Oppenheimer: Nolan excels at it again!

It is more than difficult to create a biopic on celluloid and go beyond the person it is portraying. Oppenheimer does it beautifully. In Christopher Nolan’s distinct style as director, the movie swings between time lines, between court room drama, relationships, scientific investigation and obsession and a person/scientist torn between a war and scientific discovery.

Based on a Pulitzer winner book ‘American Prometheus’, Christopher Nolan’s visual feat ‘Oppenheimer’ goes beyond Nolan’s usual sci-fi films. The movie in sharp close-ups and swift switches between timelines focuses on the legal proceeding of the security clearance of famous scientist Robert Oppenheimer, who headed the high-profile ‘Manhattan Project’ which culminated in making of the infamous atom bomb. The bomb was later dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan and this finally ended the Second World War defeating the formidable Japan.

The legal proceedings gradually reveal the farce that it was to pull down Oppenheimer and the political power game in play. In between the legal proceedings we get to know about Robert Oppenheimer as a young scientist, his obsession with Quantum Mechanics, his love for science and his ambition too. Cilian Murphy has always been part of Nolan’s films. But this is his most significant role till now and he excels as a brooding, depressive yet a genius scientist, Robert Oppenheimer.

The best is unfolded in the end. The story is unfolded in rapid shots, which is beautifully woven together with editing. Nolan gets his scientific facts right and accurate. His portrayal of stalwart scientists like Teller, Feynman, Einstein and many others is laudable. Robert Downey Jr in the role of cunning Lewis Strauss is brilliant. This is perhaps the best performance of his so far. Oppenheimer’s security clearance proceedings are further inter cut with the hearing in the Senate to establish if Strauss is suitable for a federal post and Nolan deals with all deftly.

The only flaw is very sketchy portrayal of the female characters- Oppenheimer’s bipolar mistress Jean Tatlock and wife Kitty Oppenheimer leave us with a wish to know them more, although actress Emily Blunt as Oppenheimer’s wife, shines in some moments such as during the brief interrogation, her glare and refusal to shake hands with Teller.

Another flaw, or let’s say the prerequisite for watching the film is – you should at least know a little about the ‘Manhattan Project, America’s history and Oppenheimer too before you go and watch this amazingly beautiful movie.

The undercurrent through the entire film which becomes painfully clear in the end is succinctly expressed in the last brief interaction between Oppenheimer and Einstein- that the science had created a monster which would be used by mankind to destroy and annihilate. Moreover, the discoverer of the miraculous science will be rewarded not because of his achievement but because of the political interests and the scientist will have to bear the burden of his discovery all through his life.The film uses sound very effectively. Not a single scene reflects violence, but the shaky set and piercing sounds make the destruction war brings more than clear.

Now we come to the use of a sentence from Bhagwad Geeta. The sentence is used because Oppenheimer said it after the bomb was dropped successfully killing millions. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” It shows more of Oppenheimer’s guilt and man’s self destructing instinct than any religious sentiment. So, all Indians should relax and not take everything on face value. As it is, the Bhagwad Geeta is not merely a religious scripture, it is a deep philosophy.

In all, Christopher Nolan has once again been able to enthrall the world and we must watch the film not only to know Oppenheimer, but also the horrifying consequences of war and violence.


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