By Lucas Battista

Streaming on Amazon Prime, starring Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich.

“Oppenheimer” opens on the detonation of “the gadget” in slow-motion, before dropping a quote from antiquity onto our head, with the implication that the man himself is allegorical to Prometheus. The movie is justifiably long — at a perfect length, as we witness Robert J. Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) exit academia, enroute to New Mexico, to his systematic and mechanical destruction at the hands of HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee), J. Edgar Hoover, and the American security apparatus at large. Lewis Strauss, played by Robert Downey Jr., who was historically head of the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission), serves as a vehicle for the red scare and a general embittered attitude and paranoia weaponized against possible ideological opponents of a state that often would eat its own. (There really is irony to the U.S. Government mirroring “anti-bonapartist” policies the Soviet Union would use during the same years in cutting down its own war heroes.)

One of the things that I particularly liked about the film was how Oppenheimer utilizes spatial intelligence — his mind’s eye. We see in living color the visual abstractions and almost clairvoyant-like “visions” Oppenheimer receives, something Jung would’ve called introverted intuition. They give us glimpses into a future we as the audience have seen and lived through. The Cold War, arms race, ICBMs, and the ramifications of an atomic blast. Because of this other worldly power, it seems Oppenheimer is often tactilely aware of the backroom politics and agendas that populate each frame of his life, and he doesn’t hesitate in acting petty and spiteful when compelled to do so. Nonetheless, he simply wasn’t prepared for the kind of monsters that one might encounter within Washington, America’s cradle of power.

The movie is fantastically performed, cleverly arranged, and well-shot. At times it might seem choppy, and very often the story jumps between different frames of time, but it’s about the kind of strategic writing and structure that one would expect of Christopher Nolan. I would like to add that although the third act might seem grueling, as pretty much every friend, colleague, and acquaintance is brought to testify in front of Oppenheimer, it is crucial to the story and the man’s legacy at large — we would be cheated to see the movie end on the trinity test.

Christopher Nolan has in the past made movies more resemblant of a luxury watch commercial than a motion picture (Tenet) and Oppenheimer is absolutely not one of them, standing as a reawakening to a director that dabbles in all of nature’s forces.


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