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The Manhattan Project (Special Edition)

4.1 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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(Jun 19, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

In this nail-biting thriller, Paul (CHRISTOPHER COLLET), a bright 16-year-old, discovers that his mother's boyfriend Dr. Mathewson (JOHN LITHGOW) is refining plutonium undercover, right in their neighborhood. Intent on exposing the secret weapons factory, Paul steals some plutonium with the help of his girlfriend (CYNTHIA NIXON) and constructs his own atomic bomb. By the time Dr. Mathewson discovers the plutonium is missing and informs the government, the device is built - but the timer inadvertently turns on, beginning a countdown to nuclear catastrophe. Suspenseful to the last few seconds, this intriguing, provocative story takes its name from the real Manhattan Project in the 1940s that brought about the development of the first nuclear weapon used in World War II.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: John Lithgow, Christopher Collet
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: June 19, 2007
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000OY9V98
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,679 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This movie has been a personal favorite since I first saw it on HBO in the 1980s, enough that I bought a copy on Laserdisc, when there still were such things!

A generic recipe for any decent movie might run along these lines: Take some interesting and/or sympathetic characters, put them in a situation that challenges them and their attitudes, and see what they do. Here we have the light-hearted high school genius (who stumbles upon a secret nuclear weapons lab in his town, and wonders what to do about it); his socially-conscious political-activist girlfriend; and a government scientist for whom ultra-purification of Plutonium is an abstract, intellectual challenge (until he finds himself in a situation where the end product might kill actual people that he knows).

People who dislike this movie generally have a complaint either with its plausibility, or its tone. OK, plausibility first. The weapons lab is "hidden in plain sight." An obvious high security presence would call unwanted attention to it; instead, it is disguised as a medical facility. (When I was in high school, my band teacher had some tape recorders that he used for students to record and listen to themselves in the practice room, etc. He kept these thrown in a big cardboard box, right out in the open, and each unit had scrawled on it: BROKEN. Not a single one was ever stolen. Same strategy here.) And the techniques that our young student hero uses to break into the lab are all well-established earlier in the film, including the fact that he can throw a mean Frisbee.

Yes, it requires some suspension of disbelief, but no more so than most other movies. At least an attempt is made to explain the events and make them seem logical.
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Format: VHS Tape
A decent plot matters - especially in a film like this where the last twenty minutes slowly drift into a string of humdrum sequences. And a decent plot is what this film is capable of - I salute the filmmaker for that. First off,we get Paul,a teen science whiz who puts on his thinking cap when his mother starts dating a man who works at a science research lab. But it ain't jealousy (though that would've made the film a bit more congenial). He wants to know the secret behind the plutonium experiments,which caught his eye the moment he stepped foot into the lab. While on a date with his girlfriend,played by the sultry Cynthia Nixon of 'Sex and the City',they discuss their plan on stealing the plutonium and immediately put their plan into action by going to the lab,despite the heavy rain outside. With a quick thinking mind that drugdes at the snap of your fingers,Paul carefully damages the monitor alarms,leading the security to believe that the havoc is caused by the lightning outside. Of course,the task is completed successfully. From then,Paul creates a bomb from the plutonium (displayed in a rather cartoonish manner,like something from an 80s TV sitcom),believing that it would turn heads at his school science fair. Soon the scientist (John Lithgow) discovers the missing plutonium,which was replaced by a bottle of glitter and shampoo,courtesy of Paul's creative streak. The scientist,appalled,starts a search party for Paul,who's now in New York attending the science fair. They eventually found him and grilled him and his girlfriend in a police station. Luckily,Paul and his girlfriend were soon rescued by their opponents at the fair (never mind the competition - the opponents are at large to win the affections of Paul's girlfriend Jenny,thereby the rescue).Read more ›
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Format: DVD
I love this movie. I agree with several of the points made by other reviewers. One, there is a certain amount of suspending disbelief that one must do to enjoy it. Two, and absolutely on the mark, this is a character driven movie, not plot driven. Three, this isn't a movie to be deeply analyzed. It's an 80s movie with witty/sarcastic humor and a plot that works best if you like the main characters. 'War Games' is a better all around movie, but after repeated viewings, I like watching Christopher Collet more than Matthew Broderick (Plus, I can't stand looking at Ally Sheedy, IN ANYTHING!!!). To me, this is an afterschool special-type movie (remember those???). It's weird, but I always watch this movie as if I was 16 years old (which is about how old I was when it came out). I don't even have to try, it just happens. Though 'Real Genius' is funnier and 'War Games' plot and script better, 'The Mahattan Project' has its own special charms that make it worth buying the DVD and watching every few months (depending how many times you've already seen it, that is...)
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Format: VHS Tape
Why is it unlikely? If you are holding 99.99% pure Plutonium 239 that could make 70 kiloton Nuclear bombs at a time, would you have only one guard protecting it?
The movie has a lot of merits. John Lithgow is very three dimensional, as a hot-shot scientist that is looking for love. A derivative movie would have made him an egotistical nihilist with no redeeming features. But here he plays a person who you root for, even over the main protagonist at time.
The protagonist is Paul Stephens, played by David Collett. While very bright, he is not shown as a social leper or a total nerd. Cute girls are even attracted to him (portrayed by Cynthia Nixon of "Sex and the City" fame).
If you have a high notion of suspension of disbelief, then you can forgive the idea of a person learning to build a working Atom bomb from reading a few books. And that two kids could easily break into a highly classified research lab. And that scientists could mistake joy dishwater soap for Plutonium for so long.
However, I liked the prepubscent X-files type of conspiracy theme, especially at the Science Fair. Also, the last 20 minutes, where they have to defuse the bomb has surprising intelligence.
Even though this movie is dated (1980's fashion and looks...I can't see this phase making a comeback...And I was a teen through that era!) it is more intelligent and smarter than what Hollywood makes today. While not as good as my favorite smart teen movie (Real Genius), the Manhattan Project does a good job....Rating: B-
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