Beginning in the frenzied final months of World War II, Hiroshima rockets back and forth between Truman, Churchill and Hirohito to reach behind the headlines and tell the story of the men and women - both public and privat... more »e - whose lives and careers would be forever changed by this event, creating a balanced portrait of the political, moral and above all, human cost of this historical decision. Hiroshima weaves an unforgettable tapestry of those events which led to the decision which would indelibly change the course of human destiny.« less
Excellent portrayal of the decisive final days of WWII
John A. Kuczma | Marietta, GA USA | 12/29/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Few decisions have been debated as long, fiercely or futilely as the decision to drop the Atomic Bomb on Japan at the end of the Second World War. Few situations involved as many diverse factors and none had the far-reaching ramifications of this one.Hiroshima is a straight-forward, documentary-styled portrayal of the many problems facing the political and military leaders of the major powers in 1945. The choice made by President Truman was based on the advice of an extremely diverse group of advisors, both military and civilian, most of whom knew the war was nearing its end and many of whom had personal agendas which influenced their input. Additionally, the involvement of allied heads of state, particularly Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, played a significant role and are carefully addressed in the film.What I found most impressive was the objective and somewhat sympathetic treatment of the Japanese political leadership, who faced nearly insurmountable odds in dealing with an intractible military hierarchy which was unwilling to acknowledge defeat, complicated by the delicate need to negotiate a rapid settlement so as to avoid further civilian casualties, avoid further loss of national honor, and maintain the deified status of the emperor.The failure to understand culturally dictated diplomatic subtleties is quietly yet forcefully examined, alongwith sometimes intentional disregard of more obvious overtures.Hiroshima interweaves historical fact with a number of political assumptions that have come to be accepted as fact. While many of the film's apparent conclusions are conceivable and even probable, the viewer is cautioned to remember that this is a drama, not a documentary. Many of the character depictions are superbly accurate, while others are composites of several historical figures and yet others only loosely based on reality.Another impressive feature of this film is its sensitive portrayal of the actual employment of the "Special Bombs." There are the expected views of boiling mushroom clouds. As the story continues to unfold, still photos of the devastation are displayed. However, the producers successfully resisted the temptation to use footage of the human damage, and the often utilized scenes of grotesquely burned victims receiving medical treatment are tactfully absent.While Hiroshima may not be entirely reliable in a historical context, the personal and emotional processes that went into the decision making process are intelligently and accurately dealt with. If the viewer takes only one lesson from watching the film, it should be that all of those involved, from the scientists to the citizens of the ill-fated target cities, were not simply historical figures or statistics, but living human beings. Perhaps the most laudible accomplishment of this superb film is bringing a human perspective to the most inhumane (however necessary) event in the history of mankind.For anyone who would like to better understand the who's, what's, where's and especially the why's of the destruction of Hiroshima, this movie is a must see."
One of the very best docudramas I've seen
Max W. Hauser | Silicon Valley, USA | 03/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Remarkable "made-for-cable" docudrama, easily one of the highest-quality productions I have seen in a "TV movie." Fascinating if you care about turning points of modern history (which tend to affect us all, care or not). The story begins April 12, 1945 (one of those Infamous Dates in the US, like December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963, and more recently, of course, September 11, 2001) and continues beyond Truman's "Rain of Ruin" speech in August, heard live around the world, declaring in essence that the Second World War would soon end and that the era of nuclear terrors had begun.At the time, that first point made a much deeper impression than the second on the 12 million people in US armed services who were expecting a long and bloody invasion of Japan. After years of a war not of their country's choosing, they had thought that the worst remained ahead. It was also a war with a history of atrocities committed in the name of Japan against civilians and military prisoners in several Pacific-Asian countries. The peoples of those countries remember (some of them have told me first-hand) even if others prefer not to learn. Goldstein, in the photographic history _Rain of Ruin_ (ISBN 1574880330), which this film partly parallels, argues that selective awareness of the many horrors in the Pacific war is a factor impeding perspective today. Another factor is modern "Japanese history books [with] very little about World War II, its origins and progress ... One gains the impression that modern Japanese history begins with the atomic bomb ... leaving conveniently vague the chain of events" before it.Truman spoke August 6 (midmorning in the Americas, afternoon and evening in continental Eurasia, and midnight August 6-7 in Japan). A great many people worldwide were awake and had access to radios. One of them was my father, a GI in France, having a glass of wine in the restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. To the serving US soldiers, Truman's words were profound; it was as if their futures had been handed back to them. "We then had several more glasses of wine." This film stresses intrigues and negotiations in the US and Japanese governments near the end of the war. A few scenes echo the spate of Manhattan-Project documentary in the 1980s that commenced with the great film _The Day After Trinity_ and extended to TV movies, mini-series, and books. It's rich in complexities and details (some of them recently available) absent from lesser documentaries and from popular treatments like Hersey's or Hachiya's books. Central is the struggle of clear-headed