Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) Poster

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7/10
An interesting chronicle about the historical events concerning creation the first atomic bomb
ma-cortes31 October 2006
This exciting picture is a dramatization of nuclear run and follows the development of the Manhattan project in Los Alamos from first conception of the power within the atom , the 235 uranium , with the neutrons bombing into the piles of graphite which leads to nuclear reaction that produces the atomic bomb , ¨the Trinity¨ . The movie describes the power struggles and tensions between an idealist Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schulz) , the project's science leader and General Leslie Groves (Paul Newman) , the project's military commander . It was a race for the bomb because of the Nazis with the scientist Heisenberg were also making a nuclear bomb . Besides, there appears famous scientists who contributed to the atomic success with the first bomb as Leo Szilard , Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller .

The film is overlong , a little bit dull and slow-moving , though the semi-fictional accounts narrated are very interesting . Paul Newman as the military brain is excellent and Dwight Schulz (A team) as Oppenheimer , the head behind it , is magnificent . In real life , Newman was a liberal progressist and Schultz is a Republican conservative , poles opposites to the attractive roles they performed in this film . Furthermore , a distinguished rest cast , such as : John Cusack , Laura Dern , Bonnie Bedelia , John G. McGinley , Allan Corduner , Clark Gregg , James Eckhouse , Todd Field and Natasha Richardson , all of them are enjoyable . Director Roland Joffé cast some real-life scientific people in short background characters , as future Nobel Prize winner David Politzer, among others . It contains exceptional as well as colorful cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond and sensitive musical score by the master Ennio Morricone in his usual style . The motion picture was professionally directed by Roland Joffe (The mission , Killing fields ) .

Other films as ¨Fat man (this way called by bombing in Hiroshima) and Little boy¨ (so named by bombing in Nagasaki) are the following ones : ¨Day one¨ , ¨Engola Day¨ , ¨Hiroshima¨ and for TV : ¨Oppenheimer¨ with Sam Waterson and one of the best resulted to be the Canadian series titled ¨Race for the bomb¨ with Maury Chaykin as General Groves and directed by Allan Eastman . Rating : Good and worthwhile seeing.
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8/10
The Best Engineering flick in decades, great history and melodrama, too
wall1722 June 2002
It's rare for a movie to both encompass the process of problem solving and a fantastically far-reaching moral quandary AND be a fairly accurate historical movie, but Fat Man and Little Boy pulls off this trick.

It's the story of the Manhattan Project -- the World War II effort to build the atom bomb, told as the conflict between the two men who made it happen, Gen. Leslie Groves and Robert Oppenheimer.

The historical figures are a great study in opposites: military vs. civilian, practical vs. idealistic, emotional vs. scientific, brute force vs. consensus-based problem solving, immediacy vs. long-term vision. A fictional character, played by John Cusack, is added as a sort of synthesis of the two historical figures, to show the humanity that oddly escapes the real people (and of course the obligatory love interest, played by Laura Dern). One looking for a straight documentary might criticize the lapses into melodrama (and occasional looseness with the facts, but that's Hollywood for ya), but the purpose of fiction is to synthesize and galvanize events into more universal truths, so I think this can be forgiven.

One of the great visuals in the movie is when Oppenheimer witnesses the first atomic explosion: it's done entirely through his reaction, and considering the awesome visuals inherent in an atomic explosion, it's a brave and entirely effective way of describing in a single moment the ambivalent effect on humans of unleashing such power (the sort of thing lost in the typical Hollywood shoot 'em up version of history.) The use of music is particularly excellent in the last third of the movie.

Fairly accessible and highly recommended as both a historical movie and drama of the highest order.
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8/10
The Challenge Of The Problem
bkoganbing17 February 2008
Fat Man And Little Boy were the code names of the two atomic bombs that were dropped in reverse order on Nagasaki and Hiroshina. How these came to be and came to be in American hands is the story of this film.

The terms by the way are the code names of two bombs fueled with plutonium and uranium. Fat Man was the plutonium bomb and that one was dropped on Nagasaki and Little Boy was the one used on Hiroshima

The film is primarily a conflict between General Leslie R. Groves of the United States Army and physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer who led the team of scientists who developed the bomb under Groves's direction. With two men from as widely divergent backgrounds as these were, conflict was inevitable.

Paul Newman who all his life has been a disarmament activist plays General Groves. To his credit Newman does not play a man whose views he would very little in common with as any kind of caricature. Groves is a military man first and foremost with an engineering background. He wanted a combat command as trained military professionals would naturally want in this greatest of wars. But because of his background in engineering Groves got to head the Manhattan Project which was what the effort was code named. So be it, Newman is determined to make his contribution to the war effort count.

