Marshal Brickman never directed a feature film after this, and I can't wonder why.
The Manhattan Project (1986)
User ReviewsAdd a Review
Marshal Brickman never directed a feature film after this, and I can't wonder why.
So, as I said, his solution to the "warmongering" military authorities building atomic bombs is to build one himself. (And they're warmongering because they want to build atomic bombs because hostile countries with a doctrine of overthrowing countries to spread their political beliefs would do the same to the US if they could because they also have atomic bombs, right?) Then when the government officials learn that this kid has stolen weapons grade material and has built a bomb with it, they have to gall to take over his mom's house while she cries "What gives you the right?!"
Then, and get this, then, when he learns the government has found out he has stolen weapons grade material and built a bomb with it, and he threatens to set it off for no other logical reason anyone can think of other than not wanting to get thrown in jail for something HE did, everyone acts surprised when the government acts ready to kill him to stop him and everyone thinks that's just a terrible thing. No, wait, they want to kill him not just to stop him, but also to keep the facility a secret.... after a whole bunch of people already know what's going on.
And when the bomb almost goes off because this genius kid was too stupid to know what he was doing, he gets to walk away as a local hero because he built a bomb with weapons grade material that he stole from the facility and almost wiped out his friends, family, everyone in the town and surrounding areas including the mean government officials who were ready to kill him because he threatened to set off an atomic bomb with material he stole from the facility.
HUH? You're smart enough to build a freaking nuclear bomb by yourself, including smart enough to know where to get some explosive material needed to blow the bomb up. You're also smart enough to have fooled a high-security system with a bunch of frisbees and a helpful girlfriend in order to get the plutonium (and smart enough to temporarily cover your tracks by inserting shampoo into the jar so it's not immediately noticed as missing). But what in the world makes you think that they'll let you go because "I'm underage?"
I suppose the script writer needed to show a little naiveté - after all, if Paul knew the full gravity of what he was doing, he might not have done something as reckless as he did. Instead, he might just have gone ahead with an expose without needing to win first prize at a science contest.
- The material being so highly concentrated I would imagine when he opens the hatch to get the jar out he'd immediately lose consciousness and die within minutes. No yellow rubber gloves are gonna protect him from the radiation.
- It looks like he's going for an implosion design with his bomb (like the Nagasaki bomb). That's really "smart". Especially since the gun design (Hiroshima bomb) is far easier to build, but maybe he is aware that the implosion design will have a far greater efficiency so he can incinerate far more people with it, if that's what he wants? (That's where another thought occurs: Why is he complaining about the morality of the lab when he builds a bomb of his own?)
- Then there is more unprotected working with the material. Even if the material was only slightly radioactive for some reason, his nice fluffy hair would have fallen out halfway through building his device. At the least we would have seen lots of vomiting!
To sum it up, tired of writing this as I am, it's just all horrible anyway! I can't understand why a movie with that name couldn't have been a bit more interesting, realistic and possibly talk about the real Manhattan Project instead!
Almost every plot point in The Manhattan Project is an absolute impossibility in real life, even though the dramatic power of this film ostensibly derives from the notion that something remotely like this could really happen. From nuclear radiation triggering detectors without hurting people, to a single rent-a-cop defending an entire nuclear weapons lab, to one teenager doing in a month what took Oppenheimer and company years, to the U.S. military letting national security breaches walk away into the sunset, there is just no way to focus on the story when faced with so many intellectual insults.
On the bright side, the science in the movie is presented well and seems fairly accurate, so it does seem like the filmmakers at least tried to make something special out of an insufficient screenplay. The Manhattan Project is not a terrible movie, but it does suffer from too many inexcusable lapses to be called good. Just like the most realistic character in the movie, this film is a bomb.
This is a simple-minded "WarGames" wannabe, with totally unsympathetic characters (including the stereotypical idiot adults who can barely tie their shoelaces) engaging in wildly improbable/impossible activities.
This is an excellent example of why snot-nosed, self-righteous kids are not allowed to vote.
Minor Spoiler: "Hey, my self-gratification and desire to win the science fair surely trumps any concern for public safety or property rights. Plus, I get to feel like some sort of public-policy activist while I'm doing it!"
Yet, all of this might be forgivable, if the movie was any good. But it's not. Save your time and money.
There are too many howlers to believe in this thing. It came from the same guy who wrote SLEEPER, in which the nonsense science was part of the comedy. WAR GAMES is more plausible but it ends with the same silly speeches. Of course if you ever do rid the world of nuclear weapons you merely make the first new weapon all the more valuable. Oh, well. Maybe a comedy about plutonium is a job no writer can manage.
Why did they decide to steal this uranium? Why is this atomic bomb factory guarded by one security guard who makes Paul Blart look like a Navy Seal? Why does he let random cars through the gate? Why did the missing uranium go unnoticed for so long? Why did he decide to make an atomic bomb? For a science fair project, sure, that's valid. Why did the government send 5 spooks to go retrieve this bomb instead of an entire platoon? Why did those other nerds aide and abed in this crime for these 2 kids they met for about 30 seconds? Why isn't Paul's body riddled with cancer due to his unsafe exposure to nuclear materials? In the final scene, why is there 8 people with guns instead of 200? Why does everyone get to walk away heroes at the end instead of being put in GitMo? There's dozens of more plot holes but I'm not even going to waste any more time.
