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By Dawn's Early Light
By Dawn's Early Light
Actors: Powers Boothe, Rebecca De Mornay, James Earl Jones, Martin Landau, Darren McGavin
Director: Jack Sholder
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
PG-13     2004     1hr 40min



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Movie Details

Actors: Powers Boothe, Rebecca De Mornay, James Earl Jones, Martin Landau, Darren McGavin
Director: Jack Sholder
Creators: Alexander Gruszynski, Tony Lombardo, Bruce Gilbert, Susan Moore, Thomas M. Hammel, William Prochnau
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Hbo Home Video
Format: DVD - Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/01/2004
Original Release Date: 05/19/1990
Theatrical Release Date: 05/19/1990
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 40min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English, Russian
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Member Movie Reviews

Damian M. (ratchet)
Reviewed on 3/11/2009...
A taut thriller dealing with the initial stages of a nuclear war between the US and USSR which takes place in 1991. Rip Torn and James Earl Jones star in this film which features the Secretary of Interior assuming the duties of the president as the first strikes take out the majority of the leaders in Washington. Keeps the watcher interested despite the limited budget and few sets. The love story was really unnecessary and seemed to be added for merely Hollywood convention.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Superb, but definitely not for the faint-hearted
S. Smith | Denver, CO | 12/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have for a long time been a fan of apocalyptic, WW3-type thrillers, and this HBO Original tops my list as one of the best ever! Based on the novel Trinity's Child by William Prochnau and starring Powers Boothe and Rebecca DeMornay, By Dawn's Early Light is an excellent cautionary tale of what would happen if a nuclear exchange were started by dissidents in another country's military and how the members of two different governments would work together to stop it. It is also the tale of Captain Moreau (DeMornay) and Cassidy (Boothe), two B-52 pilots assigned to knock out the leadership bunkers of the Russian military, and their struggle to do what they believe is the right thing. At first they feel themselves bound by duty to their country, but as they begin to grasp the full scope of just what it is they're doing, each of them must struggle with their own doubts and fears about what would happen if the conflict they're involved in were to escalate into an all-out war.Boothe and DeMornay are just two of a very great cast in this film. Martin Landau turned in a bravura performance as the President of the United States, who is disabled in the aftermath of a nuclear strike on Washington and who alone holds the key to stopping the conflict. I loved Darren McGavin's trigger-happy Secretary of the Interior who, thinking the President is dead, issues orders that could lead to the destruction of his country. James Earl Jones was great as "Alice", commander of Strategic Air Command's "Looking Glass" plane and a man with moral and ethical doubts of his own about this conflict, and Ally McBeal's Peter MacNicol as Sedgwick, the young Emergency War Orders officer who is with the President when he is injured, was just terrific. I also want to give a nod to Daniel Benzali as Bascombe, director of the FEMA bunker at Olney. Although his was a minor role, he made the most of it.As stated before, this is a superb film, but it's definitely not for the faint-hearted. It probes deeply into the American psyche and forces us all to think of just what we would do in a situation such as the one presented. Overall, though, it is an excellent film."
Pray it's only a nightmare. . . .
John A. Kuczma | Marietta, GA USA | 12/14/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In the tense, edge-of-the-seat tradition of Fail Safe, By Dawn's Early Light is a vivid depiction of how the hair-trigger reactions of the superpowers can be manipulated by persons outside ordinary power circles, and how the technology and pre-ordained response patterns take on an inexorable life of their own.As a retired military man, I found that this film grew more frightening as the initial nuclear exchange faded into the background and both the civilian and military leadership struggled with the apocalyptic question of how or even whether to turn off the brutal cycle of escalating retaliation. The technical accuracy of the film, both in the equipment and the tactics displayed, heightened the effectiveness.What makes this movie stand out from other doomsday thrillers is its ability to show the terrible strain of responsibility and indecision on people at all levels of the command structure, and the personal price paid by those who could handle the pressure and those who could not. One particularly harrowing and very plausible scenario shows two Navy fighters in the process of preparing to shoot down an Air Force bomber that has been judged to have "turned", both figuratively and literally.There are many superb dramatic performances in this film. Foremost among them are Martin Landau as a desperate and badly injured President, Darren McGavin as the Secretary of the Interior, suddenly thrust into a position of leadership for which he is unprepared, and James Earl Jones as an Air Force General commanding the Looking Glass command center aircraft.Powers Boothe is excellent as a hot-shot pilot who finds himself slowly beginning to question his black and white view of the nature of warfare and his place in the overall picture. Rebecca DeMornay shows that, when she isn't given the makeup and fancy costumes to rely on, she has considerable acting talent to fall back on.This is a nerve-wracking, very credible journey on the tightrope of nuclear devastation, tautly directed and masterfully paced, from its suspenseful beginning to its thought-provoking end. By Dawn's Early Light remains an effective thriller even after the end of the cold war. Highly recommended."
A superb adaptation of Prochnau's 'Trinity's Child' | Beverley, United Kingdom | 07/27/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a very good representation of what a nuclear war really would be like from two different perspectives - that of the national leadership, and that of the crew of a B-52 sent to undertake a nuclear strike mission. By far the most impressive aspect of this movie is the very realistic sequence portraying the US Strategic Air Command detecting and responding to a Soviet nuclear first strike, alerting the President, and then him having to make the decision on how best to retaliate. They have done their homework in this regard. Martin Landau turns in an excellent performance as a confused, afraid President being confronted with armageddon in the early hours of the morning. In SAC HQ, CINCSAC confronts the President of his own imminent demise, with a warhead a mere two minutes away from destroying his facility, thus highlighting the sacrifice of many in order to give the President the chance to retaliate against what is clearly an unprovoked attack.As a strategic analyst who has done extensive research on nuclear strategy, the representation of the roles of the General (James Earl Jones) in the EC-135 Looking Glass plane, and the 'Presidential Replacement' (Darren McGavin)in the E-4B NEACP plane are quite accurate, with a dramatic conclusion perfectly timed. The movie also explores the interesting aspect of the psychological pressures on the crew of the B-52, knowing their families are dead, and their world destroyed. Good special effects with a dramatic confrontation between two MiG-25s and the BUFF over the pole, and an innovative counter to the Foxbats keep the movie going at a cracking pace.Also interesting is the idea of 'intra-war' deterrence and dialogue. The movie takes quite a sophisticated approach to the issue of whether the US National Command Authority would want to talk with the Soviets even after the missiles had flown on both sides, and the importance of preserving command and control assets on both sides in order to allow war termination.This certainly is one of the best nuclear war thrillers since 'Failsafe', and 'The Bedford Incident'. Powers Boothe and Rebecca DeMornay do a great job as the pilot and copilot of the B-52, but they are overshadowed by the best thing about this movie - its a realistic representation of nuclear war, something that is often lacking in many other movies of this sub-genre. I recommend this movie for both the defence/security studies enthusiast, and also for someone just wanting a good, dramatic movie that makes you think."