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Fat Man and Little Boy

Fat Man and Little Boy on DVD

Paul Newman stars as tough as nails general Leslie Groves in this story recounting of the work that led to the development of the atomic bomb during World War II.

And it’s a surprisingly even handed tale, considering Hollywood’s bent for things liberal and for rewriting history. It isn’t completely balanced, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with liberal dogma, so that must be considered a victory for balance in this partisan age. The movie rightly touches on the moral questions about a weapon that not only could lay waste to an entire city and its population, but which also changes the face of warfare and, indeed, the world in which we live in.

The atomic bomb is a horrible weapon. But its development was inevitable and, as Roland Joffe’s film clearly states, the decision to research it was motivated not only by “because they could” but because they were afraid of the consequences of inaction when it appeared clear to them that the Nazis were also researching such a weapon. And does any thinking person doubt that the Nazis would have used it (or the threat of it, which is also a concept discussed in this film) to pursue their goal of world domination?

It was no easy task, of course, pushing the outside of the technological envelope as they did, and the bulk of the story follows the work of Robert Oppenheimer’s (Dwight Schultz) team as they worked – isolated from friend and family alike – to unlock the secrets of the universe. They not only had to discover how to tame the atom, but how to control it as well: what good is an atomic bomb if it destroys those who wield it as well as those upon whom it is unleashed?

Newman is an outstanding actor and, as usual, he’s completely believable as General Groves. Schultz, who we remember best from his role in a couple of Star Trek The Next Generation episodes, goes toe to toe with the legendary Newman (which we imagine must be a tad intimidating) and does a very good job. His Oppenheimer is a man torn in many different directions – but also a man who knows he’s the top in his field.

The supporting cast is made up of very good actors, most of whom have quite small parts in what’s really Schultz/Newman’s movie. Laura Dern is a nurse who falls in love with John Cusak – only to lose him in a most horrifying way. Bonnie Bedelia is Oppenheimer’s loyal wife, and Natasha Richardson has a single scene as the “other woman.” All turn in believable performances.

One bit of liberalism – or at least a lack of balance - comes through at the end, as the fate of “fat man” and “little boy” (the two atomic bombs that successfully ended the war) is outlined. Titles correctly point out that the use of the bombs killed some 200,000 people, but the other side – how many lives from both sides of the conflict were saved and how much of Japan wasn’t destroyed because the war ended quickly and decisively instead of dragging on and on as the allies finally invaded Japan and fought it to its eventual and inevitable surrender - is never touched upon. And how many other conflicts never started because of the mere threat of nuclear weapons?

Oh well…

The DVD is excellent, though sparse. It’s presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture is outstanding. Colors are rich and deep, and the image is gorgeous, from the lovely locations to the “little things” like the wrinkles in a soldier’s uniform that come through beautifully.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and we thought it was okay but bass heavy. The opening credits caused things on our home theater walls to shake – and imagine what happened when the atomic bomb test went off! And because we had to turn it down during those moments, it led to other parts of the film (dialogue etc.) to be a tad soft.

There are no extras, unfortunately.

Fat Man and Little Boy, from Paramount Home Entertainment
126 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Paul Newman, Dwight Schultz, John Cusak, Bonnie Bedelia, Laura Dern
Produced by Tony Garnett,
Written by Bruce Robinson and Roland Joffe, directed by Roland Joffee


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