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Oppenheimer: The Mesmerizing Selfindulgence Of An Ostensible Genius




Rating: ** ½

 Barring the  accessibly brilliant anti-war film Dunkirk ,Christopher Nolan’s iconized  cinema has over the years become  increasingly incomprehensible to the non-specialized viewer.

To  fully or even partially understand the far –reaching ramifications of Oppenheimer one must be proficient in  nucleur physics, world philosophy ,Hindu spiritualism, engineering , politics, among other things.

Without these areas of intellectual  expertise,watching  Oppenheimer is like snorkeling  into an ocean without diving gear.Sitting in a full theatre with an obediently-still audience  I wondered what they  made out of the  film! Besides of course the  intuitively intelligible  anti-war anti-nuclear message,  which sort of kicks in vehemently in the last one-third .

The rest of  the excruciatingly lengthy film felt  like I has entered the wrong classroom for my  tutorial lecture.A  large  part  of the narrative espies  our  unlikely hero Oppenheimer  grappling with  ground-level bigotry and  ignorance with his  colleagues who have all set up a makeshift city in Saint Alamos , New Mexico to build an  atomic bomb(there!).

Some of the supporting cast of cynics and naysayers(if I  go into the motivations of every character, it would be like trying to  extract needles from a holographic haystack) are impressively persuasive.I  especially liked Jack Qaid as Richard Feynman, adviser  to Lewis Strauss(Robert Downey Jr) who wants Oppenheimer  disgraced and  ousted at  any cost.

Qaid without saying it, expresses the full  enormity of the whole exercize  of America building an atomic bomb  with the purpose of  countering the Nazi bomb.You can’t defeat one evil weapon of mass destruction with another.Didn’t Oppenheimer see the future while seizing the  future?

Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer is  so into his character that we tend to forget what a brilliant performance it is.Oh, Oppenheimer shares an off and on connectivity with  Einstein, THE  Einstein(played with bemused detachment by Tom Conti), thereby giving a whole new definition to the theory of relativity.

Oppenheimer’s relationship with two highly-strung women(one of whom is allergic to flowers,try analyzing that) , his alcoholic wife(Emily Blunt) and suicidal girlfriend  Jean(Florence Pugh) both end in disaster, making me wonder why geniuses should not be banned from relationships.

There are two geniuses at work in this film: Oppenheimer and his creator Nolan both giving  each other  a run for their money. Eventually Nolan’s vision outruns the vast stretches  of Oppenheimer’s intellect creating a yawning stretch of  moral consideration on creation and destruction that is reductively self-absorbed.

What stayed with me was the  meticulous visual and  sound design.At unexpected moments Oppenheimer  is  rattled by thoughts  of  destruction, the fire  of an exploding  atom bomb spreading across the widescreen with toxic effrontery.It is all very impressive. But what does it really amount to?


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