Director Christopher Nolan (director of The Dark Knight trilogy, Dunkirk, and Inception) is back with his new biopic, Oppenheimer, that follows the scientist who created the atomic bomb. Many of the events portrayed in the film are well-known by the public, so I really want to focus on the story conveyed, acting, special effects, and editing.
The story that Nolan tries to tell can best be compared to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I say that because J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) is excited to create something completely new with various parts that will be used to end the war against Japan. He feels a sense of purpose when he is approached by Leslie Groves (Matt Damon), the head of the Manhattan Project, when being tasked to create this bomb. It isn’t until we get to the moment when Oppenheimer tests the bomb that he comes to the realization that his creation will kill thousands of people. This is relatable to the building of Frankenstein which entailed piecing together a monster and bringing it to life only to find out how dangerous the creature really was.
Like Frankenstein, Oppenheimer begins to regret his choice to help the government, and this leads to conspiracy theories that he is a communist because of his prior engagements as a professor at Berkley. This involved Oppenheimer attending communist gatherings and having an on and off relationship with known communist Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh). Also, his wife, Kitty Oppenheimer (Emily Blunt), was part of a communist group until she abandoned those ideologies later. It’s as though Nolan drew from the Frankenstein story. Instead of using pitchforks and fire to stop the creation of the monster, people levied accusations about Oppenheimer once he created the monster. I really find that fascinating but when you read about Oppenheimer’s history this is exactly what happened. Before these accusations occurred, Oppenheimer was a highly respected scientist serving on the Atomic Energy Council. That Council was led by Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.) who shared information about the potential threat of Russia setting off a nuclear bomb. Strauss also offered Oppenheimer a job to be the director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.
I know that is a lot of information but that’s how it felt the story was conveyed by Nolan. I do want to say that the acting in this movie is phenomenal. Cillian Murphy was meant to play J. Robert Oppenheimer and I couldn’t see anyone else taking on that role. The supporting cast did an amazing job as well by taking Murphy’s performance to the next level. The editing and special effects are something to be revered when watching this film knowing that no CGI was used. The sound design made you feel like you were there in Los Alamos when the bomb went off for the first time.
This film is why cinema exists to this day. We need to be able to be wowed once in a while when heading to the theater to remind ourselves that these experiences are possible when a film is put into the hands of an outstanding director. Nolan hit this way out of the ballpark and deserves his first ever Oscar win for Best Motion Picture. The same goes for Cillian Murphy to win the Oscar for Best Actor. If you have not seen this film, do yourself a favor and buy your ticket now.
Rating: 5 out of 5