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Oppenheimer Review: Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant
Christopher Nolan’s latest offering ticks all the boxes
Christopher Nolan is a terrific film maker who has shown a remarkable consistency in bringing immense depth and meaning to what would otherwise be cheap Hollywood blockbusters.
In the Dark Knight Trilogy, Nolan successfully weaves together the staple superhero narrative with profound questions about freedom, truth, integrity and morality. Inception was beautifully made and, again, rich with different levels of meaning. Even The Prestige, a movie about two stage magicians fighting over a cheap trick, is embedded with philosophical dilemmas and highly satisfying nuggets of depth: the scene in which the difference between something being “simple” and something being “easy” is elucidated with extreme poignance has stayed with me for a long time.
On occasion, however, and forgive the blunt phrasing, Nolan is prone to disappearing up his own arse. Tenet, in particular, was a good example of someone being too clever for their own good and, more importantly, for the good of his audience.
It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I made my journey to the cinema to watch Oppenheimer but this feeling was rapidly replaced with exhilaration at what is objectively a masterful piece of work. The acting and casting alone are worth their weight in gold; Cillian Murphy is outstanding as the protagonist, while Robert Downey Jr. serves as the perfect foil with his depiction of Lewis Strauss. Matt Damon is excellent as Leslie Groves, the man who oversaw construction of the Pentagon and directed the Manhattan Project, while Emily Blunt is a very persuasive alcoholic Kitty Oppenheimer.
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It is difficult to overstate how significant the development of the world’s first nuclear weapon was. To do justice to the scale of the endeavour, the stupefying nature of the moral questions at play and the impact of the Manhattan Project on human history is a tall task.
Fortunately, Nolan rises to the challenge and delivers a masterpiece that combines an enticing personal narrative, cultural commentary on an America obsessed with ‘reds under the bed’, an informative guide on the science behind the nuclear project and a heart-gripping depiction of the moral, philosophical and political struggles that shaped a pivotal turn in the story of mankind.
What makes the film particularly enticing is that the story of the Manhattan Project is beautifully nested inside the journey of a complicated man, making it easier to absorb and appreciate the nature of the challenge Oppenheimer and his team faced. This was a challenge not only in developing the bomb but in attempting to mitigate the consequences of the terrible device they’d given the best part of their working lives to building. It is therefore not just a film about an important guy who did a huge thing: it is a multi-layered exploration of science, ambition, political zealotry and morality itself.
Tasked with reincarnating one of the most crucial, triumphant, painful and powerful moments in human history for our entertainment, Nolan smashes it out of the park with Oppenheimer.
Go see it if you can.