And the biggest weekend of the year has just got better! We are still in July but if there is that weekend that everyone was talking about then it was that of 21st July ’23 when two of the biggest releases of Hollywood, Oppenheimer and Barbie were going to collide head on! There were media wars and PR campaigns that were almost deaigned to pique the interests of the viewers towards both the films. And I while I was interested in watching both films, the one that I was really looking forward to was the English film Oppenheimer directed by my favourite director Christopher Nolan.
If you are familiar with the filmography of Christopher Nolan then you would know of how different his films are in terms of their themes. He hasn’t quite repeated a genre, making him one of the most sort after genre filmmakers of our generation. But his films are generally known to challenge the viewers and often leave things to their intellect and understanding. This was that one common thread across most of his films, even with the lesser impressive ones(with respect to the Box Office) like Tenet. Yet, everytime there is a Nolan film in town, I am sold.
The one thing which I was skeptical about was that Nolan had now taking the biopic route for his next venture. Even if it was a biopic, it was of a lesser known individual(as compared to someone like an Einstein) named Robert Oppenheimer who I knew very little off besides the fact that he was the man who had created the atomic bomb of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But as the days neared, my interest in the film only got better. And given my Science background and my love for Physics(Yes, I am an Engineer too), somewhere deep down I knew that I would enjoy Oppenheimer to the core. That said is Oppenheimer worth your time, who are we even kidding, you are going to watch it anyway…..so here we go!
Story & Screenplay
Based on a novel, Oppenheimer is the biopic of Robert Oppenheimer, the brain behind the making of the atomic bomb that had destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The story is honestly fascinating wherein the makers have stayed away from the general tropes of a biopic that is often guilty of white-washing the sins of the individual. It fact there are layers of religion, politics and science that greet you and leave a few things to decipher and understand as per your intellect! The screenplay standing at over 3 hours was a daunting runtime but it wasn’t dull even for a single minute. In fact, the writers do well in often switching genres from a drama to a thriller and back, which does ensure that the viewers consume this drama with a touch of fear.
I am the happiest when people related to Science end up getting recognition, and I was the happiest watching the drama which begins with a myth on Prometheus who had stolen fire from the Gods for humanity, only to have repented later. These lines perfectly sum up the essence of the drama to follow. And Nolan being Nolan doesn’t make things easy for the audience on bit! In his typical non-linear template, two parallel tracks by the titles fission and fusion greet you onscreen. While the fission one is shot in colour, the fusion track is shot in black and white a la Memento. You aren’t fed with the timelines on how far apart these events unfold, and it is left up to the interpretation of the viewers(early on) to get a hold of things through the line of questioning that unfolds in both these segments between two different individuals.
Soon, through a series of flashbacks you start getting acquainted with the protagonist while also getting used to his brush with Science and his political ideologies that eventually would play a big part in his descend. There are plenty of jargons from the textbook of Physics that are thrown in that made the geek in me very happy and utterly interested in the proceedings. The proceedings are quick and seamlessly jump from one event to another with a little bit of the personal and love life of the protagonist sprinkled in. This, while the geo-political situation takes a turn across the globe leading up to the inception of the atomic bomb. In between, you also do see glimpses of Albert Einstein amidst other great minds in the field of Physics that really made for a heartfelt watch. I mean everything around us is attributed to some of the greatest minds of the era.
The second hour is more dedicated towards the execution of the atomic bomb. The events of the second World War unfold only in the background and that does help to keep the focus on the drama at hand. One of the most talked about scenes before the release of the film(other than the s*x scene which was obviously censored in India, pity me thinking otherwise), the actual detailing of the atomic bomb was just so impressive. We all know that the speed of light(3×10⁸ m/s) is more than the speed of sound(340 m/s), and hence we see a glowing and blinding light before the vibrations of the sound that kick in, that made the Science student in me just so happy!
Yet, the final hour of the drama does get into the psyche of the protagonist post the attack on Japan(where the film is banned currently). There are shivers within his mind that unfold almost like a ticking bomb with emotions of regret engulfing him. And there is a thing about people in power, the moment you start having your opinion, you are labeled as an anti-national. And I was appalled by the parallels that you can draw with today’s times. If a top brain of a country is treated in this manner, then it is indeed the death of democracy which is what transpired in the film. If you look at the film wholistically, the entire duration of the life of the protagonist, leading up to the trial was like an atomic bomb. It did let out a flash of light which was blinding enough to force him to believe in his invention, only for the vibrations of chaos and regret to kick in. The end is heartbreaking(with everything meeting with a desired conclusion fro the beginning) and it does fill you up with multiple emotions that linger on, long after the film has ended. Overall, the screenplay is as brilliant as brilliant can be, absolutely flawless!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
Some of the most searing dialogues make their way in the narrative. Lines like ‘Now I Am Become Death, The Destroyer Of The Worlds’, makes you want to pause the drama and breath, while sinking in the vibes of negativity. The BGM is outatanding and I was impressed with the vibrations that were created that added to the surreal impact! Even the simplest of interrogation scenes had a ticking background score that converted a simple scene into a nagging thriller. Outstanding is the word!
The cinematography is breathtaking and for all those contesting on the Big Screen Experience, yes it did matter here. Watch this on the biggest screen possible! The art design is on point as well devoid of any VFX whatsoever. The editing is sharp and crisp! Director Christopher Nolan is GOAT! There is nothing else that can describe him better. He is always on the lookout to challenge the viewers while showcasing a cinematic spectacle of a lifetime. There shall never be a Nolan ever again, and I am honoured and privileged to have witnessed his technical brilliance for more than 2 decades now!
The performances are incredibly good by this star studded lineup! Kenneth Branagh as Niels Bohr and Rami Malek as David Hill have their moments to shine. Josh Hartnett as Lawrence is first rate as is Florence Pugh as Jean who looks so pretty in addition to acting superbly. Jason Clarke as Robert shall leave you fuming with his line of questioning that denotes a good day in the office for him. Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss is just brilliant in his mannerisms and demeanor in what was a layered character with streaks of grey. Emily Blunt as Kitty delivers a dignified performance in what was a wonderfully restrained character. Matt Damon as Gen. Groves is silently endearing and excellent in the portrayal of his character. But the star of the show is Cillian Murphy as Robert Oppenheimer who just hits it out of the park with his performance. He was calm and collected but also did showcase his vulnerabilities just so well. It was an acting masterclass of the highest order!
Oppenheimer marks the time when cinema has peaked for me in what is perhaps the best biopic ever made on celluloid. This is peak cinema and something that needs to be celebrated on the biggest screen possible. We are living in the Nolan era and this is yet another Masterpiece and a film wherein Nolan has outdone himself! Available in a theatre near you and Highly Highly Highly Recommended!