Review: Love and regret lie at the heart of Christopher Nolan’s movies no matter how complex and demanding they seem in structure and storytelling. True to his style in spirit but deviating from the usual in execution and content, the British director creates a moving masterpiece on human disillusionment. How a man’s biggest discovery and bravery marked his biggest doom. Oppenheimer may have been a genius, but he wasn’t acquainted with the ways of the world. He spoke his mind, trusted everyone, and paid a price for it.
Talkie and dense, the film unravels like a psychological horror-investigative thriller even as it recreates known historical events. IMAX cameras go dangerously close to the actors exposing every pore, every unsaid emotion, and every falling tear perfectly. Sound and silence especially in that chilling detonation scene, play an unsettling game of hide and seek. Ludwig Göransson’s music lends the film its unnerving ticking time bomb nature. Nolan keeps amplifying your anxiety, holding you emotionally captive with no interest to slow down whatsoever. You find yourself being moved to tears as he finally releases his flawed lead character from the prison of his own guilt.
The 3-hour long film is based on Pulitzer Prize-winning biography called ‘American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer’. It meticulously follows the celebrated and controversial physicist’s life story in a nonlinear fashion. The narrative shuttles between past and present while addressing the key events leading up to the nuclear test and its repercussions. These involve the American Jew’s equation with self, fellow scientists including Albert Einstein, political activism leaning left, implications on him being a Russian spy and revocation of his security clearance in an unfair government hearing.
A man who took great pride in his discoveries could never look at it in the eye. The atomic bomb though only forms a section of the film, it largely studies the mindset of its creator. Oppenheimer’s ambition and relentless love for physics swamp him with a sense of impending doom and moral scruples. Nolan cleverly pits Oppenheimer’s heart against his mind and the disconnect between the two at the centre of his film.
If you happen to be a World War II geek, you will get the Germany-USA-Japan-Russia arms race and socio-political situation better.
One man’s desire to combat fascism and save lives resulted in the destruction of human lives and no one could have played it better than Cillian Murphy. His piercing blue eyes convey agony and quiet anger remarkably. Robert Downey Jr and Emily Blunt are excellent. Matt Damon, Rami Malek and Kenneth Branagh are well cast in extended cameos.
Oppenheimer leaves you in tatters as it is a gripping piece on a man consumed by guilt and inner turmoil. “A man who became death, the destroyer of worlds.” You won’t forget this film for a long time.