Review ‘Oppenheimer’ evokes sympathy for the destroyer of worlds.

Review 'Oppenheimer' evokes sympathy for the destroyer of worlds.

Oppenheimer: Christopher Nolan’s Emotional and Thought-Provoking Exploration

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Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film, Oppenheimer, takes audiences on a captivating journey into the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. Like a superhero donning his iconic uniform, Oppenheimer’s distinctive style becomes his armor, shielding him from the moral conflicts surrounding his work. Played by Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer’s peculiar charisma captivates audiences as he battles both the military and political bureaucracy during the Manhattan Project. The film raises the question: Can building an atomic bomb help win the war without sacrificing humanity in the process?

Some may find Oppenheimer to be an unexpected project for Nolan, known for his complex and visually stunning films like Interstellar and Tenet. However, upon closer examination, the film fits perfectly within the Nolan wheelhouse. It revolves around an intelligent and capable protagonist grappling with profound moral dilemmas, a theme recurrent in Nolan’s works. From Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne/Batman to the expert dream divers in Inception, Oppenheimer’s swaggering genius resonates with the dedicated characters we’ve come to love.

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Based on the biography “American Prometheus” by Martin J. Sherwin and Kai Bird, Oppenheimer delves into the life of the brilliant scientist, tracing his journey from a doctoral student in Germany to his legendary role in the Manhattan Project. Along the way, he encounters renowned scientists, including Albert Einstein, while making a name for himself in the realm of quantum physics. Oppenheimer is not just a bookish geek; he’s a compassionate human being who supports anti-fascists in the Spanish Civil War, champions unionization among lab workers and professors, and aligns himself with local Communists.

As Oppenheimer is recruited for the Manhattan Project, the grandiose myth-making begins. Like a heist film, Oppenheimer gathers a team of exceptional scientists and convinces the government to establish a secret research base in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The movie excels when it delves into the specificities of the project, exploring the race against Nazi Germany and the concerns of scientists regarding the potential catastrophic consequences of “the gadget.”

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The film predominantly adopts Oppenheimer’s perspective, rendering him as a heroic, tortured genius. Only he possesses the ability to assemble and motivate the brightest scientific minds, unravel the mysteries of quantum physics, and ensure America’s safety. Although some colleagues criticize his casual attitude towards building an atomic bomb, branding it a potential catalyst for disaster, Oppenheimer optimistically believes its power could potentially eliminate warfare altogether. However, the movie prompts us to wonder if he was ultimately betrayed by a country that failed to appreciate his post-war anti-nuclear activism.

Despite being predominantly dialogue-driven and taking place in unremarkable rooms, Oppenheimer creates an immersive cinematic experience. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema’s skillful work ensures that even conversations between characters hold our undivided attention. This is particularly evident in close-up shots of Cillian Murphy’s piercing blue eyes, which convey a multitude of emotions.

While Oppenheimer delivers an engaging narrative, the film does have its shortcomings. The few female characters, portrayed by Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh, are thinly drawn, falling short of Nolan’s usually well-developed characters. Additionally, the movie would benefit from exploring Oppenheimer’s thoughts more deeply. Despite its three-hour runtime and technical depth, it follows a standard biopic format.

It is regrettable that Oppenheimer does not delve more directly into the aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While we witness Oppenheimer confronting President Harry Truman in an attempt to halt nuclear weapons production, these scenes feel somewhat self-serving. The overwhelming impact of these devastating events on Oppenheimer’s psyche is a missed opportunity for deeper exploration.

As the film concludes, Oppenheimer reaches a profound understanding. His colleagues’ earlier warnings now resonate deeply: nothing will ever be the same because of him. The specter of nuclear annihilation looms perpetually, replacing the dream of peace.

In conclusion, Oppenheimer is a thought-provoking film that fearlessly explores the moral complexities faced by a brilliant mind grappling with the power to shape world history. Christopher Nolan’s penchant for creating emotionally rich and visually captivating stories shines through. Even without experiencing it on an IMAX screen, the film immerses audiences in Oppenheimer’s world. While it may have some narrative shortcomings, Oppenheimer serves as a testament to the indelible impact of one man’s choices on humanity’s fate.

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