“We’re not machines; we’re not going to fall over in rows, you know.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
… and how “heartbreaking” it is “watching Anthony Perkins, an officer in the Australian navy, tell [his] wife Donna Anderson, who never worried much about anything, that they’ll soon be dead.”
Peary adds that “Fred Astaire does fine in his first dramatic role, playing a disillusioned scientist who expresses the film’s themes: if we have nuclear weapons, they will be used, intentionally or by accident.”
Taking up quite a bit of initial screentime is the potential affair between boozy Gardner and stoic Peck, who (at least at first) acts as though his wife and children are still alive.
Eventually, however, all characters find their own way to make sense of their inevitable deaths — and, other than a critical mission to determine whether random morse code signals coming from San Francisco might be signs of life, it’s these various subplots which make up the heart of the film. One is definitely forced to wonder: what would you do if you knew you only had a few days or weeks left to live? Would you have an affair, drink, party, attempt to return to your place of birth, plot your death peacefully in advance, engage in your favorite (albeit highly risky) sport:
… and/or simply despair? All are possibilities covered here. While the film feels overly somber and slow-paced at times, I suppose there’s no way around this; unlike in (for instance) Five (1951) and The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (1959), there is no cautious optimism offered up to viewers here.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments: