REVIEW: AMC’s Manhattan is an enthralling and insightful real life tale
Both an insightful and enthralling depiction of the emerging nuclear age, AMC brings season one of Manhattan to UK audiences every Sunday at 9pm.
The acclaimed drama is created and written by Sam Shaw (Masters of Sex) and directed by Emmy Award-winning director Thomas Schlamme. Set in the remote location of Los Alamos, New Mexico, this IT follows the fictional lives of the soldiers, scientists and families caught up in the infamous Manhattan Project.
Manhattan delves into the moral struggles faced by those involved in the mission to build the world’s first atomic bomb and is brought to life by some spectacular cinematography and an equally impressive script.
Headed by nuclear physicist Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey), a group of scientists are relocated to a secluded desert to work on the top-secret project during World War II. But with no idea what it is they have been sent to work on, the team soon realise this is no ordinary assignment. It isn’t long before they are torn between their morals and their families.
The scientists must attempt to coexist in a world where deception and lies infiltrate every aspect of their lives. However, when a commitment to secrecy comes at the cost of their loved ones, new problems arise that they could have never imagined. While Frank becomes ever more consumed by his duty to the project, his wife Liza (Olivia Williams) discovers some frightening truths about the local environment, leaving their marriage hanging by a thread.
It is John Benjamin Hickey’s performance that really carries the series, with his character’s burdens and moral dilemmas acting as the main focal point of the plot. In fact, it would probably be fair to say that the first season of Manhattan builds towards answering the question of whether Frank Winter is actually a good man, opposed to the obvious question of who will win the race to build the first atomic bomb.
In a tale set against the backdrop of war and weaponry, there may be less action than initially expected for some. Instead, moments of tension arise from the emotional and competitive conflicts between characters. The first half of the season is slower paced in terms of plot, but this is only to allow for real character development and depth. This isn’t to say that dramatic twists and turns do not arrive later in the series… All we’re saying is, prepare yourself for the season 1 finale, ‘Perestroika’, in which the show totally explodes in its final moments.
While Manhattan is fictional, the series still maintains a clear dedication to period detail. Many of the storylines are closely connected to the real life events at Los Alamos, including the competing scientific teams, the radioactive related sicknesses, the inadequate health services, and the extreme paranoia and frustration among those involved and their families.
Manhattan is as fraught with emotional conflict as it is rich with historical detail. A truly gripping and insightful watch.
Manhattan continues Sunday at 9pm on AMC.