I gave the movie 2 extra stars for having John Lithgow and Richard Jenkins. Not a recommend...
"They're gorillas, they can hurt you. If you try to talk it out with them, they'll lock you in a room somewhere and throw away the room."
"What did you want us to do, put up a neon sign saying 'secret weapons laboratory'?"
The Science Fair moments in the movie were also quite entertaining. Especially where they introduce themselves to the science fair kids, then when they get out with the same kids pulling them out of the room and resoling them out away from the government's agents.
The movie itself is somewhat unbelievable, but it's interesting and entertaining.
Christopher Collet's character is totally unlikable, see him in First Born... same annoying attitude. Also about a kid who is incestuously fixated on his mother's relationship with her boyfriend.
His scientific intellect is honed to a razor edge, as we find out near the beginning when he arranges a small explosion in the lab drawer of a fellow student who is his rival in science class. Hilarious. His smugness is almost unbearable. And science is about all he's good at. He realizes that Lithgow is "hitting on my mom" (innocently enough) and resents him for it. He doesn't seem to know what an Oedipus complex is. He hasn't heard of Woodward and Bernstein. He asks, "Who's Anne Frank?", and isn't being rhetorical.
Worst of all, he doesn't really care about his non-scientific ignorance. He's only a few steps removed from the maniac in "Pi." The plot is simply unbelievable. He may be extremely clever but unless he has some sort of PSI power as well, he could not disarm the alarm system in two shakes of a lamb's tail -- let alone unfailingly operate the complex robotic systems in the laboratory. And without so much as a previous glance at it, he knows that the inner wall of the lab can be cut with a pen knife, and he knows just where to cut it too. He may be superhuman as well.
Radioactive plutonium is still radioactive, even without having reached critical mass, isn't it? And although rubber gloves may stop larger particles like protons, they don't provide much protection against gamma rays, do they? I may be wrong, but at least I'm willing to admit my ignorance, which is more than this egocentric showoff is able to do.
The first time I saw this movie it was fascinating, especially the first half, not the last part, which deteriorates into a familiar pattern. But I saw it again recently and found it more irritating than anything else, because of Collett's character and because the plot was so full of holes. At least I HOPE it was full of holes. If it were so easy to throw together a nuclear weapon occupying a space the size of a trombone case, and to do so in only a few weeks, I'd hate to think of what might happen if some religious fundamentalist antimodernization Ludditic cryptolunatic saw the movie and it gave him ideas.
The ending is a heart-warming development in which Lithgow, decides the fight the military and declares, "No more secrets", and throw open the gates to the college kids cheering outside. Right.
For the first 45 minutes or so I kept asking myself, "Why? What does he get out of this?" A stupid science experiment and a "story" for the girl he likes. Thing is - neither of those things happen! The girl, sensibly, ends up saying "Uh, this is a bad idea." And he never even gets to do the science experiment thing, or whatever that was.
Stupid movie. Another case of some douche being annoying in a typical 80s kind of way.
John Lithgow is in it, he was OK. A young, cute, heterosexual Cynthia Nixon is in it. The dad from Frasier is in it, I don't even know his name or care what it is.
A movie for an afternoon nap. Hopefully you fall asleep quickly so you don't have to see too much of it.
A young lad, a prankster with a brain, together with his girlfriend steal plutonium from the lab. His mother has become friendly with scientist John Lithgow.
With the nuclear material, our young lad has made a small bomb. The FBI and other federal agents are after our young hero. They point rifles to his chest.
The best part of this ridiculous film was how the dynamic duo were able to pull off their caper.
Then of course, we must have the deactivating of the bomb, and how that's done before the deadline and mom and the girlfriend rushing up to our hero at film's end. Let's go beyond this and pursue how this recalcitrant should have been tried for stealing this material and placing the northeast in such jeopardy.
The film is a miserable one. It made me think of my miserable chemistry teacher and how she tortured me. The film tortured me as well.
It is a good nostalgia trip, however, for those who adore a rare selection of 80s movies. Pop it in some lazy afternoon and enjoy.
This has a bit of WarGames but the lead kid doesn't have the charm of Matthew Broderick. Of course who has the charm of Ferris Bueller. The lead is a teen brat stereotype without the funny sensibility. It spends too much time with montages and slow action. It also makes the mistake of concentrating a bit too much time on the adults. John Lithgow is such a great star that this mistake is understandable. As in many of these 80s caper movies, there is a lot of unreal unbelievability but one must accept such things. The movie struggles mostly with the pompous teen. He is a spoiled teen without any of the comedy. However it is fun to imagine a teen building a nuclear bomb, and defusing the bomb in the end is kinda exciting.