Most of us first became acquainted with Dwight Schultz from the A-Team as H.M. Murdoch the pilot whose grip on reality is tenuous at best. If one was only acquainted with the A-Team, one might think that Schultz had a great future in comic roles.

Instead Dwight Schultz is one of the best actors in the English speaking world with an astonishing range of dramatic parts since leaving that television series. J. Robert Oppenheimer in life was a complex man who recognized the dangers and benefits of atomic energy. The challenge of the problem also intrigues him. Later on Oppenheimer got into a real bind because of his left-wing political views and associates which everyone knew walking into the Manhattan Project.

Some of the lesser roles that stand out are Bonnie Bedelia as Mrs. Oppenheimer, Natasha Richardson as Oppenheimer's Communist mistress whose affair with Oppenheimer got him in such a jackpot later on, and Laura Dern as a nurse at the Los Alamos site.

But the best is John Cusack who as Michael Merriman is a composite of some real life scientists who might accurately be labeled as the first casualties of the atomic age. His scenes with Laura Dern, especially with what happens to him, take on a real poignancy.

The debate over the bombs as the use put to them is still a matter of raging debate. Fat Man And Little Boy presents the facts and lets you decide what might have happened if an alternative use of them had been taken.
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7/10
Decent
kyle-cruse23 October 2008
If you know anything about the Manhattan Project, you will find "Fat Man and Little Boy" at least an interesting depiction of the events surrounding that story. The film is in all ways a very realistic portrayal of these events, and in many ways it is almost too real (such as some scenes involving radiation poisoning). Paul Newman, as usual, is brilliant in his role and always manages to come off like a real person on the screen. The supporting cast, such as John Cusack, Laura Dern, Bonnie Bedelia, and Natasha Richardson, is fairly good as well. This film is not, however, one of the best examples of turning a true story into a movie. Great films are able to take a true story and use just enough artistic license to keep its audience engaged for the entire movie. This one, however, tends to drag a bit throughout, and some scenes (such as John Cusack and Natasha Richardson's love story) could have been eliminated entirely without causing the film to lose much. Nevertheless, there are enough interesting facts and tiny humorous bits to at least keep the audience interested enough to see the entire film. It does not always entertain, but as far as great depictions go, this is very accurate, fascinating, and will leave the audience with something to think about.

*** out of ****
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7/10
We've Got The Bomb
ReelCheese8 April 2007
It was a fascinating story waiting to be told. FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY takes us inside the trials and tribulations of a group of top American scientists handed a lofty task during the Second World War: beat everyone else to the atomic bomb. Sequestered in a heavily-guarded New Mexico compound, the brainiacs slowly turn the idea from ambitious concept into immense reality.

FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY is one of those films that requires your close attention. It's a real thinking person's movie, not only from the scientific aspect of developing a seemingly impossible weapon, but also the moral implications of contributing to killing on a massive scale. Characters are constantly torn between that reality and their wartime duty as Americans. The film is never preachy about, however, leaving us free to marvel at the enormity of the inner turmoil these men face. The performances deserve special mention as well. Paul Newman delivers one of his great, understated performances as the Pattonesque general in charge of delivering the ultimate big stick for the Allied Forces.

Where FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY loses much of its traction is in the unnecessary romantic component. Dwight Schultz as the leader of the scientific team struggles with his affections for his family and his relentless obsession with his big project. Director Roland Joffe apparently felt the need to explore the more human angles of this story, but the romantic overtones serve primarily as a distraction. Besides, it's the interaction among the scientists and their military hierarchy that give us the greatest insight into the thoughts and feelings of these brilliant men.

Still, it's difficult not to recommend FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY. It's a largely forgotten gem that puts a human face put on one of the most intriguing stories in human history.
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A Great Movie, Despite What They Say...
MRyerson211 December 2002
Cold War enthusiasts are like Civil War enthusiasts in that they get extremely upset when something is portrayed differently than it actually happened (or differently than they THINK it happened). When you read a negative review of this movie, that is what you are seeing. It may not be 100% factual with the timeline and all of that, but who cares? It is still an excellent movie. The acting is wonderful and the message is even better. Dwight Schultz does an amazing job with his role. The entire cast must have lost 50 lbs each to look like skinny 1940s people. If you haven't seen this film, see it. If you have and you didn't like it, please see it again and look at it with an open heart. It truly questions the moral issues of developing the bomb. It makes you think!
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1/10
Lazy and simplistic
worldofgabby26 March 2012
Fat Man & Little Boy plays like the Cliff's Notes version of an important period in history and science. The first moment we see a carefree, laughing Oppenheimer, it is obvious that the film is going to take quite a few liberties with characterization. When Paul Newman strides onto the scene, accompanied by "Patton"-like music, all credibility is immediately destroyed. My major problem with Fat Man & Little Boy is the character of Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer was a complex character, a misfit, a neurasthenic polymath. This film only scratches the surface of his personality, and the actor who plays him is horribly miscast, although he tries his best. Towards the final days of the Project, Oppenheimer had become extremely thin and cadaverous. The constant hounding by Communist hunters digging into his personal life coupled with his moral qualms about the use of the Bomb threw him into a state of nervous exhaustion bordering on paranoia. There is no hint of the inner man in this portrayal. The community of physicists at Los Alamos was a collection of brilliant and unusual men. There were many conflicts and a lot of competition going on which are pretty much ignored. It was frustrating to see all of this potentially rich material cast aside in order to simplify the film and make it accessible. In addition to ignoring the real characters involved in the Manhattan Project and misinterpreting the ones it treats, the film introduces John Cusak as the "Everyman Physicist," a fictional character created to humanize(?)the subject and engage the "average viewer," along with the obligatory love interest. This slows the movie down to a crawl and it was walking pretty slowly to begin with. This movie takes a situation rich in drama and conflict coupled with scientific and historical interest and turns it into a boring, simplistic soap opera.
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8/10
I enjoyed the movie enough to watch it 3 times.
pmyers16 March 2000
The movie seemed a little slow at first. But it picked up speed and got right to the point. It showed exactly how the government and the scientist argued for humanity and the reasons of the "gadget". I enjoyed it. It is very close to reality as any movie about the Atomic Bombs that were to be dropped on Japan. I have recommended it to friends. I was particularly pleased with the acting ability of Dwight Schultz.
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One of the more accurate films about the making of the ATOMIC Bomb
bangel-23 October 2004
Having worked with all historical aspects of nuclear energy, radiation, etc. for 11 Years ( including working with the US D.O.E - Department of Energy during the cleanup of the Chicago site ), I found this film to be VERY accurate with only several exceptions ( such as groves did not meet Szliard in a bathtub in Szliards Apartment, the Critically accident referred to in th film happened later at Los alamos to Louis Slotin and Harrry Daughlin, and groves was slightly heavier than neumann's character, and not to mention much less harsh and abusive, although he was a perfectionist, always VERY concerned about the sites security and about the public's safety and sometimes got his way without exception, and finally there were other sites in the early project that should have been mentioned more...such as Chicago ). Technically, I feel that the producers/directors created a "Perfect Feel" for the time, as most sites I've been too are simply a-lot of high-dollar, high-tech stuff in the middle of quite isolated areas - very quiet with just the sound of wind blowing and creaking steel. I've seen some peoples reviews talking about this movie as if they're reviewing a love story.....Hello, This story is about an atomic bomb !!!!! I too feel that the brief love story romance is not really needed, but I'm sure that the directors put it in there to show you what oppenheimer was also going thru emotionally in addition to all the chaos he was already facing day-to-day on the projects sites !!! I have seen this movie on VHS, Laserdisc and FINALLY DVD, and I must say that the DVD release is the SHARPEST transfer made of the movie to-date; they did a very good job on the mastering as well ( No artifacts or blockiness - and to those Fatman and LittleBoy movie buffs, yes, they still left in the 1 or 2 screwed-up voice-overs ). Unfortunately, after waiting years for the DVD release to come out, there are really no special features aside from 4:3, Widescreen 16:9, and Dolby 5:1 ( which I was hoping for, since the soundtrack is AMAZING ), There isn't even a trailer for the movie !!! :-( What was paramount thinking ????? Well, maybe they'll read this review and include some more special features ( Like interviews with Paul Neumann, John Cusack, Dwight Schultz, along with a TRAILER of the movie, and some behind-the-scenes making-of the lots ) if they ever release it in High-Definition 1080p !!! One can only hope.

All-in-all its an excellent movie, but if your renting/buying/watching it because you thought it was a romantic movie.....DON'T BOTHER !!!!
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8/10
For the scientifically inclined
GillianS3 February 1999
We watched this movie in my chemistry class, so obviously it had educational value. I thought the film did a really good job of intertwining the subjects of the science, moral issues and personal experiences of the manhattan project, but wasn't exactly focused on strong acting. I would recommend this movie for the scientifically inclined or those interested in the moral issues behind Fat Man and Little Boy, but if the subject of nuclear bombs bores you, don't see it.
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Good, but could have been better
anniescribe23 April 2000
Out of five stars, I would give "Fat Man and Little Boy" three. One reviewer who said they had watched this for chemistry class commented the history was good but the acting wasn't strong. I will agree the history was fascinating, and that the acting appeared not to be strong. However, I saw the script itself as being the problem, not the actors -- Paul Newman, Dwight Schultz, John Cusack, Laura Dern -- all were excellent insofar as the script allowed them to be. My feeling is the scriptwriter tried to capture too much all at once and cram it into a two-hour movie. It tried to tell the story of how the Manhattan Project affected not only American policy but also the personal lives of those involved, but instead of adopting an intimate atmosphere in which to do this, it went for broad, broken strokes. To me, it was just too ambitious for one movie -- the Manhattan Project is not like the sinking of the Titanic, a tragedy that happened in one night; it was a long, arduous process that sapped brain power and spirit from the people who had the knowledge of how to tap atomic energy, but also the conscience to worry what would be done with it once they did.
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7/10
Weird and Compelling
pswitzertatum24 November 2004
This is a weird and compelling film. The topic, about the atom bombs created at Los Alamos, NM in the USA and used on Japan during the latter part of World War II, is huge, and of course deeply disturbing. The film's plot takes on a lot of heavy issues and the actors have to carry much of the creative tension. I had never seen the film, or was much interested in it I have to admit, until I read the book "Smoking in Bed: Conversations with Bruce Robinson." Robinson wrote the story and screenplay. I think the film was better than I expected from reading Robinson's point of view in the conversations about it, but I can see how he thought it got derailed. I think Paul Newman is pretty good, but is somehow at bottom, miscast. He's too Hollywood. At one point, a big, mean-looking guy storms into Newman's office and has such a striking presence, I immediately thought he should be playing the character Newman is playing. The other lead, who plays the head scientist, is also fairly good, but somehow not brilliant enough to portray the huge angst that goes with the part - the immense responsibility for creation of an ultimate machine of death and destruction. One of the more effective characters seems to be a composite personality, played by John Cusack. He is oddly affecting throughout, and in the end, is the character whose fate really hits home and who made me think most vividly of the fate of more than 200,000 Japanese people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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5/10
skin deep history lesson
mjneu5916 November 2010
The director and co-writers of 'The Killing Fields' condense the 19-month Manhattan Project into a confrontation between the freethinking scientific community and the more pragmatic military mind, represented on one hand by physicist Robert Oppenheimer and on the other by General Leslie Groves, who staked his career on not only getting the atomic bomb built but doing so before the war could end and thus make the project redundant. By necessity the film has to skim over too many fascinating moral debates; nineteen months is a lot of ground to cover, especially with so much valuable screen time wasted on romantic subplots. But even dodging some vital issues the film still presents a tense, tidy historical drama, and Paul Newman's performance as General Groves may be the best portrayal of a military man since George C. Scott ran roughshod over the krauts in 'Patton'. The title, by the way, refers to the nicknames of the A-bombs eventually used on Japan and not, presumably, to the film's two protagonists.
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A Haunting Vision...
earth_diver13 January 2003
I certainly disagree with the last user comment. I can't speak to the complete accuracy of the events but I do know there was debate at the time over whether the project should be used or even completed. The film is beautiful directed with some truly haunting moments, showing both the external and internal stuggle of the characters. It also tackles the morality of the issue without beating the viewer over the head. You will be moved by the end of the film. It illustrates humankind's almost fanatical need for progress and domination, no matter the cost.
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9/10
Good film
Adrian Sweeney8 October 2002
I know one is not supposed to comment on other users' comments, but I will say that a lot of the negative reviews seem to come from people who already knew quite a lot about the Manhattan Project and were annoyed at things that were left out. (From his book 'Smoking In Bed' it appears the original screenwriter Bruce Robinson is another such.) I knew very little before watching the film, however, and found it rivetting. Dwight Schultz is absolutely mesmeric as Oppenheimer - a truly magnetic, charismatic presence, an inspired piece of casting that makes me wonder why he isn't given better roles and more leading parts. John Cusack and Paul Newman are excellent as always. One could quibble with various script or direction choices, but as it is the film is extremely intense and horrific at times and overall I give it four stars out of five.
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Better off watching a documentary
x_hydra4 December 2004
The film falls flat for many, many reasons, both historical and aesthetic. The history is, well, problematic, to say the least, but that's hardly a Hollywood surprise; much worse off is that the writing is quite poor, the acting is in general pretty poor, and the film doesn't really know what it wants to be.

Is it a story about Oppenheimer and Groves? Is it a story about Los Alamos? Is it a story about working to make the Fat Man bomb? Is it a story about the morality of the bomb? Is it a story about John Cusak and Laura Dern smoochin'?

