Analysis of Dr. Strangelove

Summary Dr. Strangelove is a film that deals with the consequences of an unauthorized nuclear attack on Russia. The crew of B-90, an airplane loaded with nuclear weapons, receives a coded message that causes them to question their mission, but Major Kong leads the crew in carrying out their orders. Meanwhile, General Ripper orders his base on high alert and justifies nuclear war to Major Mandrake. The tension rises in the War Room as they learn about the Doomsday Machine, a weapon that could render the earth uninhabitable. Despite facing missile attacks and a bomb bay door malfunction, the crew of B-90 delivers a nuclear bomb, and Major Kong crashes the plane, dropping the bomb. The War Room discusses plans to preserve humanity in mines, and Ambassador de Sade has a pie fight with officials.

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The story presents multiple plotlines that converge towards an impending nuclear war, generating suspense and tension throughout the screenplay. The B-90 crew's mission and the War Room discussions complement each other, creating a comprehensive representation of the political and military context of the story. However, some elements of the screenplay, such as the pie fight and the Ambassador's subplot, feel forced and detract from the overall quality of the plot.
Suggestions: One suggestion to improve the screenplay would be to focus on the main plotlines and avoid distracting subplots that do not contribute to the central conflict. The pie fight and Ambassador's subplot could be removed or reduced to give more space to the compelling tension between the US and the enemy, the crew's mission, and the decision-making process in the War Room. Another suggestion would be to develop the characters further, giving them more depth and motivation to support the overall story.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

General Jack D. Ripper

General Jack D. Ripper is an authoritarian and paranoid Air Force commander who is obsessed with protecting his men and his country at any cost. His actions are driven by a deep and irrational fear of a Soviet attack, which leads him to make drastic and dangerous decisions. He is a hardline military leader who is determined to protect the base at all costs, even if it means putting it on high alert and impounding private radios. However, his obsession ultimately leads him down a path of self-destruction, as he becomes lost in a world of philosophical drunkenness and sentimentality, preoccupied with justifying nuclear war and consumed with guilt over his actions.

Major Mandrake

Major Mandrake is a British exchange officer who is rational, loyal, respectful, nervous, sincere, and calm. He follows orders without question, but begins to question the situation as General Ripper becomes more erratic. He is caught in an uncomfortable situation, struggles to stop General Ripper's plans, and is concerned for the lives of the men under his command. He is an honest and sincere character, but appears to be out of his depth at times. He is serious and argumentative when necessary, but also tries to reason with General Ripper in a more reasonable manner.

Major Kong

Major Kong is a determined, patriotic, and confident military leader who values loyalty and dedication to his mission above all else. He displays great courage and skill in navigating the missile attacks and even when injured, he remains determined and brave. He takes matters into his own hands and sacrifices himself for the mission.

General Schmuck

General Schmuck is a high-ranking military officer who is initially skeptical about the threat of nuclear destruction. He is portrayed as reckless, aggressive, and trigger-happy, willing to launch a nuclear strike without thinking of the consequences. He represents the danger of military intervention and the importance of diplomacy. As the film progresses, he becomes calmer and more collected, yet still stubborn and prideful, arguing with the President about the number of planes shot down. He is bitter and indignant about the prospect of ending all human life on earth, skeptical of the plan, and questions Von Klutz's ratios.

General Ripper

General Ripper is a strict military leader who believes in the necessity of nuclear war. He is calm and collected, almost to the point of detachment, but also unpredictable and prone to acting strangely. He is deeply flawed, with a strong sense of duty and responsibility, but willing to start a devastating war for his beliefs.

President Muffley

President Muffley is an intelligent, responsible, and empathetic leader. He is indecisive and hesitant to launch a nuclear attack, but ultimately realizes the gravity of the situation and takes responsibility for his decisions. He is calm and rational in the War Room, maintaining order and making logical decisions. He shows diplomacy and empathy when speaking with Premier Belch, understanding the consequences of a nuclear attack on civilians. He remains skeptical and level-headed during the crisis, speaking out against dangerous proposals and unafraid to voice his opinions. Overall, he is a strong and responsible leader who prioritizes the safety of his country and the world.

