17 February 2008 | bkoganbing
The Challenge Of The Problem
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.