignores the EBS warning on TV about nuclear bombs being dropped in Germany that interrupts their kids' cartoons, and sneaks his wife upstairs for some afternoon delight. Sky rockets in flight.
  • The missiles being launched was a pretty powerful scene, especially when the soldiers say what everyone is thinking: that if the country is launching missiles, then there's sure to be missiles arriving from the other side as well.
  • Dr. Oakes realizes his is the only car driving towards Kansas City while the freeway is backed up in the other direction.
  • A radiation burned priest offers a sermon to a sickened congregation in a destroyed church and the Dahlberg's have to leave when Denise begins bleeding all over her white dress. 
  • As the President gives a speech, the camera pans over masses of people burned up, in shock, and suffering. 
  • It's pretty brutal when Jim Dahlgren gets shot by squatters and the wife and daughter hear it. Their fate is not shown, and the tone of the film leads the viewer to expect the worst.

Notable Quotes

Helen Oakes: My God, it's 1962 all over again. Cuban Missile Crisis. Do you remember Kennedy on television? Telling Khrushchev to turn his boats around?
Dr. Russell Oakes: Full retaliatory response. He didn't bat an eye.
Helen Oakes: We were in New bed, just like this. Remember? 118th Street.
Dr. Russell Oakes: Meatball sandwiches from Sharky's.
Helen Oakes: Your last year's residency. I swear that we made Marilyn that night.
Dr. Russell Oakes: We got up, went to the window, looked for the bombs.
Helen Oakes: It didn't happen. It's not gonna happen now.
Dr. Russell Oakes: Nah. People are crazy, but not THAT crazy.

Dr. Landowska: There is a rumor they are evacuating Moscow. yeah. There are even people leaving Kansas City because of the missile fields. Now I ask you, where does one go from Kansas City? To, uh, the Yukon? To Tahiti? We are not talking about Hiroshima anymore. Hiroshima was...was peanuts!
Dr. Russell Oakes: What's going on? Do you understand what's going on in this world?
Dr. Landowska: Yeah. Stupidity. Has a habit of getting its way.

Airman: You know what that means, don't you? Either we fired first and they're gonna try to hit what's left, or they fired first and we just got our missiles out of the ground in time. Either way, we're gonna get hit.

Joe Huxley: Those are Minuteman missiles.
Cynthia: Like a test sort of? Like a warning?
Joe Huxley: They're on their way to Russia. They take about 30 minutes to reach their target.
Aldo: So do theirs, right?

Dr. Russell Oakes: I think you've got to be willing to let your baby come whether you like it or not. You're holding back hope.
Alison Ransom: Hope for what? What do you think's gonna happen out there? You think we're gonna sweep up the dead, and fill in a couple of holes and build some supermarkets? You think all those people left alive out there are gonna say, "Oh, I'm sorry, it wasn't my fault. Let's kiss and make up"? We knew the score. We knew all about bombs. We knew all about fallout. We knew this could happen for forty years, but nobody was interested.

President of the United States Address: My fellow Americans. While the extent of damage to our country is still uncertain, and shall probably remain so for some time, preliminary reports indicate that principal weapons' impact points, included military and industrial targets in most sectors of the United States. There is, at the present time, a cease fire with the Soviet Union, which has sustained damage equally catastrophic. Many of you listening to me today have suffered personal injury, sudden separation from loved ones, and the tragic loss of your families. I share your grief, for I, too, have suffered personal loss. During this hour of sorrow, I wish to assure you that America has survived this terrible tribulation. There has been no surrender, no retreat from the principles of liberty and democracy for which the free world looks to us for leadership. We remain undaunted before all but almighty God. The government, functioning under certain extraordinary emergency options, we are prepared to make every effort to coordinate relief and recovery programs at the state and local levels. During the next two weeks, my staff and cabinet will attempt to relocate to national emergency reconstruction headquarters. At the present time, and until radiation pattern reports are made available, over the emergency broadcast band, or through your local authorities, I urge you to remain in areas offering maximum shelter protection from radioactive fallout and to obey all local curfews. We are counting on you, on your strength, your patience, your will and your courage, to help rebuild this great nation of ours. God bless you all.
Aldo: That's it? That's all he's gonna say?
Student: Hey, maybe we're gonna be okay.
Tom: What do you wanna hear?
Aldo: I wanna know who started it. Who fired first? Who preempted?
Joe Huxley: You're never gonna know that.
Cynthia: What difference does it make?
Aldo: He sure would have told us if they would have fired first.
Tom: He doesn't want anyone to think we lost the war.
Cynthia: You believe that? You believe everything they tell you?
Joe Huxley: You know what Einstein said about WWIII? He said he didn't know how they were going to fight WWIII, but he knew how they would fight WWIV...with sticks and stones.

Ending disclaimer: The catastrophic events you have just witnessed are, in all likelihood, less severe than the destruction that would actually occur in the event of a full nuclear strike against the United States. It is hoped that the images of this film will inspire the nations of this earth, their peoples and leaders, to find the means to avert the fateful day.

Memorable Moments

Love It or Leave It

I can't say that I love it, and it's definitely not a feel good movie. It's bleak, depressing, and horrifying. Despite its flaws, it does have an impact and provokes thought. When confronted with such disturbing images that pale in comparison to the reality of nuclear war, one would hope it would deter careless threats of preemptive strikes from our leaders. The film does not debate the pros and cons of having nuclear weapons, but simply shows the results of their use, and points out—just like a mother to her children who are fighting—that it doesn't matter who started it, once the deed has been done.

You may be interested in seeing Ted Koppel's "Viewpoint" discussion panel that occurred after the movie aired back in 1983, though I'll warn you that Carl Sagan is a real downer. As for me, I think I'll select some lighter fare tomorrow.

No comments: