Oppenheimer review: An enigmatic story about a man's genius and its impact on generations

Smrithi Mohan
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Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer is not just a story about the American Prometheus, but a detailed stride that influenced the post-denotation world.

No amount of rain and getting stuck in traffic would be a reason to stop me and my friends from watching Christopher Nolan’s movie about a nuclear weapon. No, it's not from wanting to know how the deadliest weapon came into being, but to watch the craftsman do his thing after a long time and to catch Cillian Murphy playing the lead on a big screen. A movie about the renowned physicist Dr J Robert Oppenheimer's journey who spearheaded the operation of the Manhattan Project during World War II may sound like another boring history lesson, but even with all that hype, the movie for sure did not disappoint. The movie was able to leave the audience with an impact and I want Nolan to know that he can “Bring in the sheets”.

Nolan and his blue-eyed confidant have been the face of cinema for all the time the movie has been marketed to the audience. And they should accept the honour, rightfully so. It felt like a celebration to look forward to that didn’t feel overhyped. While Nolan went technical, Cillian worked his magic onscreen with his ocean blues, raspy voice and an intensity that was required of his character. If the reports of him isolating himself from the crew as part of his preparation are true, then maybe that worked out for him. He was able to bring the genius of a man we do not know personally and the weight of his legacy that had its impact on him. One could only watch in awe as he poetically talked about stars, space and the unknown while making us feel the romance between the particles that, in reality, took the lives of thousands. We know the charm of Robert Downey Jr from his past works, but after playing a superhero for over a decade, seeing him in a role where he was hardly recognised acted as a breather. He was able to deliver some of the most intense moments with class and sophistication that is completely different from what we have seen of him.

A movie about a man, made by a man and with a cast that is majority men, you wouldn’t expect women to leave an impact. But boy was I proven wrong and given the satisfaction of seeing the misogyny at the workplace addressed. Would it be even fair to not have a man talk about the effect radiation would have on a female reproductive system or ask a ‘female’ physicist if she can ‘type’? While we get quite a few moments of that, I’m glad it was at least addressed. As James Brown sang “This is a man's world, but it wouldn't be nothing, without a woman or a girl” one realises the impact that Emily Blunt’s Kitty leaves. I don’t know about my guy friends, but I could feel the rage, disappointment and sheer happiness of seeing her outsmart a man and show him his place. Kitty is not perfect but she is a rational woman who understands how the world works and hopes her husband would look past trying to be great and acknowledge the damage that he has done.

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Remember when Nambi Narayan, one of the most intelligent minds of Indian space research was termed a spy until he was proven otherwise? Looks like he was not the only man to have stood the test of time and a man having to prove his loyalty to his country. Nolan focuses on the same with the movie giving us a much broader view than just the bomb. It takes us through the true politics of one man wanting to be greater than the other and how people have taken advantage of bigotry throughout history and have one persecuted in the name of patriotism. Nolan has been successful in bringing this part of history and America’s deep-rooted prejudice against communism to every generation to understand.

You don’t need to be a cinephile to understand what an incredible filmmaker Nolan is. His mere idea to choose to showcase the subjective and objective sides of the story by going for colour vs black and white is proof enough. That shows when we see the trial intensify in the third half. Nolan was able to pull his version of 12 Angry Men but with the accused present in the room where one could feel the tension in the back and forth, all an outcome of ‘the scene’ that everyone eagerly looked forward to. The filmmaker did his best to give us a first-hand experience of something that we would never want to experience in real life. You find your heart racing at a bright light, trembling silence that is broken by Oppenheimer’s famous words that break the silence before the loud boom. At that moment you feel the world change.

Most of the movie is about travelling through time and finding meaning in things that may not have felt relevant at the time. We get artistic parallels, a different side of the same moment and most of all, the essence of morals. You realise what the term ‘men start all wars’ means and no matter how petty some of it can be it is always about power. It is always about one choosing greatness over basic morals until it’s too late for them to rectify it.

All I can say is that the almonds did pay off!

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