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Oppenheimer Review

Christopher Nolan's movies are characterized by their grand, epic setpieces, their amazing dialogue, intense acting, and generally providing an experience bolstered by viewing it within a theater. Oppenheimer is no different, and probably one of Nolan's best, and I say this with absolute certainty. A stellar star-cast carries an already breathtaking nuclear narrative to the next level, as we're brought into the very mindset of Oppenheimer and how he rationalizes even an iota of the atrocity he constructed- giving mankind the tool of its own destruction in the process. Beyond that, Oppenheimer's legacy of death follows him long after WW2's conclusion, as the movie depicts a coordinated political agenda masterminded by a council of vindictive, jealous scientists and politickers seeking to destroy Oppenheimer's image for their own benefit or avenging their own perceived slights he committed against them. Ultimately, the three-hour length of Oppenheimer is more than justified, as every single second is packed with action, intrigue, and dialogue worthy of being hailed as a cinematic classic. Let's get into it.

Without doubt, Cillian Murphy carries movie through his masterful portrayal of the nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer. However, the rest of this movie's cast can't be discounted; whether it's Matt Damon as General Groves or Emily Blunt as Kitty. Even with such great performances shooting off on all cylinders though, a memorable casting does stand out; Robert Downey Jr as Lewis Strausse, the jealous Atomic Energy Commissioner with a personal rivalry against Oppenheimer which lasts throughout the decades until his political career's untimely implosion. Serving as the film's main antagonist, the man exudes nothing short of raw power and vicious determination to undermine Oppenheimer through a series of meticulously planned character assassinations and appeals to government authority, while trying to consolidate power for himself in the chaotic landscape of the post-nuclear world. To witness Strausse's slow descent into madness as his desperation of becoming Commerce Secretary increases throughout the film was brilliant, every iota of hatred and unreasonable insanity that coursed through his veins was put on full display by a convincing performance on Downey's part, and I can't help but agree when he confidently stated during an interview that Oppenheimer was "the best film he ever worked on." Nolan's influence throughout Hollywood's upper echelons is never questionable though, so to say the casting was superb isn't really adding anything new considering he has many A-Listers at his beck and call whenever he announces a new project. But it's far from the best part of this film...

Through a strong mixture of practical effects and CG, not only is Oppenheimer's guilt over creating such a powerful monstrosity of a weapon perfectly encapsulated but the weapon's power itself is enforced. The atomic bomb far eclipsed any machine of warfare introduced prior, dissolving the last of Japan's morale and willingness to fight against both America and Soviet Russia. It was a monumental turning point that forever defined our history afterward, and the movie makes the audience understand that. We don't see any details of the bomb's effects on the human populaces it decimated, only through implications, words, and hallucinations on Oppenheimer's end are these points made clear. We see his foot deep into the ashen, charred remains of a person after the announcement of World War Two's end, his descent as he struggles to confound his ideals of wanting the conflict to cease while also recognizing the immense burden placed on his shoulders.. the movie makes a point of dividing the scientific community portrayed here from the political, perhaps no more poignant then when Truman and Oppenheimer discuss the events which proceeded at the Los Alamos testing facility. Truman boldly calls Oppenheimer a "crybaby", stating the responsibility of dropping the bombs on Japan fell onto him, and that Oppenheimer was only behind creating the tools of destruction, not their usage. Initially, this comes off as Truman being another villain of the film, disregarding the ethical concerns of his scientific counterpart and insisting the atomic bomb be kept around not only to use against belligerent countries, but as deterrents against them as well, in the Soviet Union's case. Interestingly though- he's not entirely wrong. Oppenheimer isn't a villainous or even bad person by any means, but he bears some rather unseemly qualities. His Communist-aligned girlfriend Jean Tatlock's suicide was spurred after an illicit visit to her while married to his current wife Kitty, yet he victimizes himself without failure. This process is repeated with the atomic bomb scandals that follow, and while it's impossible to not view Oppenheimer as a victim of the US military and government, there were several points throughout the film where he prioritized the science and tinkering over the bomb's creation than his own mighty ethical boundaries, which probably incensed quite a few people against him and why Strausse received support from a few traitorous scientists during his character assassinations.

Another crucial aspect of the film would be the Communist elements. More specifically, the allegations of Soviet infiltration at Los Alamos which allowed them to replicate the American discoveries in 1954. A major proponent of these infiltration attempts was Chevalier, a college associate of Oppenheimer's whom he exposed to American authorities. This movie is just as much political as it was scientific, as we explore the mindsets of capitalist and communist and even a more distant exemplary of fascist movements as Werner Heisenberg enjoys a short cameo in the movie, being equivocated as Oppenheimer's German counterpart. Honestly, a Heisenberg movie could work really well...

Either way, the scientific and political levers of this movie are compounded into the singular notion of the atomic, mostly exemplified through the interactions Oppenheimer and Einstein have throughout the film, especially their discussion at the end where Oppenheimer worries about his discoveries becoming the downfall of mankind. This very scene makes all the politicking and infighting between the scientists and suits irrelevant, as the more existential terror of humanity destroying itself and life on the planet through extinguishing our own atmosphere in our vain hatred not only plausible, but perhaps inevitable, as we've shown time and time again we cannot be trusted as stewards of the planet..

Overall, great movie. 10/10, highly recommend if you want to watch a blockbuster this summer. More reviews and blogs to come, God Bless!

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