Oppenheimer Is a Scientist with Cinematic Complexity

July 27, 2023

Robert”Oppie” Oppenheimer was a complicated man. Interested in possibilities, fascinated by science and social justice, and finally broken by the system that asked him to create his greatest work. With an overview of his private, public and scientific life, we have a better idea of one of the most famous and notorious American creators.

Genre I would put it in: Long-ass history biopics

Release date: 2023

Remake, sequel, based on or Original: based on the life of the American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer. More precisely, the time just before, during and after directing the Manhattan Project.

I have to say: I find it difficult to criticize Oppenheimer. It is fascinating, intellectually stimulating and touching the affairs of my heart as well as my scientific curiosity. But sometimes it’s also convoluted, messy and cluttered. However, the second half of the film brings all the different parts together, making it an experience that you live on the edge of your seat. How did I get them? I’m glad you’re asking. Oh, didn’t you ask? Well, buckle up, buttercup. You get it anyway.

Christopher Nolan likes to play with time, space and reality. From Memento to Interstellar, his ideas about how time passes and how we perceive our world have put our butts in the seats for a good reason. Here at Oppenheimer, Nolan creates his own Version of Oppie’s Trinity; Oppie’s life before, after and during World War II. Intertwining these moments in time, Nolan causes a strange patchwork of moments interspersed with special effects that show the inner turmoil of Oppie’s mind as his life’s work becomes the beginning of a terrifying new age. It’s an incredibly ambitious storytelling device, and it almost always works.

Why almost? Well, while I usually applaud movies that don’t give viewers information that common sense would naturally provide, so much is thrown on the screen at Oppenheimer so quickly that it took more than a moment for my brain to adjust to all the different characters, schedules and who’s where, when. Of course, it gets easier as the movie progresses, but diving into the sink or swimming that worked so well in Dunkirk only keeps me away from the characters here. There are too many, too early, with little or no introduction. So when I’m asked to connect the dots after in the Movie, my brain made an old 429 mistake, and my brain went blind. Well, not so much my brain, but my heart went “meh, whatever, too many people, not enough time to connect”. Which is not a good feeling when you are watching a Biopic that asks you to worry about the main role and the people around you immediately.

This does not mean that I was not moved. Quite the contrary, at least when the second half of the film hit. Because Oppenheimer looks like two different films that are brought together; each with a different and compelling plot course, but separate ideas about how to convey the story. In the first half, we get Oppie as an older man, who can only be called an interrogation to renew his Q authorization in 1954. Then we see a CGI nuclear explosion, then we are led back and forth, from the 30s to the 40s to the 50s, in no particular order, but with the overall goal of getting us to the Trinity test. It’s a lot to process, and as someone who only has a passing knowledge of everything that was going on at the time, it took more than a little while for everything to happen. Do you add any quick scenes of Oppie and his wife (a consistently excellent Emily Blunt, but more about the cast in a tick) that deal with the tension of married life? I have to admit that there were a few times when I was completely lost and tried to figure out who to take care of and why.

Things pick up steam in the second half and continue to increase in absolutely sublime. Instead of story-telling moments, we get full scenes from Oppie’s life in Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, his work with his fellow researchers as they struggled to meet a literal life-or-away deadline, and how that work was shredded-and his character – during his deportation order, The “July or Bust” chronology adds an additional urgency to the already exciting plot, which adds Empathy and pathos to an older Oppie as he is torn apart by the Commission and betrayed by those he had considered friends. Mccarthyism was a hellish drug, kids. The cast has room to breathe, and the brief glimpses of the powerful performances of Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, David Krumholtz and Robert Downey Jr. in the first half, here will be absolutely magnificent. And although it took me a while to understand the particular salvation of this review, I would like to tell RDJ that we all know that he can sink into a role. And yes, he is awesome. But today? It is Jason Clarke’s prosecutor, Roger Robb, who uses his legal intelligence as a baton. It’s equally terrifying and captivating. I hope that the Academy will remember these mid-year performances during the awards season.

As Nolan is used to, there is a little Hint full of Bombast. At Oppenheimer, it’s at the very end when we are literally bombarded with images that make Independence Day and Dr. Strangelove seem discreet. Of course, there will be people who perceive this last Moment as a punch in the gut. But for me, it was so exaggerated that I had to laugh.

tl; dr? Oppenheimer is a beautiful, well-made but often messy film that immerses you in the life of its titular character and dares you to hang on for the ride. A tour that is worth it, because the Film is getting better every Minute. Or in this matter, time. Three hours in total. Plan your sodas accordingly, y ‘all.

#Protip fun fact: my dad retired from the federal government in the late 80s and spent time at the Atomic Energy Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He had been given a Q authorization because he had to “audit” various nuclear power plants and research facilities. His favorite place, the place he would keep to himself while sending others to “small places”? Los Angeles. I still have a few pieces of turquoise that he brought me from his travels. And when I saw that Cillian Murphy’s Oppie had a silver and turquoise belt in his scenes in Los Alamos? I thought, “Ahh, so that’s one thing about energetic people. They love their turquoise.”And you should, the crafts of New Mexico are among the best in the world.

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