The trouble with true stories is a subject I like to tackle. I really hit it hard with Patch Adams, which was idiotic enough to use "based on a true story" as its tag line. Likewise, I'm not going easy on Fat Man and Little Boy for the fact that it is based on fact.
Fat Man and Little Boy, for anyone who has been locked up for the past sixty years, are the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. The movie is basically a humanization of the people who invented in, the team of crackpot physicists on the Manhattan Project (led by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, played by Dwight Schultz) and the military general in charge (Leslie Groves, played by Paul Newman). John Cusack plays the wunderkid of the physicists, Michael Merriman. Laura Dern plays his girlfriend, a nurse.
Now I like Cusack and I love Dern, but Paul Newman has gotten on my nerves one too many times and Dwight Schultz is too much a character actor to play the part. He can play a nerd, he can play a funny nerd, but he can't play a moralistic nerd.
The movie spends about two hours talking. The first part of it is talking physics. The second part of it is talking morals. Physics is a subject you probably don't have any interest in. Morals are a subject that, when applied right, push emotional buttons.
With the way Fat Man and Little Boy was filmed, morals don't do much for it. To a brain, the movie is slightly fascinating to watch. To a philosopher, the movie might be interesting. To Joe Schmoe from Alamo, forget it.
All of the plot twists can be found in the history books, so I don't hesitate to spoil the ending: they build the impossible weapon. And along the way a couple of people die. And by the time they get it done they really didn't need it, but the cruel general wanted it so they gave it to him. Etc.
The movie might actually have been good if it had been done with a little more pinnace. The characters may be real, but they are not well developed. We do not get any reasons why for anyone. In a normal movie this would be OK but Fat Man and Little Boy decided it wanted not only to be a moralistic sermon on the mount but a character drama, too.
Even the good actors in this film perform badly. Dern, normally one of the finest actresses to grace the silver screen over the past 20 years, ends up simply acting the lovestruck bimbo. Cusack, a generally smart fellow, does his best to act his worst.
And don't even get me started on Paul Newman.
I grew up in the Cold War. I grew up with constantly being told that we could be nuked at any moment. I grew up with the history lessons on the creation of the bomb.
I don't care to watch a bad two-hour long film about it.