What if a US general goes insane and orders a nuclear attack in Russia during the Cold War?
That’s the question that Dr. Strangelove, a Stanley Kubrick movie from the 60s, explores. It’s a critic against the military with a lot humor and irony. The character interactions are great and the plot, although surreal and quickly spiraling out of control, will make you think about the dangers of an arms race. The primitive special effects and the sometimes histrionic acting don’t detract from the plot. Overall I found it to be a great comedy on the human condition.
**Warning: spoiler alert**
According to Kubrick, humanity, in particular the military, is full of selfish and irrational people driven by their passions that won’t hesitate sacrificing humanity for their own good. In the movie President Merkin and Mandrake represent rationality and desperately try to prevent the upcoming nuclear winter, but everyone else is essentially lunatic: Ripper reasoned that the communists contaminated water with fluoride to weaken the Americans and destroy them, Gen Turgidson is prejudiced against the Russians and can only think about making war and making love, Major ‘King’ Kong wants to bomb something even if he has to give his life, Dr. Strangelove is cynical and nihilist scientist who tries to convince everyone else that nuclear winter is coming and that they better get a few hundred thousand people with a 10 to 1 female to male ratio into a cave and start rebuilding humanity, the conspicuous Russian Ambassador keeps trying to steal information until the very end of the movie when the Doomsday machine is triggered, the Russian president is drunk and childish. Even Turgidson’s girlfriend is so self-centered that she calls him while he’s at the war room to ask if he will marry her.
From the scene where Jack explains how he came to believe that Russians deserved to be bombed for putting fluoride in US water:
— Jack. Listen, tell me–. Tell me, Jack. When did you first become– well, develop this theory?
— Well, I… I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love. Yes, a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily, I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence. I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake, but I do deny them my essence.
In the end, though, we are all doomed, too little rationality, too much self-interest and too much animal instinct, at least in the military.