Japanese civil and court officials, and some in the military, who were ready to accept peace terms even before the atomic bombings, but feared a seizure of power by military leaders (who had a strong hand in the government anyway, by the constitution at that time). The production is a collage of re-enactment, wartime footage, and recent interviews with people bearing witness, from Hiroshima residents to Clark Clifford to Edward Teller. It is tied together with narration, sometimes poignant, in subtitles.There was little US involvement in this film. It came from parallel production teams in Canada and Japan (reminiscent of _Tora, Tora, Tora,_ which had a US rather than Canadian team, but also for which the 1995 film could possibly be seen as a very apt sequel.) As with TTT (despite the break with Kurusawa in that film and the subsequent omission of most of his footage) the Japanese unit is superb, with sensitive, nuanced portrayals of key figures such as Kido (Kei Sato), War Minister Gen. Korechika Anami (Kohji Takahashi), and the new Prime Minister ex-Adm. Bn. Kantaro Suzuki (Tatsuo Matsumura). (For some reason, even such a comprehensive source as the IMDB currently omits most of the Japanese cast.) They got a good ringer for the young emperor too. But also, the Canadian team succeeded in something notoriously hard: a faithful portrayal of Truman complete with mannerisms and rough edges (Kenneth Welsh). He and they deserve enormous applause, for this has scarcely ever been achieved (it is the film equivalent of getting a good blue fire in fireworks). Truman, the new, politically chosen vice president to FDR, left out of executive activity until FDR's sudden death, was a statesman conscious of his responsibilities before history, but he also had a crude streak, illustrated in his offhand dismissal of Stalin (who was not even Russian) as a "little Russian twerp."At one point in the film Marquis Kido (one of the pivotal figures) asks Prince Konoye to go to Russia to persuade Stalin to mediate with the Americans. Kido pushes his servants from the room, prompting Konoye's observation "it's rather bourgeois to abuse one's servants, Kido!" Kido complains "your servants probably aren't someone else's spies." If you've seen _Tora, Tora, Tora_, you remember the slow building of tension while Wesley Addy, as the Navy crypto officer, makes the rounds of Washington at night delivering intercepts of impending trouble, chauffeured by his wife, who presses him with limited success for hints of what's up (the "look, step on it, dear" scene). Addy reappears in this 1995 film as Secretary of War Stimson, especially in a crucial argument with Groves, vetoing Kyoto as a nuclear target.Naval aviator Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese military hero who managed to be on the scene at both Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima, is among those who have remarked that Japan tried to develop atomic bombs and would certainly have used them if successful. Goldstein points out "it is possible to pity the victims of the atomic bombs without attempting to rewrite history" to suit one's preferences. As far as I can tell, this 1995 film is faithful to that goal."
SIMPLY THE BEST WORK ON THIS SUBJECT I HAVE EVER SEEN
r. p. | florida | 08/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A previous reviewer said that this was long and dull. Well I'm sorry if actual history does not live up to today's "MTV/Nickelodean" standards of entertainment. This is how it was - and delivers all the effect of a massive right hook to the jawbone. It made clear exactly why Harry Truman was one of the greatest men in the history of the U. S. He had the hardest decisions to make - and he was correct on almost all of them. The actor who portrayed him did a fine job. The production was great, and paid the highest respect to all who were involved - unlike the movie "Pearl Harbor," which was an insult to those brave people. I only wish that movies like "Hiroshima" were the norm in historical portrayals, rather than the exception."
History comes alive! The true story of the atomic bomb.
Roger J. Buffington | Huntington Beach, CA United States | 11/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a magnificent film. It carefully documents the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan from both perspectives: that of the United States, and that of Japan. The film makes no moral judgments: it simply brings out the dilemmas of both sides. President Truman wanted to end the war with a minimum of casualties, but with the Japanese defeated. The Japanese, whose government was controlled by fanatical militarists, were unable to reach a consensus that surrender was inevitable and that the war was lost. They dithered and continued their infighting.Meanwhile American and Japanese war casualties continue. Truman receives a sobering briefing about the horrific casualties anticipated to occur from the invasion of Japan, as the plans for this move forward. As Prime Minister Churchill said to President Roosevelt: how will you ever explain to the American people that the invasion could have been avoided by the use of this weapon, and that you could have saved the lives of thousands of their sons? Truman had no answer, and events proceeded inexorably towards the use of the weapon in order to end the war.This is hard-hitting, realistic, and deeply moving history, sympathetically presented without much in the way of political axe-grinding. Both sides are shown with dignity. World War Two is shown for what it was: a catastrophe that cost millions of lives and untold destruction. The decision to use the atom bomb is also shown for what it was, as Truman put it: "a decision that King Solomon himself would have had trouble making." Ultimately the film makes no ultimate judgment about the wisdom of America's decision to use the bomb. The viewer is left to decide.Despite its weighty topic, this film is highly entertaining and is a pleasure to watch, although its tone is deadly serious. You will likely watch this one more than once."
A history lesson that is very enjoyable
Mitch Reed | Washington DC, United States | 09/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why can't most Documentaries be like this. The movie is a long, well detailed look at the developement of the A Bomb, the use of it, and its aftermath. It splices in historical footage, first person accounts, and Hollywood magic (very well done by two production units, one is Japanese, so both sides are well told). A must see!"