The Manhattan Project (1986)

So with the Academy Awards this week, I was supposed to go out and watch all the films that won, right? Well, it takes a lot of work to swim upstream sometimes, and I looked at a film from 1986 instead. Specifically, I don't remember hearing anything about this film called The Manhattan Project, so I decided to take a look as the title intrigued me.

No, this is not the documentary of the top secret WW II project that resulted in the making of the first atomic bomb. While that would make a compelling film, this one focuses on a scientist in the mid 80's that comes up with a method of making ultra pure plutonium for use in atomic bombs. The government decides to fast track it, and they setup a new lab in Ithaca, NY, not far from Cornell University. The scientist, played by John Lithgow, takes an attraction in his realtor, Elizabeth Stephens (Jill Eikenberry). He decides to befriend Elizabeth's son, Paul (Christopher Collett) who is scientifically precocious. Next thing we know we have Paul getting the grand tour of a top secret governmental facility. Kind of implausible so far, no? Well, it gets worse when Paul decides to head back there, and sneak out some plutonium with the assistance of his new girlfriend. Uh, huh. Then to bring attention to the nuclear issue, what better way than to build a nuclear bomb for the regional science fair. Yeah, like any of this is going to happen.

Despite that The Manhattan Project is completely implausible, it was entertaining on some zany level. Perhaps it was just nostalgia on my part, but it did remind of the high school science fairs, although no one showed up with a nuclear bomb (I did try to replicate the Mendel genetics experiment, but I couldn't even get one seed to grow! I also did one on wind energy, but I was probably too far ahead of my time, but then again, it's still too far ahead for most folks). Anyway, getting back to the film, while it's not well acted, and you have to suspend some belief to help the plot along, it's not the worst film ever. It does have a certain element of suspense and kind of a "thriller lite" as we never really think the world is about to detonate. After all, when else but the 1980's could one make a film about a teenager making a nuclear bomb in their bedroom? These days, Homeland Security would probably censor it.

Overall Grade: B-

Reviewed by Jonas

1 comment:

DCNofer said...

Kudos on finding a copy of that movie. That movie reminded me of WarGames. Fun reading about your HS projects :)