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Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)

Paul Newman , Dwight Schultz , Roland Joffé  |  PG-13 |  DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Newman, Dwight Schultz, Bonnie Bedelia, John Cusack, Laura Dern
  • Directors: Roland Joffé
  • Writers: Roland Joffé, Bruce Robinson
  • Producers: John Calley, Kimberly Cooper, Tony Garnett
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Widescreen, Surround Sound, Digital Sound, NTSC
  • Language: English, French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: April 27, 2004
  • Run Time: 127 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001EQIJC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,070 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Fat Man and Little Boy" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Fat Man and Little Boy (a.k.a. Shadow Makers in the UK) is a 1989 film that reenacts the Manhattan Project, the secret Allied endeavor to develop the first nuclear weapons during World War II. The film is named after the weapons "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" detonated over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, respectively. The code names, originally Fat Man and Thin Man, were drawn from characters in the works of Dashiell Hammett. However, there's a possible secondary allusion to stout project director Gen. Leslie Groves and the slim scientific director, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer. The film focuses much attention on the frequently strained relationship between the two men. The film was directed by Roland Joffe and written by Joffe and Bruce Robinson.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointing June 20, 2007
As much as I admire Paul Newman, this film is so terribly flawed that even his presence can't salvage it. The Manhattan Project is such a critical juncture in recent history that I think it's very important that the story be told realistically. This film is 90% Hollywood formula and 10% history. Only in the broadest brushstrokes does this movie give the viewer any kind of concept of that monumental undertaking. Do yourself a BIG favor; watch the far superior (and very accurate) "Day One" instead. In all respects, it is a much better account and much more interesting film. The main characters are presented as scientists, engineers, and military officers, not goofballs and nutty professors, as they are in "Fat Man and Little Boy."
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48 of 58 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mostly Fiction April 14, 2003
By Tony
Format:VHS Tape
Yes, there was a Manhattan Project and people named Groves, Oppenheimer and Szilard and yes Leo Szilard did like to spend as much time in the bath tub as possible (thinking) but other than that, this film was largely fictional. I was bothered by the historical inaccuracies including: 1. Groves met Szilard at the University of Chicago along with the rest of the scientists that worked there, not in a bathroom in Szilards hotel with Szilard in a tub and Groves on a toilet. 2. The Manhattan Project was much bigger than Los Alamos and Groves dealt with two other major groups that are mostly not even depicted. 3. Groves and Oppenheimer had a very different and more cooperative relationship than is depicted in the movie. 4. Groves was not subject to temper tantrums like Newman's depiction. He was actually very quiet, but extremely sarcastic, socially awkward, pear shaped and somewhat arrogant. He was also smart as a tack, having attended both MIT and West Point, where he was fourth in his class. He created three cities that are now major cities in their states and an industry bigger than the U.S. Automobile industry in just over three years. This was no dummy.
A more accurate movie is "Day One", at least as far as the plot goes, but even that fails to grasp the Manhattan Project's scope. The best film on it, which unfortunately no longer exists, was "The Beginning or the End" which was made in 1946 (Brian Donlevy played Groves). The main people on the project served as technical advisors for that one. Unfortunately, that was never put on video and probably rotted away in some warehouse.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Meledramatic and poor July 27, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
As much as I like Paul Newman, this movie is very disappointing once you've seen the far-superior film "Day One". The portrayal of Oppenheimer and Groves is overly dramatic and totally unlike the behavior of real professional people. The movie dwells on romantic side stories instead of fleshing out the history and science of the Manhatten project.

Be sure to see "Day One" if you are interested in this, and give this film a miss.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fat Man and Little Boy December 27, 2006
Overall, I found this to be a fairly good movie, but I just can't stand it when fictitious characters (ie, Michael Merriman (played by John Cusack)) are worked into a plot--usually in an effort to create a love-interest aspect--in order to make the movie more palatible to a general audience. Sorry, but this is a fascinating story in its own right and shouldn't be marred in this way. Fortunately, the complexities of the issues surrounding the creation on The Bomb are addressed, but I think the treatment what the motivations for the individual scientists were left much to be desired.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disapponting April 15, 2007
This is such an important story, with layer upon layer upon layer of aspects of the modern realities ushered in by the Manhattan Project. C.P Snow in his famous essay regarding The Two Cultures raises implications about the way that the humanities department trains young minds relative to the science and engineering department. If the military approached a group of leading poets and declared that poetry possessed a potential they wanted to transform into a super weapon--how would the poets have responded? Posing a similar question to physicists, they all raced to the blackboard to be the first to solve the equation for the authorities.

