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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
1964 - PG - 93 Mins.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Producer: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, and Peter George
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens
Review by: Jennie Kermode
Based on the book by Peter George, who also worked on its script Stanley Kubrick's 1964 opus, Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb couldn't have been better timed. Tapping into a rich vein of Cold War paranoia, it was at once one of the most outspoken warnings about the dangers of the atomic age and an uproarious look at the ridiculousness of it all. Its bleak message, undercut with gleeful black humor, reminded us of the fragility of our situation, yet also observed that they same human qualities that get us into such trouble are what enable us to bear it. Dr. Strangelove is a horror story, a political thriller and a very silly comedy all rolled into one. With a cracking script (including classic lines like "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War room!") And terrific performances (especially from Peter Sellers as the eponymous scientist, the President of the United States and the earnest English Captain Mandrake), it's intensely entertaining. Furthermore, it has lost little of its relevance today.

Always the auteur, and working as distantly as possible from the studio system, Kubrick was never afraid to take on controversial subject matter. Dr. Strangelove contains digs at almost every politician around at the time, and (seemingly) several yet to come. When a delusional general orders an elite unit to launch a pre-emptive attack on the Soviet Union, the race is on to intervene before it becomes too late to prevent global thermonuclear war. Kubrick presents a United States and Soviet Union set at odds with one another largely by circumstance, with concerned political officials in both nations trying to prevent military escalation, less at odds with one another than with the warmongers - yet the warmongers, too, are portrayed with some sympathy, even if their logic is frightening, and it's quite possible to see the attraction of the extremist perspectives. These conflicts are presented through the interaction of several pleasingly colorful characters, most vivid among them the mysterious former German scientist Dr. Strangelove, whose dream of a post-apocalyptic utopia mirrors the secret fascism of everyone who's ever thought the world would be a better place if only there were less people in it. Clearly relishing the role, Sellers combines frantic physical comedy and slapstick with cheerfully sinister dialogue. It is clear, by this point, that every familiar moral understanding of the world is disintegrating, and the story itself keeps pace, becoming increasingly playful and melodramatic right up to an unforgettable final sequence.

Like every Kubrick film, Dr. Strangelove is also visually intriguing. Scenes in the interior of the aircraft are particularly well handled, with visual information backing up the grim tide of the dialogue, and superb pacing means that familiar images of war are never dull. Similarly, then men in suits trying to negotiate a solution are never still; there is always something dynamic about their interaction, in ironic contrast to the slow but unrelenting movement on the war board that overshadows them. Confidently shot, and as confident of its own internal logic, this is a film that glides along, never once straying off target. Highly recommended.
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

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