"Power," Norman Cousins has written, "has a way of victimizing its users. It tends to create a dark and subterranean world in which decisions affecting the life of a nation can be taken without reference to their moral implications or the obligations to inform the people truthfully about issues of transcendent importance to their well-being and indeed survival."
Fat Man and Little Boy is about the misuse of power by General Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project. Paul Newman plays this can-do administrator who choses physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, played by Dwight Schultz, to lead a group of scientists charged with developing, testing, and building an atomic bomb. Convinced that the weapon can end World War II, he gives them 19 months to make it at Los Alamos, New Mexico. John Cusack is featured as Michael Merriman, a young Chicago physicist who learns in a tragic way the dangers of the bomb they euphemistically call the "gadget" or the "device."
The screenplay by Bruce Robinson and Roland Joffe conveys the secrecy of the project; the drive and discipline of the scientists; the fatal flaw of all those involved in the creation of the two bombs nicknamed Fat Man and Little Boy namely, the refusal to consider the long-term consequences of these terrible weapons. In the end, Groves pushed the project through knowing that Congress expected to see results from their $2 billion investment. He also wants, as he puts it, to give the United States "the biggest stick on the playground." Director Robert Joffe, whose last film was The Mission, has created a compelling drama about the ethical bankruptcy of scientific pragmatism. Getting the job done irrespective of moral implications was, after all, the same process at work in the Nazi concentration camps. Realizing that link is what makes Fat Man and Little Boy such a scary film.