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Gravity Swallows Light

Oppenheimer

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr, Josh Hartnett, Matt Damon, Tom Conti, Dane DeHaan, Casey Affleck, Kenneth Branagh, Gary Oldman, Florence Pugh, Alden Ehrenriech, Scott Grimes, Jason Clarke, Tony Goldwyn, James D’Arcy, Gregory Jbara, David Krumholtz, Matthias Schweighofer, Alex Wolff, Jack Quaid, Michael Angarano, Matthew Modine, David Dastmalchian, Josh Peck, Rami Malek, Christopher Denham, James Remar, Olivia Thirlby, Gustaf Skarsgard, Jefferson Hall, Louise Lombard

Running time: 180 minutes

Film Rating: 9.5 out of 10

The sheer magnitude of director Christopher Nolan’s biographical historical drama Oppenheimer is hugely impressive. In fact it is the director’s Magnum Opus – his historical masterpiece. Nolan’s idea of making a film about the Manhattan Project was hinted at in the Mumbai scene in his 2020 time bending espionage film Tenet.

Unlike most historical biographies which follows a chronological narrative structure of displaying dates and locations, Nolan throws out the rule book and instead dazzles the viewer, challenging them in every frame with a multitude of different scenes occurring concurrently, skilfully playing with time frames but ultimately building up a character of a very intelligent but complex man, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Atomic Bomb, the Sphinx Guru of Atoms as one of his colleagues call him just after the succesfull Trinity Test in Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1945 as part of the ultra-covert Manhattan Project.

For what Oppenheimer discovers, the harnessing of atomic energy, its military significance will ultimately overshadow its scientific genius much like gravity swallowing light.

At the centre of Oppenheimer, are three great performances. Cillian Murphy is captivating as J. Robert Oppenheimer, a gifted but conflicted scientist who even consults with Albert Einstein, a scene stealing moment featuring British character actor Oscar nominee Tom Conti (Shirley Valentine; Rueben, Rueben). Then Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr (Chaplin) shows off his skilful acting abilities as the devious and vindictive Lewis Strauss, the head of the Atomic energy Commission who is out to get Oppenheimer, a sort of Cassius figure that seeks the downfall of an influential leader.  

Oscar nominee Florence Pugh (Little Women) as the seductive communist Jean Tatlock, Oppenheimer’s former girlfriend and part time sex siren is tantalizing as a defiant yet traumatised woman caught up with a complicated man on the brink of changing the world forever, just as geopolitics in the World War II era was shifting beyond recognition, from the age of mortal combat to nuclear annihilation. Tatlock’s character resembles the allure of communism in the late 1920’s when it was fashionable amongst the intelligentsia in bohemian circles, before the political system’s failures were tested and exposed.

Christopher Nolan expects his viewers to be historically literate, because as a history buff with an Imax camera, he is out to impress you, dazzle you with a superb epic, flipping between decades complete with oblique historical reference points from the Spanish Civil War to Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 to the trials of communists during the witch hunts of McCarthyism in 1950’s America. You have to be up to date with this knowledge because as an auteur director Nolan demands a sophisticated audience.

With crisp cinematography by Oscar nominee Hoyte Van Hoytema (Dunkirk) and a jarring musical score by Oscar winner Ludwig Goransson (Black Panther), Oppenheimer is a cinematic feast which displays a competent universe of stars, a host of talented actors and many cameo’s that make up this epic, an overtly masculine take on a monumental historical figure filled with urgency and military importance, strategic significance and ethical complexity.

Whether celebrated or later despised as expertly crafted by Christopher Nolan who also wrote the screenplay, Oppenheimer is painted as a flawed but inventive scientist who gets too involved in the industrial military complex, represented by Matt Damon’s brute force army character Leslie Groves, while his past flirtations with communism were scrutinized as he had top level security to the hydrogen bomb that he built and created, which Truman used unblinkingly to bomb the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II in August 1945.

Oppenheimer is an intelligent multidimensional film about the controversial father of the Atomic Bomb set in an era when the world was changing too fast for the population to realize the consequences.

Oppenheimer gets a film rating of 9.5 out of 10 and is an intelligent dissection of the moment the world changed forever. Highly recommended viewing.

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