REVIEW | Oppenheimer


Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus Oppenheimer never shies away from treating the Manhattan Project scientists as people who played gods with the creation of the atomic bomb nearly 80 years ago. The allegories are astute, with the film opening with the Greek myth of Prometheus - who stole fire from the Olympian gods; and adding a scene referencing Oppenheimer’s frequently quoted line of Hindu scripture from the Bhagavad-Gita: “Now I am become (sic) Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Despite this, it does not paint the titular character as an infallible being. Excellently portrayed by Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer had politics that did not align with the government that handpicked him to be the lead scientist. He was also a known womanizer. 

As cinephiles are quite aware, it is rare for a Nolan film to follow a linear structure and  Oppenheimer is no exception. The narrative is divided into two parts - “Fission”, presented in black-and-white shows the POV of Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey, Jr.), who chaired the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC); and “Fusion”, shown in full color focusing on Oppenheimer’s POV. It gets confusing at the beginning of the film but viewers would get the drift eventually on how these two prominent figures in US history eventually became estranged.

The film keeps its fast pace, without viewers realizing three hours have gone by. Seeing the detonation of the first atomic bomb in New Mexico should be filed as one of the best cinematic experiences, especially on an IMAX screen. The script has intricate details, some of which I failed to comprehend - blame it on my dependence on subtitles in streaming platforms.

Murphy nailed his character who struggles with being responsible for the deaths of 70,000 to 135,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000 to 80,000 people in Nagasaki, Japan. Nolan’s choice not to shoot any scene in Japan nor rehash archival footage of the atomic bomb explosions adds layers of guilt and inner turmoil for the lead character.

Nudity might have been in excess but it does serve a role in making the audience uncomfortable. Oppenheimer was stripped of his clothes before a government probe - much like his dignity. 

There’s no flaw to spot on the powerhouse cast. Emily Blunt, who portrays Oppenheimer’s common-law partner Kitty, is a standout. And she does not even have to have a line. She can just stare at you to oblivion.

Oppenheimer ends with a disturbing note about how the science and politics of the 20th Century led to the film’s probable gruesome sequel. It’s no spoiler. Just watch the news.

Rating: 10/10

Oppenheimer is now showing in Philippine cinemas. It’s R-16.