By May 1945, the war in Europe was over and the German military was in ruins. The war in the Pacific, however, was far from done and the determination of the Japanese promised that the ultimate cost of victory would be very high. With the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the responsibilities of the presidency fell on Harry Truman. Truman had been kept out of the decision-making loop through much of his term as vice president, and had to rely on his gut instinct and on-the-job training to handle his new position. The U.S. Army had been working feverishly on the Manhattan Project (the "gadget"), and the Army's top brass urged Truman to use the awesome power of the bomb to end the war with the Japanese. Hiroshima uses a unique structure to convey the story of that fateful decision, mixing newsreels with new sepia-toned footage, color dramatizations, and interviews with Hiroshima survivors and U.S. military personnel. At times, the transitions between the segments can be a bit jarring, but Hiroshima is an extraordinary look at the human element of the decision to use nuclear weapons. Its painstaking attention to period detail makes it a historical drama that plays nearly like a documentary. Kenneth Welsh, in particular, is an uncanny Harry Truman, having obviously studied the president's clipped Midwestern twang and ramrod-straight bearing at great length. Unlike many other films on the subject, Hiroshima also shows the Japanese side of the equation, with a diplomatic corps ready to sue for peace while the fanatics in the military would never hear of it. Its unswervingly objective, balanced tone, and sober direction make Hiroshima a thoughtful and informative look at the decision that changed the course of history forever. --Jerry Renshaw
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