Co-scripted by Bruce Robinson, Joffé's film explores the wartime race between America and Germany to develop the atom bomb. Even when it transpires that the enemy is not seriously beavering away on such a project, the American military, under the guidance of General Groves (Newman) continue with development. J Robert Oppenheimer (Schultz) is the tortured genius heading the project, his public litany about scientific objectivity at odds with private agony over ethics. Groves and Oppenheimer strike an uneasy pact of sorts; their conflict makes the moral issues manifest and is well played. Other characters, however, remain half-realised and functional: Oppenheimer's neglected wife (Bedelia) and mistress (Richardson); an idealistic young physicist (Cusack) and his nurse girlfriend (Dern). On one level, the film compels through force of intellect, but ultimately it lacks the cohesive emotional force, the ferocity, to consistently nurture its conviction over two hours.