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  • American Experience: The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer
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American Experience: The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer


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Product Details

  • Actors: David Strathairn
  • Directors: David Grubin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: March 24, 2009
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001P7DUFE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,904 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

J. Robert Oppenheimer's life and legacy are inextricably linked to America's most famous top-secret initiative - the Manhattan Project. But after World War II, this brilliant and intense scientist fell from the innermost circles of American science, and at the height of the Red Scare, the veil of suspicion fell over Oppenheimer. This biography presents a complex and revealing portrait of one of America's most influential scientists.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 100 REVIEWER on July 21, 2009
Format: DVD
David Strathaim is the perfect actor to play the beleaguered Robert Oppenheimer, even resembling him physically. I wish they had included the poignant episode where walking in the desert after the explosion of the first atomic bomb; a turtle crosses his way. He picks it up to bring home to his daughter. After a while he stops, turns around and goes back and places it again precisely where he took it with a remark that he has already done enough damage to the world. This, for me has always summed up his conflict - building the bomb and as the film is careful to point out in several instances helping and advising how to drop the bomb to create the most destruction.
What and where the hearings occurred that took his clearance away and seemed to destroy him emotionally are described and recreated. Using transcripts of the trials Oppenheimer's problems with the communist witch hunt are shown. Using real pictures of Oppenheimer and then the recreations of him by David Strathaim we see the exquisite details of his mind and how it worked. What really comes out is Oppenheimer`s naivety in how his connections with communist party members would affect him.
It is interesting and I wish they could have made clearer why General Groves chose him over much incredulity to head the Manhattan Project.
As with so many films of this genera the `talking heads' can be distracting and or boring. I have especially found that students in school have an marked dislike to this use of someone looking at the camera explaining their experiences. I have to admit they could give these interviewees their bit of `fame' and then use their narration over pictures and films rather than sitting and watching someone talking to the camera.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard Walters on May 8, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If one only studies the role of Oppenheimer in the development of the bomb during WWII, much of the complexity of this man would be lost. Several good books have recently been published on Oppenheimer that tell the "rest of the story", but this is by far the best video I have seen that does likewise. Strathairn, a fine, in my opinion underrated, actor, portrayed Oppenheimer in an earlier film, "Day One" and returns here to write what is almost the final chapter in this man's life. Whether the government was justified in its action against Oppenheimer is up to the viewer to decide.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Vernon E. Grier on April 16, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a great documentary of one of America's greatest scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer. This film focuses on his early life, his climb to prominence in the academic field of physics, his work as Director of the Manhattan Project, his appointment as overseer of the newly formed Nuclear Regulatory Commission, his subsequent trial, dismissal and he being ostrasized by his colleagues and the political machine of the time. Tragically, the US asked this man to devlop the A-bomb and then discarded him for his achievement, the hipocracy of our democracy!
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Thomas A. Burk on March 26, 2009
Format: DVD
Another fine documentary by David Grubin. Mr. Grubin is the finest documentary filmmaker working today, and that includes Ken Burns. David Strathairn does a wonderful job portraying Dr. Oppenheimer. The interviews with those who knew Oppie are excellent and each does a fine job in adding layers to this complicated story of an amazing man. The interviews with the biographers (Martin Sherwin, Priscilla McMillan, and Herbert York) are especially insightful. The show concentrates on only one of the "big things" in Robert's life -- his role as scientific advisor after the war, although his Manhattan project work is also excellently described. His childhood is briefly but nicely sketched. Even his physics before the war is touched on, although little is made of his bringing modern physics fully into America (he was far more than just a bright professor at Berkeley).

It makes sense to concentrate on his "trial" because that is where most of the drama lies. That is where he is most clearly seen as a victim. It even touches a little on his self-inflicted wounds, especially in his horrible relationship with Truman and Eisenhower and their administrations. Robert was loved by physicists for his nurturing of modern physics and was loved by the nation, for a while, with his Manhattan Project successes. But his guilt was so excessive that it truly unhinged him despite his enormous intellect. His tactlessness with important people is only briefly hinted at. He made enemies, boy did he!

His personal life is slightly touched on. Robert just wasn't the type of person who could function well in a political setting. He was ill-suited to being a scientific advisor -- his only advantage was his brilliance scientifically.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Little Bear 59 on May 24, 2011
Format: DVD
This is one of the finest documentaries ever made. It gives a very good sense of who Oppenheimer was and why. The whole story behind the Manhattan Project is almost surreal. It is also a case study of how government "works" (really doesn't work). It should serve as a wake up call for anyone who thinks the people in power have our best interests as their first priority. There is so much to be said for this documentary. But what I came away with is how truly unbelievable it is that we have not all been annihilated long ago. A must see.
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