Oppenheimer is a film adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin.
When talking about Oppenheimer, it’s hard not to bring up the cultural impact that the movie had, with it premiering during the same day as with Barbie. But does the movie live up to its hype?
Before the Bang
A brief history lesson, Oppenheimer was born into a Jewish family in New York City and was one of the greatest scientist of the last century. He was one of the central figures in the development of the atomic bomb during the World World II, and was known as the “Father of the Atomic Bomb”, and led the entire Manhattan Project.
The film constantly uses flashbacks to slowly tell the story of Oppenheimer’s life from his college days till when he’s old. While this approach requires the viewers to sort out the plot of the film, this kind of storytelling allows for unexpected plot to unfold in certain pads and keeps viewers on their edge of their seats.
Throughout its run time, the film constantly swaps from black and white to colour. This was because the movie is split into an objective and subjective point of view, with the scenes in colour being subjective; and the scenes in black and white being objective. It makes for an interesting way to show the audience a look into Oppenheimer’s life in a more nuanced way from different perspectives.
Despite the film taking place during WWII, you won’t see any big action scenes as the movie brings you in the inner world of the protagonist, exploring the issues he faces in the field of science, ethics and politics, rather than the issues that arise from the war.
Brace for Impact
Christopher Nolan prefers shooting his films in real location without the use of CGI. Needless to say, audiences were anticipating to see how he would present the nuclear bomb in the “Trinity” experiment without relying on CG. Much to my surprise, I was blown away by the weight of the explosion and the crisp sound delivery that just felt extremely detailed.
The explosion starts off with a spectacular mushroom cloud, followed up with complete silence as if everyone was holding their breath as they watch the experiment in fear, thinking it would fail. What is relayed to you is the sound of the explosion. While there’s only a few minutes of footage, it was shot in a very tactile and immersive way that blew my mind until the end of the movie.
Nolan uses innovative techniques with every new film he makes, and an important element in this film was the cross-presentation of colour and black and white footage. In addition to the 70mm IMAX film, they also made use of advanced technology to produce the exclusive black and white film that was shot and projected on the IMAX screen, presenting a mesmerising and psychedelic viewing experience.
There were quite a of lot dribbling in the film with the traditional orchestral soundtrack and it’s really well orchestrated, making you feel completely immersed in Oppenheimer’s feelings. The tense scenes in the movie will invariably make you feel the sense of bleak oppression.
While Oppenheimer is rated R abroad, it’s 16-rated in Malaysia, this meant that the intimate scenes were all cut out. Even the conversation between Jean Tatlock and Oppenheimer was censored out because they were talking without their clothes on. Although it was expected to be cut out, most of the scenes between Jean Tatlock and Oppenheimer were intimate scenes, and when Oppenheimer received the news of Tatlock’s suicide, it indirectly made it difficult for the audience to resonate with Oppenheimer’s feelings.
This movie invited a star studded cast of actors, starting with Cillian Murphy who played the role of Oppenheimer. Murphy had previously appeared in many of Nolan’s productions from the Dark Knights series, Inception, Dunkirk, etc. However, this is the first time that he’s been cast to be the main character.
Nolan knows how good Murphy was when acting as the confused, brutal and sincere character. Combining that with his own superb acting skills, Murphy was able to portray the inner contradictions of the protagonist in both dialogue and action down to a tee.
Emily Brown playing as Katherine Oppenheimer who was a biologist and was aware of the importance of her husband along of the world that was changing at the time. She was a key role in being a supportive pillar to Oppenheimer and Emily Brown played that role perfectly.
Apart from that, the other actors are Matt Damon as Leslie Groves, the person in charge of the Manhattan Project; Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Straus, the chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commision. With almost every character having a point of reference with their historical counterparts, making the story stay as accurate as possible.
I was deeply immersed in Oppenheimer, a tense film that focuses partially on the atomic bomb, and mostly on the destructive situation that mankind has been plunged into. Not only is the main character, Cillian Murphy was well cast, but the supporting cast was equally as compelling as well.
Oppenheimer was a bold, creative, complex, and thoroughly shocking film. However, I personally think that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. However, if you’re a big fan of Christopher Nolan’s work, Oppenheimer is definitely worth the watch.
Early screening provided by United International Pictures
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