MOVIE maverick Christopher Nolan, who is known for his complex storytelling skills, returns to the cinemas with his latest film, Oppenheimer. For those unversed, the film is a biopic based on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, widely famous as the ‘Father of the Atomic bomb.’
Making a film based on the turbulent life of the American genius was never an easy task to begin with, but with Nolan’s vision and the ability to create a breathtaking theatrical experience, Oppenheimer is proof that the director knows how to translate his thoughts onto a canvas.
The plot of the film revolves around our main man’s biggest discovery and bravery marked his biggest doom; the research and development of the two atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during one of the most catastrophic events in the world: World War II.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the film navigates back-and-forth between past and present events while addressing the nuclear test and its repercussions. The film shuffles between events that happened across decades much more effortlessly than in Nolan’s last film, Tenet.
Halfway through the film, you’ll realize why Nolan was emphasizing high on IMAX: the cameras go dangerously close to the actors and make you feel every unsaid emotion and tears rolling down like it’s happening in front of your eyes, in reality. Nolan knows very well how to keep the audiences on a hook and makes a compelling narrative with a complicated timeline.
The story is laid out in three narratives: the first narrates the events of Oppenheimer’s hearing before a board of United States Atomic Energy Commission in 1954, the second is about political powerhouse Lewis Strauss rehashing his involvement with Oppenheimer during a cabinet hearing. The third is about Oppenheimer’s unending love for physics and how it led to the development of the atomic bomb that led to the horrific bombing in Japan.
Another intriguing aspect of the film lies in the usage of the color themes in storytelling. While the physicist narrates his own story in full color; from his life in Europe to the Manhattan Project and development of the atomic bomb, the events of the Senate hearing with Lewis Strauss and fallout from the Atomic Energy Commission chairman’s rivalry with Oppenheimer are all narrated in black and white.
As for the performances, Cillian Murphy lives and breathes Oppenheimer. The actor proves his mettle as the lead star of a Nolan film and his close-up shots are proof of his complete absorption of Oppenheimer’s character in his own demeanor.
Robert Downey Jr. gives a standout performance as Lewis Strauss. From humbleness to ruthlessness, the character range shown by the actor is one that can not be delivered by many.
Matt Damon delivers a subtle but powerful performance as Leslie Groves and makes for some of the humorous scenes with Cillian on screen. Their rapport is definitely a treat to watch.
A common denominator in all Nolan’s films, the women in Oppenheimer have been reduced to expressing the emotions that his lead stars can’t. Despite being powerhouse of performance, Florence Pugh and Emily Blunt do not have much to contribute to the overall storyline of the movie. Emily rises up to the role of a supportive wife, who constantly pushes her husband to keep fighting for his reputation.
Nolan’s brilliance is also translated with the nail-biting countdown to the infamous Trinity test, when even the sharpest minds haven’t ruled out the “near zero” chance of a chain reaction destroying the world. The two hearings shot in black and white, choose not to show the Japanese bombings but rather to experience them exclusively via radio reports and the images flashing through Oppenheimer’s mind only hint at the horror unleashed are proof of Nolan’s cinematic brilliance. The apt usage of silence and sound throughout the film will remind of his work in Dunkirk.
Just like every other Nolan film, there is a lot going on in Oppenheimer. The film demands of you to keep up with the pace and time and can leave your brain a little scrambled by the end. It delves into philosophical themes and the dark side of technology, the nature of war, and the responsibilities of scientists towards society.
At 182 minutes, Oppenheimer is Nolan’s longest feature ever and has all the elements of his quintessential style. It is gripping and emotionally consuming with impeccable camerawork and a combination of cerebral stuff that stays with you much after the film ends. The story of “a man who became death, the destroyer of worlds” can easily be touted as one of the finest works of the director and might need more than a single watching.
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