Einstein and the Bomb (2024)


Einstein and the Bomb Review

THE AWARDS JUGGERNAUT The Oppenheimer treatment is a blockbuster about the atomic bomb, and its use in blowing up Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But Netflix has just released a much smaller docudrama on the same theme which packs an equal punch. Einstein and the Bomb is a docudrama in the truest sense of the word it weaves dramatic scenes with documentary footage it uses only words spoken or written by Einstein himself. It can be clunky (the hair and make-up won’t win any Oscars), but that’s not really the point. By choosing neither a straight documentary format nor a low-budget biopic approach, they make history feel more human.

It could also have been called Einstein and Nazis. As Hitler rises, footage of atrocities fills the screen while we learn how Einstein’s Jewishness combined with his theory of relativity led to him being denounced by the Nazi regime for his suspiciously abstract findings in the early 1930s and how he got an early glimpse of, and sounded an alarm over, what Hitler was capable of doing. This is important context for what follows World famous and living in Long Island, Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt in 1939 warning that Germany might be developing atomic weapons so America better get busy, but he never considered that those weapons would be used to wipe out civilians in another country’s cities.

We see McArdle’s Einstein explain his radical pacifism so strenuous it could ironically take on a warrior like quality as well as take refuge from Germany in a little hut on a Norfolk heath under the hospitality of Commander Oliver Locker Lampson (Andrew Havill), a British politician naval reserve officer this is also where his life was guarded by two young women with guns at the ready. All true all thrillingly intriguing.

The editor is often an unheralded hero of tight documentaries, and Simon Barker is no exception. He nips between timeframes attaching the right documentary footage to the right dramatic scene and keeps everything humming along (Einstein and the Bomb is a mere 76 minutes long it feels even shorter). As it sets up its history with Einstein’s flight from Germany in 1932 his respite in England his voyage to America where he lived out his life you might start to wonder if this isn’t a stand-alone doc but the first episode of a series. When do we get to Los Alamos? Where’s Oppenheimer? Then you remember Einstein wasn’t at Los Alamos. He was deemed too much of a security risk. But his ideas were there most notably the guiding principle that a small amount of mass can generate an awful lot of energy.

This specific Einstein was a passionate pacifist who thought about this as an existential threat towards the world in general, and Jewish people especially. He or she later regretted opening what he called Pandora’s pack of atomic weapons or the devastation wrought by Hiroshima and Nagasaki plus the following nuclear fear that still haunts us today. We only see Einstein through Oppenheimer‘s eyes or rather Tom Conti’s portrayal of him as it relates to his friend (played by Sam Waterston). Here he gets to talk honestly about himself. This is exactly the kind of thing Netflix should be doing more often it looks cheap but classy doesn’t smell like sensationalism isn’t just some random romp through history with no point at all beyond being able to say “We met these famous people!”.

Watch Einstein and the Bomb For Free On Gomovies.

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