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?