‘The Last Atomic Bomb’


Noble intentions given pancake-flat treatment, The Last Atomic Bomb is an unwittingly timely documentary that focuses on personal stories of the hibakusha, or Japanese survivors of the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as a means to bolster the cause of anti-nuke peace activists. Its format lifted from the Holocaust survivor genre, the film meets with octogenarians who tell their horrifying memories on camera, interspersed by an international variety of talking heads. Arguments that the atomic attack was unnecessary prove relatively familiar, but other historical anecdotes are more surprising, such as the social stigma suffered by hibakusha in postwar Japan, encouraged by the U.S.-enforced “Press Code” that banned medical information about the effects of radiation from being publicized. The survivors’ memories are contextualized by bombastic U.S. wartime propaganda, but stagy sequences of an elderly survivor attempting to deliver letters in person to Blair, Bush, and Chirac play like amateurish documentary setups. The trauma is real, and the facts disturbing, but the doc doesn’t have the chops to deliver what should be a more powerful statement.