Ambassador De Sade

Ambassador de Sade is a middle-aged, well-dressed man with gray hair and sharp features. He speaks with a refined accent and carries himself with poise and confidence. Despite this veneer, there is a glimmer of desperation and shame in his eyes, betraying a past mistake that haunts him. He takes his role as an ambassador seriously and believes in diplomacy before war. However, his past actions have put him at odds with some of his colleagues, leading to tension and mistrust. Despite this, he remains steadfast in his desire for peace and resolution.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
General Jack D. Ripper General Jack D. Ripper's character arc begins as a paranoid and delusional Air Force commander who orders a preemptive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. As the story progresses, his obsession and fear of Soviet attack lead him to make drastic and dangerous decisions, putting his own men and country at risk. However, as the consequences of his actions start to become clear, he begins to unravel and descend into a world of philosophical drunkenness and guilt. Finally, in a moment of clarity, he realizes the full horror of what he has done and takes full responsibility for his actions, ultimately sacrificing himself to prevent further destruction. The character arc for General Jack D. Ripper is well executed, providing a clear beginning, middle, and end for the character. However, the transition from being a hardline military leader to a man lost in philosophical drunkenness and sentimentality could be more convincing. Additionally, the arc could benefit from more emphasis on the consequences of Ripper's actions, particularly in regards to the deaths of innocent people.
To improve the character arc for General Jack D. Ripper, it may be helpful to show more clearly the internal struggle he faces as he begins to realize the consequences of his actions. Additionally, exploring the impact of his decisions on innocent people, such as survivors and their families, could add depth to his character and make his eventual sacrifice more meaningful. Finally, the transition to his more philosophical and sentimental state could be more gradual and organic, rather than sudden and jarring.
Major Mandrake At the beginning of the movie, Major Mandrake is a rational and loyal officer who follows orders without question. As he begins to realize the dangerous situation that General Ripper has put them in, he becomes more nervous and unsure of how to proceed. He struggles to stop Ripper's plans and is caught in a tough spot between his loyalty to his rank and his duty to protect the lives of his soldiers. As he continues to confront General Ripper, Mandrake becomes a more reasonable figure who seeks to reason with the general in a more civil and persuasive way. Ultimately, Mandrake comes through as a calm and collected officer who helps bring some semblance of order amidst the chaos that surrounds them. While Major Mandrake is a well-drawn character with clear motivations and desires, his character arc feels a bit too predictable and straightforward. As a result, his actions and decisions feel a bit too safe and lack some of the tension that would make his character arc more compelling. Furthermore, Mandrake often feels like a secondary character, rather than an integral part of the story, which makes his arc feel less impactful.
To improve Major Mandrake's character arc, it would be helpful to give him more agency and more high-stakes decisions to make. This would add more tension and complexity to his arc, making it more compelling for the audience. Additionally, by making him a more integral part of the story, it would give him more opportunities to shine and make his journey more impactful. Finally, by subverting some of the audience's expectations about his character, it would add more depth and nuance to his arc, making it more interesting to follow.
Major Kong Major Kong's character arc begins as a determined and patriotic leader who ensures the crew follows through with their mission. He is confident and capable, leading the crew and preparing for the attack. As the mission progresses, Kong is faced with increasing challenges and obstacles, but his determination and bravery only intensify. Despite being injured, he remains determined to complete the mission and ultimately sacrifices himself for the greater good. Through this sacrifice, he becomes a symbol of patriotism and dedication to duty. The character arc is well-crafted, but it could benefit from more emotional depth. While Kong's bravery and determination are admirable, the audience may not connect with him on a deeper emotional level. To improve the character arc, it would be helpful to explore Kong's personal motivations and relationships, giving the audience a greater sense of who he is as a person. This would enhance his sacrifice at the end and make it more emotionally impactful.
One suggestion for improving the character arc could be to add in scenes that delve into Kong's personal life, such as his relationship with his family or his reasons for joining the military. This could help to flesh out his character and make his sacrifice more meaningful. Additionally, exploring his relationships with the other crew members could add more emotional weight to their interactions. Another suggestion could be to have moments where Kong struggles with conflicting feelings, such as his loyalty to his country versus his own morality. This would add complexity and depth to the character, making his ultimate sacrifice all the more poignant.
General Schmuck General Schmuck's character arc revolves around his transformation from a trigger-happy military leader into a more measured and thoughtful individual. He initially dismisses the threat of nuclear destruction, proposing a nuclear strike himself, but as he gains a better understanding of the gravity of the situation, he becomes more willing to work towards a peaceful resolution. Despite his stubborn and independent nature, he eventually realizes the importance of teamwork and collaboration, making him a key contributor to the successful resolution of the crisis. The character arc for General Schmuck is well-executed, but it could benefit from more specificity about why he changes his views on military intervention. Additionally, it would have been valuable to include more moments of vulnerability for the character, as they would have helped to establish a more intimate connection with the audience.
