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Peter Siiteri plays Oppenheimer, the enigmatic genius going off his clock on the eve of his world-changing explosion. His best scene has him sitting under the bomb at night, talking to the young guitarist, Ray Layton, about their place in history. At this point, Layton is still the young, enthusiastic soldier who's about to have his eye burned by radiation from the test. Siiteri does a nice job here of seeming both crazy and lucid, delivering a good speech about the Bhagavad Gita; but otherwise he drifts in and out of character the way Oppenheimer moves in and out of time. The one really urgent character is the old Ray Layton, a rickety, washed-up country singer, played with an electric intensity by John Robb. The old Ray wears a white patch over his burned eye and has a strange enthusiasm for the sharp-dressed televangelist, Jackie, because he likes her message about rapture. When he sings a gravelly hymn on her Bible show he gets accosted on the air by a pregnant military wife who wants him to lay hands on her belly. This woman, Jane, is played without real conviction by Lisa Steindler. Her whole story seems forced, in fact, both by Steindler and the script; and when her miscarriage seems to coincide with the test explosion in the desert -- thanks to the loose time frame -- you get the idea that all the orbiting scenes are trying to cobble together some impression of Apocalypse (that enticing Cold War cliche), but it's not very compelling.

-- Michael Scott Moore

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