Like all TV movies that tackle serious or controversial subjects, Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes has many good intentions. This production wants to dramatize the agony endured by the survivors of the first atomic-bomb attack and its devastation of that Japanese city.
But Hiroshima also shares the chief flaw of so many serious TV movies. It cannot overcome the limitations of prime-time standards of good taste to create what is needed: a work of art.
Hiroshima follows the lives of a number of people just before and immediately after the bomb was dropped by U.S. forces on Aug. 6, 1945. We see how a number of Japanese families dealt with death and the destruction of their homes. The closest this movie comes to having a star is Max von Sydow, who portrays a German Jesuit priest with a parish in Hiroshima. There’s also Judd Nelson as a U.S. flier — a Brat Packer with a backpack — who, along with another American, is a prisoner of war in Hiroshima.
The subplots involving von Sydow and Nelson illustrate the debilitating sentimentalism of Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes. Von Sydow’s Father Siemes is depicted, before the bomb drops, as a cranky, autocratic figure who snaps at children; after the bomb, he becomes a kindly old man who spends all his time caring for wounded young people.
Nelson, on the other hand, is obliged to become an old war-movie cliché: the serviceman who discovers the enemy is human too. Walking through the rubble, Nelson mumbles, ”It sure looks different from the air.”
”Well,” says his fellow POW, ”they started it.”
The writing, by John McGreevey, is just as stilted as this throughout. Unable to depict the true horror of the bomb’s aftermath, Hiroshima ends up a well-meaning melodrama that is an insult to the memory of this tragic event. C-