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Fat Man and the Little Boy: A Comparison with Historical Accounts

Introduction

Films have become an integral component of the world’s cultural landscape and one of the primary means of pastime for millions of people. In addition to entertainment, motion pictures have immense potential in terms of another function, an educational one. Films serve as a convenient medium of information, allowing people to learn more about various phenomena or events. Some of such works focus on important pages of the history of humanity, which become a major source of inspiration for screenwriters and directors. Nevertheless, especially in the case of fictional motion pictures, these events may be subject to an alternative interpretation conditioned by the necessity to adapt the events to the rules of cinematography or even the social and political agendas. Fat Man and the Little Boy, directed by Roland Joffé, revolves around one of the most controversial events in the history of the world, which is the Manhattan Project and the subsequent deployment of nuclear bombs in Japan. The purpose of this paper is to review the portrayal of the even in the film while comparing it to the actual historical accounts.

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Background

World War II became one of the darkest pages of the history of the world. The clash between the Earth’s strongest armies spanned across the globe and resulted in millions of casualties, including civilians. Amid the battle, each side wanted to secure its victory, which was only possible through the development of new, unparalleled means of warfare. The Manhattan Project was one of such initiatives organized in the United States in 1942 (Reed 128). Its purpose was to create a weapon of unseen power, capable of shifting the power balance on the front lines of World War II. It relied on the rapidly developing field of nuclear physics, as leading theorists of the time asserted the possibility of exploiting the destructive power of atomic nucleus energy. Led by Dr. Oppenheimer, the Manhattan project led to the creation of the first atomic bomb, which was first tested in Nevada in 1945 (Reed 287). However, the two consequent explosions happened in the actual war environment, as Fat Man and Little Boy were deployed over Japanese cities.

Film

The plot of the film Fat Man and the Little Boy, directed by Roland Joffé, is devoted to these events. The motion picture covers the period between 1942, when the Project was launched, until the successful deployment of the titular bombs in 1945. Its main character is Colonel Leslie Groves, the man who oversaw the construction of the Pentagon and is now assigned to the Manhattan Project. For the main character, the research matters primarily due to the outcome of the war. His military perspective often clashes with the scientific expertise of Dr. Oppenheimer, causing strained relations within the Project’s team. In addition, other scientists involved in the task continuously question the moral aspect of the initiative. Along with the technical issues of the atomic bomb development, the motion picture devotes sufficient time to the adverse consequences of radiation on the human body. However, as it was in real life, the story ends with the successful Trinity test and further deployment of Fat Man and Little Boy in Japan.

Historical Accounts

The film by Roland Joffé is a remarkable work of cinematography in that the director managed to grasp the duality of the Manhattan Project. The film did not attempt to glorify the initiative, showing both sides of the actual story. In several scenes, the lethal impact of radiation is highlighted, which corresponds to the historical data related to the Project (Reed 250). The personality of the leading character is also based on the actual stance of the American commanders of the time. According to McKinney et al., revealed archives prove that the bombing of Japanese cities had the objective to intimidate the enemy by killing a large number of civilians while destroying the area’s infrastructure (157). Evidently, the film did not have a sufficient timeframe to show all the relevant personalities, but the repeating conflict between Dr. Oppenheimer and Colonel Groves serves to represent the clash of opinions of much larger groups. Nevertheless, the film ends with the moment of successful detonation of the bombs, disregarding the adverse consequences and civilians’ suffering inflicted by Fat Man and Little Boy.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the portrayal of historical events in films is often distorted, as facts are sacrificed in favor of cinematography and politics. It takes considerable mastery to direct an accurate yet enticing historical film. In most ways, Roland Joffé succeeded in transferring the controversial history of the Manhattan Project onto the screen. The internal conflicts and clashes of opinions are represented in the motion picture, whereas the negative effects of radiation are not disregarded. Simultaneously, the moral struggle of the scientists working on the Project equally received significant attention. However, in the eyes of an unprepared viewer, the culmination of the film may be considered an utterly positive triumph of science. However, the dubious nature of the Manhattan Project is revealed through its immense short- and long-term consequences. Therefore, a complete understanding of even the most remarkable historical films requires the knowledge of the broader context, as well as a sufficient degree of critical thinking.

Works Cited

Fat Man and Little Boy. Directed by Roland Joffé, performance by Paul Newman, Paramount Pictures, 1989.

McKinney, Katherine E. et al. “Why the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima Would Be Illegal Today”. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 76, no. 4., 2020, pp. 157-165.

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Reed, Bruce C. Manhattan Project: The Story of the Century. Springer Nature, 2019.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, August 16). Fat Man and the Little Boy: A Comparison with Historical Accounts. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/fat-man-and-the-little-boy-a-comparison-with-historical-accounts/

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StudyCorgi. "Fat Man and the Little Boy: A Comparison with Historical Accounts." August 16, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/fat-man-and-the-little-boy-a-comparison-with-historical-accounts/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Fat Man and the Little Boy: A Comparison with Historical Accounts." August 16, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/fat-man-and-the-little-boy-a-comparison-with-historical-accounts/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Fat Man and the Little Boy: A Comparison with Historical Accounts'. 16 August.

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