Maybe a truly epic film could be all of these things, but it isn't that epic and so it just feels like a fragmentary attempt at best, unwieldy and somewhat cheaply made. It would have been better, I think, to just throw the historical concerns out the window: make it an interesting plot, not a docudrama. As it is, it is really a pain to watch.

If you want to watch something on the atomic bomb with great acting, suspense, and plot, try Jon Else's documentary "The Day After Trinity." Whereas "Fat Man and Little Boy," leaves you feeling bored and let down, "The Day After Trinity" will leave you with a hushed awe.

It's too bad that this movie is so poor, it is certainly not for lack of interesting subject matter, but unfortunately there was no real artistic vision here, and that's really why it becomes a drama-historical hodgepodge, and a dull one at that.
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2/10
Boring, slow, silly and incorrect beyond belief.
anders-olsen803 June 2013
Wanted to write a review, since I watched this movie last night for the first time since the early '90's. I was so disappointed. I've been reading a lot about the Manhattan Project, since it and things regarding atomic physics has been a bit of a hobby of mine, since childhood. I'm a huge fan of Newman, but that was wrong casting beyond belief. While it was common knowledge, General Groves was a very strict and stern person, I've never come across any information that portray him as a Patton-like "classic military hard-ass". He was quite a sensible person, who carried a great deal of respect around him, but he was also a person capable of showing this respect towards others, IMHO, this movie and Newman completely miss this, and portray him as being a bit of an arrogant a-hole. The entire story surrounding the Project is so flawed and thin, it beggars belief. Oppenheimer, or "Oppie" was, as others have said, a very complex person. This film portray him, frankly, as a bit of a clown. The entire romantic plot is just down right stupid, and does not ad a single thing to the film. It only manages to slow it down even further. It does not help, that John Cusack is rather annoying is his role as well. The lack of historic characters, like Fermi, Szilard, Einsteim, Neddermeyer, Teller etc. makes it seem pointless. The way the entire screenplay is set up, as the usual Hollywood soap drama, puts the final nail in the coffin for this disaster of a movie. If you want to watch a good flick about the Manhattan Project and people surrounding it, watch Day One. It was made and came out the same year, and is a fantastic piece of film, where every single character and the story is nailed very close to spot on. A glitch here and there, which can only be expected, but very, very good. Why Day One did not become the popular one and FM&LB did, is only a testament to what is wrong with Hollywood and critics. IMO.
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6/10
FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY (Roland Joffe', 1989) **1/2
Bunuel197625 March 2009
An interesting – one might say, inevitable – depiction of the birth of the Nuclear age (I had watched the very first treatment of the subject, THE BEGINNING OR THE END [1947], some years back), with the title a reference to the nicknames given the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and which hastened the end of WWII. For director Joffe', it was a follow-up to two impressive movies, both similarly involved in eliciting outraged public response to man's inhumanity to his fellow man – THE KILLING FIELDS (1984) and THE MISSION (1986) – which, like the film under review, was scored by Ennio Morricone; this, however, puts the culprits rather than their victims at center-stage – while taking care to present almost every possible angle in the issue. Having said that, the film never quite moves one like it should and is awfully slow-moving to boot: at one point, the scientist ("The A-Team"'s Dwight Schulz[!], though surprisingly convincing) commissioned to work out the device tells his collaborator (John Cusack who, in a harrowing sequence, eventually becomes the first victim of the A-bomb) that they are not responsible for how their handiwork is ultimately put to use…which is utter crap if you ask me! As if to suggest that the people concerned lost something of their own along the way, we are treated to glimpses into both their domestic lives (Cusack falls for a nurse at the Los Alamos base, Laura Dern, whereas Schulz carries on relationships with two women simultaneously, wife Bonnie Bedelia and mistress Natasha Richardson – with the suicide of the latter character coming across just as futile as the recent tragic death of the actress playing her!). For the record, I acquired the film late last year around the time of its leading man's own passing, Paul Newman; he appears as the General who oversees the invention and building of the bombs and, in that respect, was not afraid to tackle a role which was obviously unsympathetic (the last shot, in which he raises his closed fist in victory to Schulz – being cheered by the crowds after the result of the bombings – but retracting in shame after recognizing the scientist's broken spirit, is telling). By the way, I have to wonder whether the film was originally intended to be longer: the cast list at the end gives reasonable prominence to the name of 1970s character actor Ed Lauter, yet he is given no more than one fleeting shot in the released version!
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8/10
The Biggest Damn Stick in the Play Yard!
theowinthrop17 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I find it remarkable that so little was actually done with the story of the a-bomb and it's development for decades after the Manhattan Project was completed. My suspicion is that this was due to serious fears in the movie and entertainment industries (in the 1950s through the 1970s) with "McCarthyism" and related national security phobias (including the Hollywood blacklist). There was one film in the 1950s (with Robert Taylor) about Col. Paul Tibbits who flew the Enola Gay in the Hiroshima bombing, but otherwise nothing else. One could glance at a side issue tragedy (the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis soon after the delivery of the bombs to Tinian) in Robert Shaw's description of the shark attacks on the survivors in JAWS. But the actual trials and tribulations of Groves, Oppenheimer, and their team was not considered film-able.

