Recounting the events leading up to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, HIROSHIMA expertly and fascinatingly blends archival footage with docudrama reenactments and interviews of American politicians, veterans, and Japanese survivors.
The film opens with the announcement of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death and the inauguration of Vice President Harry S. Truman (Kenneth Welsh) as the new commander in chief. At this stage in WWII, the atomic bomb had been in development for two years, but political outsider Truman knew nothing of
its existence. After Truman is informed of the existence of the Manhattan Project, headed by physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Jeffrey DeMunn), the Interim Committee is formed. Composed of military and political leaders, with Oppenheimer as the voice of science, the Committee assumes that the bomb
is going to be used, and struggles only with the questions of how and when. Their answer was to drop the world's first atomic bomb unannounced on a city containing both military and civilian targets.
Most of the film is spent examining events in both the US and Japan leading up to this decision, and the political, moral, and cultural ramifications that resulted. The film details much of the complicated tactical decisions of this segment of WWII, clarifying for modern viewers the multiple
agendas and overlapping loyalties at play. For example, as the Americans are deciding how and when to drop the bomb, Japanese diplomatic envoys are reaching out to Stalin (Serge Christiannsens) to negotiate a peace between Japan and the US. However, instead of answering the envoys, Stalin travels
to Potsdam, where he signs the Potsdam Declaration with Churchill (Timothy West) and Truman, uniting their representative countries against Japan.
The war ends only after the US drops an atomic bomb on two Japanese cities, and Emperor Hirohito (Naohiko Umewaka) agrees to "endure the unendurable," i.e., suffer loss of honor and surrender. The head of the Japanese military, who advocated continuing the fight even in the face of the bombings of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, commits hari kari rather than accept the Emperor's decision. The film ends with the signing of the declaration of peace between Japan and the US and its allies.
From beginning to end, HIROSHIMA is utterly fascinating. Given a story so well known from the historical "outside," this film remains immediate and fresh by giving the viewer an insider's view to the closed-door decisions that catapulted history into the Atomic Age.
One of the most interesting aspects of this film is the representation of the discord among the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project. Some who were involved leave the project, while others try desperately to dissuade US military personnel from continuing with the construction of the
ultimate device of destruction. While the morally-compromised Oppenheimer acknowledges the "Faustian bargain" of the bomb, he is so heavily invested in his "baby" that he cannot accept its possible non-completion or non-use.
Dealing as it does with one of the seminal events of the 20th century--if not all of human history--HIROSHIMA is compelling and compulsory viewing for any thinking person who wants to be informed about the times in which we live. (Adult situations, violence.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: Recounting the events leading up to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, HIROSHIMA expertly and fascinatingly blends archival footage with docudrama reenactments and interviews of American politicians, veterans, and Japanese survivors. The film opens wi… (more)