The human race has spent more time destroying itself than in any other endeavor.
Five people are kidnapped by aliens. They come from five different countries. USA, USSR, China, Great Britain, and Germany. They are taken aboard a space ship and are greeted by someone who calls himself “The Alien”. “The Alien” relates that he is a representative from a planet that orbits a sun that is about to go nova. His planet and everyone on it will perish unless they find another planet to live on in the next 35 days. Their moral code forbids them from harming any form of intelligent life. Due to this code they have devised a test.
The five are given a container with three capsules in it. Each capsule has the capability of destroying all human life within a 3,000 mile diameter. All they have to do is state the coordinates of the area they want to destroy. The aliens, aware of the war-like behavior of people expect that the humans will use the capsules and destroy themselves leaving the planet free and clear for the aliens to take over and colonize. Easy peasy.
The five people are Jonathan Clark, Eve Wingate, Professor Klaus Bechner, Ivan Godofsky and Su Tan. The capsules can only be opened by the people they are assigned to. These five people. Once opened, however, anyone can use the capsules but only within the next 27 days. After that time the capsules become inert and if all 5 do not use their capsules the alien race will die.
Each person who receives the capsules reacts in different ways. The Chinese woman commits suicide thereby letting her capsules self destruct. The English woman throws hers in the ocean and gets on a plane for the United States. The others want to just wait it out; however, our aliens are sneaky. They broadcast a message that outs everybody. The German gets hit by a car and is in the hospital. He’s a little foggy. Or so he says. Now we are down to two factors. The Soviets and the United States. The soviets resort to torture. The American hides. The remaining people who have the capsules are faced with the biggest moral dilemma ever while everyone else in the world is going crazy. Are there problems with the movie? Of course there are but the point of it is for people to reach deep into themselves. Some of it is meant for you to interpret out of it what you want. Not so much a science fiction movie than an exercise in psychological morality.
This movie was made during the cold war. Everybody in the universe knows that humans are emotionally charged intellectual duds with selfish and violent tendencies. We have learned nothing in our 200,000 years on the planet. To us survival of the fittest means kill because the other person has no more morals than you have. We practice that with everyone.
This tale of the possibility of hope may be in the genre it belongs in, science fiction. All I know is that a country, any country, is only as good as the best person in it, and is a bad as the worst person in it. The movie is a simplistic answer to an extremely complex situation. For me to try to explain using spoilers would not help any. You will get from it what you want. Watch it for yourself and interpret it in whatever way works for you. It is a psychological exercise, not a morality story. A Rorschach test. There really is no correct answer.