So many issues, creativity, authority, diplomacy,secrecy, espionage, urgency...all provide the natural elements to a serious, gripping story. But this screenplay chooses to throw in silly romantic subplots, and alter the facts in the service of their silly Hollywood formula.Ughh. Especially annoying is the distortion of the circumstances surrounding the lab accident that befell Louis Slotkin, the Canadian, now morphed into a hybrid romantic figure in this puerile reworking of history. Maybe someday, someone will do the subject justice in a dramatic structure, until then the excellent documentary, 'The Day After Trinity' will have to suffice.

The screenplay illustrates the powerlessness of acting talent in the face of poor writing. Unfortunately, and maybe this is an inevitable remark, the film ends with a whimper, not a bang.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An emotionally moving historical novel January 12, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
"The world is not what we wanted it to be." So says Dr. Oppenheimer to his wife, late in the film. Oppenheimer's optimism and scientific idealism are only one small casualty of the pursuit of the atomic bomb; we see several others through the course of the film. The fears of that time -- especially of Communism -- cause Oppenheimer's own credibility to be always in doubt in the eyes of the military, and his Communist-sympathizing mistress almost inevitably becomes another casualty of these forces.

The scientist Michael Merriman (actually a composite of a few real-life characters; try looking up "Louis Slotin" in your favorite search engine) asks whether it is more instinctive in humans to save life or to destroy it. This becomes one of the central themes of the film. Merriman twice heroically saves the lives of others, but the second time receives a lethal exposure to radiation himself in the process. I have read comments in other reviews that Merriman's (fictional) romance with a nurse at the base hospital was unnecessary and too contrived, but I think that this sort of dramatic element helps provide an emotional context for the bomb's direct and indirect victims; also, Merriman's ultimately tragic romance parallels that of Oppenheimer with his "security-risk" mistress.

This film touches on many of the issues of the creation of the atomic bomb: the logistical challenges, the personal and moral and political challenges. These multiple issues are treated more or less equally, and none is really treated in depth at the expense of the others. Some viewers may regard this lack of depth as a liability, but I think the overall balance is good.

The dramatic quality (acting, writing, etc.) of the film is also generally good, with a few faults.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
LIked the movie. I had visited the sites and wanted to see the movie.
Published 2 days ago by Joseph Reynolds
5.0 out of 5 stars My son is very interested in WWII history as well ...
My son is very interested in WWII history as well as the military. I showed him this movie so that he could understand the importance of science and engineering.
Published 5 days ago by Jon C.
5.0 out of 5 stars He was delighted I found this
My husband loves old movies. He was delighted I found this.
Published 11 days ago by martyjo
5.0 out of 5 stars A film for historians, scientists, and the curious.
Fantastic acting by Paul Newman and Dwight Schultz.
Published 18 days ago by Heather Magee
2.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this ancient flic...
Since I had read American Prometheus about J. Robert Oppenheimer, I was interested in this flic. Paul Newman was a mismatch for BG Groves but because he is such a great actor I... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overlooked movie, but not for people that want a simple morality...
The movie was a little too long and the characters took too long to develop. Otherwise, I was very pleasantly surprised. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bill
4.0 out of 5 stars a good portrayal of events and issues related to Manhattan project
There are many angles taken in movies and documentaries with respect to the Manhattan project. This one, focusing on the relationship between the scientific project lead and the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by String Theory
5.0 out of 5 stars Fat Man and Little Boy
My husband personally requested to watch this movie. He likes it because of the historical elements. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Suck It Axis Powers!
Got this movie as a preamble to visiting the Trinity site the one day a year it's open to the public.
Published 3 months ago by Michael Hunt
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual approach to the Manhattan Project. General Groves is ...
Unusual approach to the Manhattan Project. General Groves is overlooked when it comes to who gets credit for the bomb. This movie sets the record straight. Read more
Published 3 months ago by mandrake
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