And then in 1989 two films appeared. I have reviewed one already (DAY ONE) which I feel is the better of the two in discussing the lengthy technical and emotional and political problems in the Manhattan Project. The acting of Brian Dennehy as General Groves and David Strahairn as Oppenheimer was first rate and neatly balanced. Small side vignettes concerning the anti-bomb crusade of Szilard (Michael Tucker) help fill out the story well.

That's the problem here. Paul Newman is a great actor (as is Mr. Dennehy) but Newman approached Groves in a different way that while not dreadful is lesser than Dennehy's intelligent but soft spoken military brass. Newman seems too popped eyed about the possibility of the weapon as the biggest stick to confront the other boys in the after-school yard with. Yes it certainly was, but the real Groves would have been more like Dennehy keeping his mind not on that great toy of the future but on the business of creating that great toy.

Dwight Schultz's performance as Oppeheimer helps maintain the film's basically interesting and good production, aided by Bonnie Bedelia as his wife. But the most interesting aspect of this film is in the upgrading of the two tragedies of Daghlian and Slotin, in particular the latter, in the character of John Cusack's Merriman. Inevitably in all technological advances people are killed. It's just that these two tragedies (on top of the tens of thousands that were lost in Hiroshima and Nagasaki) brought home the dangers of the new unleashed power even in a so-called peaceful, controlled experiment. The two tragedies (particularly Louis Slotin's slow, agonizing death by radiation poisoning) showed how much care was needed in using atomic power - and how the barest of chances could still cause disaster. The only really different thing I saw in Cusack's performance (and the script) and the actual incident with Slotin was that Slotin actually took some time after the accident to figure out where all his fellow research scientists were when they were hit by the radiation from the accident (he was able to show that only he got the full effect of the accidental blast, so that only relatively minor treatment would be needed by the others). Perhaps the full story of Slotin's actions was too technical for the screen, but given the humongous pain he suffered in the end that he took time off to think of the others shows what a first rate person he really was.
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9/10
Disturbing... In many ways, a Nasty Little Film
Gavno2 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
There have been numerous productions that tell of the development of the atomic bomb. The Robert Taylor film ABOVE AND BEYOND (flag waving interservice propaganda really; if you believe this one you think that the Army Air Corps, in the person of Paul W. Tibbits, ran the entire show!), the NBC produced ENOLA GAY (probably A LOT closer to the mark), and the BBC-TV series, OPPENHEIMER, with Sam Waterston in the title role.

FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY takes the same approach that the BBC series did but widens it; it avoids the "Gee Whiz" technology of the Manhattan Project and focuses on human aspects; the personalities involved in the work. Instead of focusing on Oppie, it covers a wide swath of mythical but pretty typical people who were part of it.

With reservations, Dwight Schultz did a good job as Oppie, presenting a dreamy, Ivory Tower academic who struggles to relate his contributions as a physicist to his inclinations to view the world in a wider social and moral context... only to have that struggle won by an overriding lust for personal power and glory. In THE DAY AFTER TRINITY it was made clear that Oppenheimer viewed himself as a "superior being" by virtue of his vast, wide ranging intellectual prowess. In the end that was Robert Oppenheimer's downfall; he saw himself as a sort of "Philosopher/King", a moral and intellectual superior who could (and rightfully SHOULD) "wisely" prescribe what was best for the rest of the world re. nuclear weapons development and deployment.

Unfortunately, wisdom doesn't dictate the actions of nations or direction of events on a global scale. Wisdom doesn't bestow temporal power. When it tries to exercise such nonexistent power (as Oppie found when he opposed the development of "The Super", the hydrogen bomb), wisdom is ignored and banished by those who REALLY have the power.

