Science, Politics, ambition and morality collide as Nolan’s Oppenheimer brings the true face of the nuclear arms race to the big screen in a spectacular yet sombre epic thriller
How much responsibility does a creator have for their creation? That’s the question Oppenheimer wrestles with during its 3hr run time. If you are a Christian, you believe God made everything which must include the devil. The scientists responsible for creating the internet did so as a means for scientists around the world to share ideas. They could be forgiven for not predicting their invention would be used for all manner of abuse and evil.
But some might argue J. Robert Oppenheimer shouldn’t be afforded the same level of forgiveness. He began his mission with the intention of creating a weapon of mass destruction. He understood the bomb would likely be used as a weapon which would cause mass casualties.
But scientific and intellectual curiosity combined with an ambition to see theory become reality clouded his decisions. His justifications for pressing forward with the project were that we need to see how really bad it would be so we wouldn’t want to use it again.
Oppenheimer is an Epic Biographical Drama/Thriller from Christoper Nolan based on the 2005 biography ‘American Prometheus’ by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. The mere mention of Christopher Nolan is more than enough to put people in the seats due to his very than impressive track record. But adding long-time collaborator Cillian Murphy in the titular role of J. Robert Oppenheimer made this an impressive treat. Combined with a veritable dish of ‘A’ list actors including Robert Downey jr, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh and Kenneth Branagh, and your left with a must-see movie.
The film tells the true story of the ‘Manhattan Project’ which was Americas legendary top-secret development of the atomic bomb. American scientists including Oppenheimer become aware that Nazi Germany is developing a bomb of their own so convince the government to let them develop one before the Nazi’s can. It became an arms race with spying and secrets being leaked and strong opposition on both sides. They questioned what implications such a weapon being built would have on future wars and the devastation it could mean for mankind.
As this is a historical piece, it’s not a spoiler to say the American bomb was completed first. But as the Nazi’s had already been defeated, it was used on an almost defeated Japan. Bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. It caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and despite numerous threats over the years, it remains the world’s only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict. America hailed this a victory and Oppenheimer was named ‘Father of the Atomic Bomb’
As you would expect from a cast of this calibre, the performances are all excellent. The camera spends very little time away from Cillian Murphy’s Oppenheimer and even in the quiet moments, he successfully conveys the weight of the moral dilemma he faces in developing this weapon. Robert Downey jr.’s performance also stands out, not necessarily because it’s better than the rest of the cast, just we haven’t seen him in non ‘Tony Stark’ mode for so long we almost forget he can deliver like this.
Both Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh give solid performances as the wife and mistress, but I couldn’t help feeling they were both used merely as accessories to Oppenheimer., with very little time given to their own intentions or motivations. There was some nudity and a few sex scenes which for some reason felt out of place to me in a Nolan film. I’m definitely not prudish but part of me felt like these elements were thrown in for salacious reasons, possibly to provide variety in a film which is mostly conversation.
The film looks amazing, a true sight to behold. I had the privilege of attending the screening at the Science Museum IMAX Cinema, watching it in 70MM as Chrisopher Nolan intended. The imagery is so beautiful it’s almost like artwork, with black and white being used for events after the bomb and colour used for events before. As the film constantly jumps back and forth between events it was a wonderful visual cue as to what part of the story we were at.
The music and sound design are mostly great and perfectly conveys the gravitas of the situation. But in what is becoming a Nolan trademark, there are areas where the sound is painfully loud, almost uncomfortable. I understand this is not a technical issue but done on purpose to invoke those feelings in the audience. Having experienced it now in two Nolan movies, I’d say please stop it, I don’t think anyone really likes or appreciates it.
While I had heard of ‘The Manhattan Project’ before, I had no knowledge at all of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Christopher Nolan has done an incredible job bringing this fascinating story to the masses. Stories like this can get lost to history and the morality of using such weapons is a conversation that should always be present.
In fact, with world affairs as they are, it couldnt come at a more appropriate moment. It is a true reminder of what happens when scientific curiosity meets political ambitions for more power. Just because we have the ability to make or do something, doesn’t necessarily mean we should. We must never stop considering the implications.
There are two types of Christopher Nolan movies, ones which portray historical events, like Oppenheimer and Dunkirk. Then there are the original ideas like The Prestige, Memento, Tenet and Inception with their mind-boggling science fiction. They leave you scratching your head while declaring their brilliance in the full knowledge you need to watch it again for bits you missed. I personally prefer those Nolan movies, trying to piece together the stories hidden elements and ambiguities is always fun. So, in those terms, Oppenheimer isn’t one I feel I need to watch again.
As always Christopher Nolan puts on a master class in film making and you’ll struggle to find flaw with it technically, visually or with the performances. But I do feel it has been marketed as somewhat of a summer Blockbuster which may mislead some people, based off the Nolan name. I fear this combined with its ‘R’ rating, grim ‘end of the world’ subject matter and three-hour running time may leave the film struggling to connect positively with audiences. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong in this regard as it is a quality film with an important message that should be seen ‘on the biggest screen possible’.
Oppenheimer opens in Cinemas on July 21st, 2023. Watch the latest Trailer here