The Manhattan Project (1986)

When it comes to the DailyView binge, they can’t all be winners.

The Manhattan Project is a nonsensical teen thriller where our young protagonist steals plutonium and builds a homemade atomic bomb. Yup. He’s our hero. In no way should he be considered a terrorist.

First face I saw when the film started was John Lithgow, so I had some initial hope that this might be a fun ride, but that was stifled fairly quickly. Lithgow was working in a lab that was involved in the creation of weapons for the government. He meets a woman whose precocious teen son Paul (Christopher Collet), who would set up little explosions at school as pranks, is a scientific genius. He’s also a bit of a jerk.

For some reason, he decides to break into the lab, which he does with an unnerving simplicity, and steals some of the lab’s specially designed plutonium, replacing it with dish liquid soap. Then Paul takes that plutonium and builds an atomic bomb that he wants to enter into a science fair.

That wasn’t even the most egregious act of idiocy involved here. The whole thing heads to a standoff at the lab with the army and FBI agents (I guess). It got to a point where I was hoping the bomb would go off. It would have made for a more realistic film.

My major issue with the movie is that Paul literally commits treason, builds a nuclear device, threatens to detonate it and he’s our hero. It is not even one of those young people movies where the protagonist stumbles into the situation by accident. Paul specifically sets up the standoff for… well, I’m not really sure why, but there is no world in which this kid was innocent. He is absolutely 100% a terrorist.

It is ridiculous, stretching credibility beyond any reasonable level for this type of movie. How does Paul not wind up in prison for the remainder of his life? He has to be on a no-fly list, doesn’t he? Perhaps this is an origin story of a new super villain, because , honestly, Paul does not display much regret in his actions. He uses the threat of the detonation of a nuclear bomb to get what he wants without concern for anyone else around him.

Paul is so unlikable that I simply did not want to root for the arrogant like worm, and that really hamstrings the movie that is basing the audience’s reactions on how much they want to see Paul succeed.

This one was a dud.

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