I found myself faulting Schultz character in one way; his Oppie exposes himself TOO closely and personally to the Manhattan Project, despite the doubts and fears that tore at his intellectual basis. The real Oppenheimer would have had to take a different approach; at the beginning he would have had to come to the firm resolution that the project would result in ultimate good. The ugliness it produced along the way would be an incidental price that must be paid to attain that ultimate good, and it must be ignored... at least until the end of the project when there was leisure to assess the gains and losses. Oppie clearly did that, and it resulted in his controversial postwar statements to the effect that science had now known sin, and that was a knowledge it could never lose.

While the project went on, such considerations HAD to be pushed aside if he was to maintain his sanity.

Because of this ambiguity, Schultz character comes off as a weak, frightened little boy who could NEVER have served as "Coordinator of Rapid Rupture", as Oppenheimer unofficially dubbed his post.

Paul Newman's take on Gen. Leslie R. Groves is fascinating, and a bravura performance, if possibly a LITTLE BIT over the top.

Groves was a civil engineer by training, but first and foremost he was a SOLDIER, and a general to boot! He's accustomed to DEMANDING that things go HIS way... intensely driven, a foul mouthed, spoiled child who has tantrums at the drop of a hat, who reveres his country and isn't too proud to fall on his knees and pray. In other words, very much like REAL (ie, NON civil engineer) soldiers, aka George Patton! Grove's MISSION not only comes first, it is his ONLY consideration... feelings and egos be damned, except for his OWN, of course!

Groves couldn't admit it, but he knew full well that he NEEDED Oppenheimer; military rank meant NOTHING in the world of theoretical physicists. Oppie was a necessary interface between the two worlds he had to straddle.

Again... I have to fault the script on this, and for the same reason.

In reality, Groves already OWNED Oppie; if he didn't, Oppie would never have been chosen for the post in the first place. History tells of MANY cases where other scientists, some as stellar as Oppenheimer, simply walked away from Groves recruitment efforts. At one point Groves was so desperate that he proposed DRAFTING the physicists he needed!

Groves attempts in the film to maneuver and control Oppie were UNNECESSARY... they only exist here as a dramatic device which indeed helps make the atmosphere of the film quite ugly.

Kusak's "Michael Merriman" is a composite of several real characters, but they're from a different time frame. Several research accidents similar to the one depicted happened in POSTWAR weapons research.

Merriman's radiation overdose creates another ugliness in the film, but one which is, IMHO, necessary, and pretty accurate. People with weak stomachs will have a hard time handling the hospital sequences; they're all TOO real.

The main idea that comes across, but not strongly enough IMHO, is the big truth of the Los Alamos experience. The scientists who signed on were young, idealistic and naive as well as talented. Most were on their first excursion out of the shelter of the campus. To them the project was a patriotic adventure that allowed them to practice experimental physics on a large scale without the constraints of budgets or "excessive" bureaucratic oversight.

It was not only their brilliance, but their youthful exuberance that produced the atomic bomb.

There's plenty here to make the thoughtful viewer intensely uncomfortable about this movie. Just the same, if you filter out the Hollywood BS (there isn't that much of it really), this is probably a pretty accurate view of the inside of Manhattan Project.
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2/10
Fictitious sub-plot added for melodramatic or political effect
Harried Howie26 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Six stars for Paul Newman's portrayal of General Groves, negative four for the inclusion of a highly fictionalized event where the truth is well documented. Michael Merriman did not really exist. His character--or at least his fate--is based loosely on that of Louis Slotin, a Canadian physicist who did not come to Los Alamos until after the war. He conducted his lethal "tail of the dragon" experiment in May 1946. This is a critical point. The effects of hard radiation on the human body were not known until they were observed in the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts. Had anyone died of radiation poisoning at Los Alamos before the Trinity test, it's very possible that the scientists would have abruptly stopped their work, and history would have been changed. Whether for the better or the worse we can only speculate. Someone should ask the producers and the director whether they added Merriman's character for dramatic effect or to deliver an anti-nuclear message. For a more even-handed and accurate treatment of events at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, see the TV movie, "Day One," or better yet, read the Peter Wyden book on which it is based.
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2/10
A curiosity and very little else
w2amarketing28 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I've read just about every major book about the Manhattan Project. Most people know what it was, but few people understand the depth and breadth of the project. Its scope was immeasurably massive -- rivaled in US history perhaps only by the space program of the 1960's.

There were -- literally -- MILLIONS of people involved from all walks of life at numerous sites (most clandestine) around the country, each involved in a specific and different aspect of the project that they couldn't talk about to the person sitting in the cubicle next to them, much less their family. The logistics are overwhelming, particularly given the considerations of wartime communication, security and transportation in the 1940's.

