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Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995)

  Directed by: Peter Kuran
Starring: William Shatner
Links: Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Documentary

This movie gets: 7.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995) is also mentioned in mino's review of Atomic Filmmakers: Behind the Scenes (1997).

"Not just for war geeks" - a review by mino

Now I'm the first to admit that a documentary on the development of the atomic bomb is likely to be the last thing on a lot of people's lists of 'stuff I'd be interested in'. I mean, people who are interested in 'war stuff' have always struck me as a little bit creepy, with their collector's-edition Bowie knives and their hats with the spikes on top. Frankly, I rank 'war buffs' right up there with people who hang around outside primary schools wearing overcoats. But the fact is, war documentary or no war documentary, Trinity And Beyond is a bloody interesting watch.

Trinity And Beyond covers the development of the A-bomb and H-bomb, but concentrates more on the post-World War II development, as opposed to the original Manhattan Project (which developed the bomb in the first place). Filmmaker Peter Kuran has undertaken what must have been an enormous task: to uncover the best archive footage of nuclear testing, and track down people who worked on the tests to get their opinions.

Kuran has done a good job of turning a potentially dull topic into an interesting movie; while I'll admit that the… painfully… slow… narration by… William Shatner… is a bit annoying for those who can't stand the sound of his voice (e.g. me), he actually does a pretty good job of conveying the awesome power of what the US government was unleashing back then, with a bit of gravitas. The interviews, particularly those with Edward Teller, so-called 'father of the atomic bomb', are interesting, with some of the subjects touching on their pro-nuke opinions, which I would have liked to have seen explored further: but the star of Trinity And Beyond is not one of the interviewees. Without a doubt, it's the archival footage itself.

Apparently, the US government has only very recently declassified a lot of the footage contained in this movie; a lot is still classified even now (up to sixty years later), which is kind of intriguing in its own way. I mean, what could still be a secret? But what footage is included is awe-inspiring: you can hear as much as you like about the incredible destructive power of nuclear weapons, but until you see the damage they can wreak, it's all just theory. Some of the footage is disturbing (the strapping-down of pigs and goats near the blast sites, to measure the effects of the bombs); some is kinda funny (the almost laughable measures some of the folks take to protect themselves from the blast); and some looks like it belongs on Ripley's Believe It Or Not (like the guy swallowing a radiation measuring device on a piece of string, to check how much radiation enters the body -- and then bringing it back up. All together now: eeewww).

Some of the government propaganda shown at the time is also highly entertaining, with Marilyn Monroe sexily exhorting government staff to keep their secrets to themselves, and some truly hysterical 'gee-whiz' exploration of the testing sites by some dude with a pipe: hilarious, in a 'did people really fall for that crap?' kind of way. Another favourite was the 'calibration blast': want to know how they know that such-and-such a nuclear blast is equivalent to so-and-so-many tons of TNT? Well, the footage in Trinity And Beyond of techies hammering together (with gay abandon) precisely one ton of TNT, and then setting it off (to give something to compare against in future) answers that question surprisingly well.

By far the most effective footage, though, is that of the blasts themselves. Cars and tanks are sent flying like toys, boats bob about on the water like toys in a bathtub, and buildings and trees are reduced to ash in a fraction of a second. It really does make you think about the unbelievably deadly power these bombs have. Personally, I think everyone should watch this movie: not just as an historical record of nuclear testing, but as a reminder of how incredibly lethal these weapons can be. Remember, too, we're talking weapons from the fifties here. To imagine what the current crop of missiles must be able to do, after seeing the footage in Trinity And Beyond, is extraordinarily unsettling.

mino gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 19 Aug 2002

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Reader comments

  1. cooler film !

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Mr. hoast (http://www.sachicheuchnich.de) on Fri 18 Jun 2004 02:04 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 10.00 (1 rating)

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