Monday, January 14, 2013

New Mexico Movies: The Bombs

Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Base, near Alamogordo, New Mexico

New Mexico served as ground zero for the beginning of the American atomic age. 

I watched a couple of movies about this history. Each is engaging and informative in different ways. It's worthwhile to watch both. 

In general, the movies did a good job of laying out the history of the bombs without editorializing. The filmmakers let the key players tell their own stories, so the viewers could draw their own conclusions without an interpretative middle man. The filmmakers respected their audience enough to let them come to their own conclusions about the justification for Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and the use of islands in the Pacific for so much testing through the years).

I found Edward Teller, so-called "father of the hydrogen bomb," and who appeared in both documentaries, to be rather chilling in his testimony.

Of course, there was a deliberate choice by the Trinity and Beyond filmmakers to screen a relentless repetition of unfurling mushroom clouds, which can't help but have the same disturbing effect as watching those constant rewinds of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers or the horrendous replay of Hurricane Katrina images. In my opinion, this movie is not suitable for children younger than 14.

Trinity & Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie. I didn't know that the U.S. and Russia had conducted so many atomic bomb tests - underground, above ground - low, above ground - high, above water, below water, and in space. (The U.S. alone conducted 331 atmospheric nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, or ~ 19.5 per year.) Seeing so many mushroom clouds - their malevolent beauty - letting sink in the arrogance of government entities, no matter with how much patriotic fervor they rationalized their actions, to release such malignant forces into our world, was disturbing and depressing. Notwithstanding the subject matter, the movie displayed excellent production values and appropriate music. Was too intense for me to watch in one sitting; had to view it in small doses.

The Manhattan Project (The History Channel). The filmmakers were good storytellers, maintaining a linear narrative while balancing effectively the science, politics, contemporary events, character studies, firsthand accounts, and historians' accounts. Of the two movies, this one did a better job of explaining how the bombs worked. When I say "better,"  I mean easier to understand.

Fat Man. Photo from: Wikipedia and John Coster-Mullen



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