As an example -- my colleague's father was a carpenter who worked for one of the companies that had a contract with the federal government for the Manhattan Project. His job was to supervise a crew of about 30 other carpenters, who were responsible for manufacturing forms for the pouring of concrete for the massive research installations at Hanford, Washington. That's "all" he did, six days a week for nearly two years. These carpenters needed food, housing, sanitary facilities, hospitals and materials just as much as did Oppenheimer and his crowd at the top of the pyramid. Just think about it! That being said, it's simply impossible to do the subject justice in a 2-hour movie. In defense of Joffe, however, I would say that they had an impossible task, particularly since he chose to have a diverse screenplay with multiple plots, multiple angles, and multiple characters. What, exactly, was he thinking, and how could he be so arrogant to think that this would work? That's Hollywood, I guess.

FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY has so many flaws that it would take a book to list them all. Horrible casting. Dreadful (and politically-motivated) writing. Bad science. The portrayals of Groves and Oppie are particularly inaccurate and downright galling. Notwithstanding the screenplay's all-too-obvious agenda, it is STILL incredibly bland and sloppy.

These flaws have been listed elsewhere on IMDb, but I was particularly struck by the fact that the scientists had so much time on their hands -- softball, horseback riding, parties, semi-formal dinners, ballet, etc., not to mention romance, and of course circulating political petitions. According to FM&LB, if these great brains had gotten off their duffs and actually spent some time in the lab instead of seducing Laura Dern, we might have won the war before D-Day.

One final gripe -- FM&LB mentions that "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" were the code names of the two atomic bombs, but it doesn't mention that these names were a semi-good-natured jab at Groves ("Fat Man", for heavy stature) and Oppenheimer ("Little Boy," for his slight stature). Another reason Paul Newman should not have been in this movie...
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1/10
When Newman has lousy directing
rameyzamora23 January 2018
A waste of time and life, this movie proves what it looks like when Paul Newman isn't directed properly. Like Elizabeth Taylor and a few other very high level actors, Newman needed a particularly good hand to come up with his best work. This isn't it, and it's actually painfully embarrassing. Skip this one.
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7/10
Perhaps Too Overly Dramatized, But A Good Consideration Of The Moral Dilemma Surrounding The Development Of The Atomic Bomb
sddavis632 January 2011
This account of the experiments that led up to the development of the atomic bomb in 1945 chooses to deal with the issue far more from a human perspective than from a scientific perspective. The focus is on the men who were involved with the project - especially Gen. Leslie Groves (Paul Newman), who was in charge, and the lead scientist Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz.) The more technical issues aren't ignored, but the story revolves around the way in which the project impacts on the men's personal lives. On the negative side, the movie takes on at times a bit of a soap opera feel, dealing more with the men's love interests than with the project itself. It was also unfortunate that the movie chose to create the fictional character of "Michael Merriman" (played by John Cusack.) The accident in which Merriman is poisoned by radiation and later dies really happened, but it took place in 1946, long after the war was over, and the victim was actually a Canadian physicist named Louis Slotin. Why this imaginary bit of history was conjured up wasn't really clear to me, except for the fact that it obviously dramatized the dangers of the project, and allowed for the insertion of a tear jerker moment, when a nurse who had fallen in love with him (Laura Dern) comes to him on his deathbed to make sure he knows her feelings. Emotional to be sure, but perhaps a bit too much dramatic licence was taken there.

Where the movie hit home, though, was in the depiction of the growing moral qualms felt by the scientists who were working on the project. At first working willingly when it seemed as if there was a race to get the bomb before Nazi Germany, questions began to bubble when it was discovered that the Nazis had no real interest in the bomb. Then they were defeated and Japan didn't even have the capacity to make a bomb. The moral questions were very real, and very well depicted.

Everyone involved with this did a credible job. I didn't think this was an outstanding movie, but it provided a glimpse at what was going on in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the early 40's - obviously a key period in human history.
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7/10
Compelling and Important
kcterrell-2504626 August 2018
Top performances by Newman and Cusack really make this film work. It is a retelling of the Manhattan Project, with the most brilliant minds in America all engaged in developing the Atomic Bomb. A top secret operation that placed enormous emotional pressures on the scientists kept under constant surveillance during the mission, and toward the end, the moral implications of what they were about to accomplish as seekers of truth, not reapers of death. I have read other reviews of this film and disagree with some. To me, I found the science and the hundreds of variables that made this invention possible to have been slim in the scientific explanation of how these brilliant men overcame each obstacle. I would have liked the film to explain more about the actual science that went into developing the most innovative and earth-changing invention of all time. But, that minor complaint does not detract from the film presentation. I recommend this movie for anyone looking for a thought-provoking two hours rather than pure entertainment.
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