To improve the character arc of General Schmuck, it would be helpful to add more scenes that make clear why he has a change of heart and moves away from advocating for nuclear strikes. Additionally, adding more moments of vulnerability would have made the audience more sympathetic to his character and helped us to connect with him on a more emotional level.
General Ripper At the beginning of the movie, General Ripper is a strict and authoritarian military leader who puts the base on high alert. He then becomes increasingly erratic, holding Major Mandrake at gunpoint and revealing his plan to start a nuclear war. As the movie progresses, his passion and conviction about nuclear war intensify, leading to his ultimate downfall when he is unable to follow through with his plan and takes his own life. His arc ultimately demonstrates the danger and consequences of holding such extreme beliefs. The character arc for General Ripper is effective in displaying the dangers of extremism, but it may benefit from more exploration of his backstory and motivations. Additionally, some viewers may feel that the ultimate resolution is too simplistic, with General Ripper simply unable to follow through with his plan and taking his own life.
To improve the character arc, further exploration of General Ripper's backstory and motivations could provide a richer understanding of his extremist beliefs. Additionally, the resolution could be more nuanced by exploring the impact of his actions on others and the wider world, rather than solely on his own downfall.
President Muffley President Muffley starts off as an indecisive and hesitant leader, but throughout the movie, he gains confidence and takes responsibility for his decisions. He becomes more assertive and outspoken, speaking out against dangerous proposals and putting the safety of his country and the world above his own personal beliefs. Despite the stress of the crisis, he remains calm and collected, using his intelligence and empathy to make important decisions and prevent a nuclear war from breaking out. The character arc for President Muffley is well-developed and consistent throughout the movie. However, it would be more effective to show his growth in a more visible and dramatic way. Perhaps he could have a moment of crisis where he realizes the gravity of his decision, or he could make a dramatic speech that shows his evolution as a leader. Also, the description of his character could be more detailed, with specific examples of his actions and dialogue that show his traits.
To improve the character arc, consider adding specific moments that show President Muffley's growth, such as a dramatic speech or a moment of crisis that forces him to take action. Also, add more specific examples of his actions and dialogue that show his traits, such as his empathy for civilians and his skepticism towards dangerous proposals. This will make his character more dynamic and memorable.
Ambassador De Sade Throughout the movie, Ambassador de Sade undergoes a transformation from a shaken and remorseful representative of his country to a more confident and determined leader. Initially, de Sade is haunted by the memory of a past mistake that caused harm to innocent civilians. This guilt drives him to act with caution and humility, but also makes him a target for his opponents. As the tension in the War Room rises, de Sade becomes more arrogant and sneaky, believing that the ends justify the means. However, when confronted with the true consequences of his actions, he realizes the error of his ways and becomes a more compassionate and principled leader, advocating for peace even in the face of immense pressure and opposition. While the character arc for Ambassador de Sade is well-written and realistic, there are some areas that could be improved. Specifically, the transition from arrogant and sneaky to compassionate and principled is somewhat sudden and could be fleshed out more. Additionally, it might be interesting to explore de Sade's past mistake more fully and give the audience a clearer understanding of his motivations and emotions.
To improve the character arc, consider inserting a scene that delves more deeply into de Sade's backstory and shows the audience the specific event that caused him to feel guilty. Additionally, give de Sade more opportunities to demonstrate his compassion and principled nature throughout the film, so that his transformation feels more gradual and organic. Finally, consider giving de Sade a more active role in the plot, so that he can contribute more meaningfully to the resolution of the conflict.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Impending Nuclear WarMultiple plotlines converge towards an impending nuclear war, with tension rising in the War Room as the President and his aides try to establish communication with the enemy's premier and prevent a proposed nuclear strike by General Schmuck.The theme of impending nuclear war is central to the screenplay, with tension rising between countries and characters alike as the threat of nuclear warfare looms large.
Leadership and ResponsibilityThe President and his aides work to prevent a nuclear strike while struggling with the knowledge that their country may have inadvertently led to the creation of the Doomsday Machine.The theme of leadership and responsibility is highlighted through the President and other characters' actions as they try to prevent nuclear catastrophe.
Self-SacrificeThe B-90 crew faces malfunction and danger during their mission to deliver a nuclear bomb, ultimately sacrificing themselves to complete their mission.The theme of self-sacrifice is demonstrated through the crew's determination to complete their mission despite the danger and malfunction they face.
International Relations and ConflictTensions rise between countries as they face the threat of nuclear war, with characters struggling to communicate and make decisions amidst conflict and distrust.The screenplay highlights the theme of international relations and conflict, showing how misunderstandings and distrust can lead to disastrous consequences.
Control and PowerThe Doomsday Machine serves as a symbol of the characters' lack of control over their circumstances and the devastating power that nuclear technology holds.The theme of control and power is demonstrated through the characters' struggles to control the threat of nuclear war and the realization that some technologies are too powerful to control or contain.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


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