Oppenheimer (2023) - A complex portrait of the man behind the atomic bomb

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

Isra'a Rdaydeh

The writer is an experienced journalist based in Amman, Jordan. She possesses a range of qualifications and skills that make her a valuable asset in journalism.

For anyone on social media or using the internet, you have probably seen the loads of memes, pop culture references, and the contrast of black and pink to highlight between two big box office films that were released in the last month, Barbie, which is set to release in the Middle East on August 31 and Oppenheimer, currently in theaters. Dividing audiences between the glitz and glam versus the dark side of film, Cristopher Nolan’s latest film Oppenheimer brilliantly captures the complex life and pivotal role J. Robert Oppenheimer in the development of the atomic bomb. The movie centers around the aftermath of the bomb's devastating impact on Hiroshima, showcasing Oppenheimer's emotional turmoil as he navigates between celebration and horror amidst his colleagues at Los Alamos.اضافة اعلان

I watched the film at Grand Cinema in City Mall, and to my surprise, the audience was quite a diverse group, from all age groups, and a packed theater. Whether it is about the theatrics, cinematography, or merely just the history, this film brought in fans from all across the board, all looking to watch Nolan’s latest film.

So let us dig in…. warning, there may be some spoilers, so read at your own discretion.

In the mid-20th century Oppenheimer stood alongside Albert Einstein as one of the world's most renowned physicists.

As the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, he played a central role in persuading the American elite of the necessity of collaborating on the atomic bomb program.

In the film, Cillian Murphy portrays Oppenheimer with great intensity, capturing the physicist's complexities and inner conflicts. While Oppenheimer's military counterpart, General Leslie Groves (played by Matt Damon), makes significant contributions to the project's success, the movie focuses on the Atomic Energy Commission's safety hearing in 1954, showcasing the controversial role of its chairman, Lewis Strauss (played by Robert Downey Jr.).

Though the film excels in attention to detail, such as using practical effects and the unique blend of IMAX and black-and-white photography, it also faces criticism. Nolan's attempt to depict Oppenheimer's thinking and intentions falls somewhat short, leaving the protagonist's character torn and contradictory to be a clear hero or antihero.

Moreover, the portrayal of the complex female figures in Oppenheimer's life, like his wife Kitty and affairs with Jean Tatlock and Ruth Tolman, lacks depth and substance, reducing them to supporting roles.

While the movie impressively captures the historical events surrounding the atomic bomb's development and its first detonation, some viewers might find the film's length and pacing a bit exhaustive. Meanwhile, some historians have also criticized the film for its playing on the timeline of what actually happened, yet again, it is a film, with a big box office budget, perhaps, it was not meant to be without fault.

Nolan's attention to Oppenheimer's psychological struggles adds depth to the narrative, but it occasionally overshadows the representation of the human tragedy experienced by the victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the end, Oppenheimer stands as a moral ballet, questioning whether it unintentionally elevates Oppenheimer to a heroic status, rather than presenting him as a more nuanced character. Comparisons are drawn to the powerful portrayal of the atomic bomb’s horror in Alain Resnais' "Hiroshima mon amour" (1959).

The use of black and white in Oppenheimer
Nolan’s use of black and white in Oppenheimer is a deliberate choice that serves a number of purposes. First, it creates a sense of realism and historical accuracy. The film is set in the 1940s, and the use of black and white helps to transport the audience back to that time period.

Second, the use of black and white helps to create a sense of dread and unease. The film deals with some very heavy themes, such as the development of nuclear weapons and the dangers of nuclear proliferation. The use of black and white helps to amplify these themes and to create a sense of foreboding.

Third, the use of black and white helps to focus the audience's attention on the characters and the performances. The film is a character-driven film, and the use of black and white helps to bring the characters to life and to make their performances more impactful.

And finally, without saying more, the usage of black and white stylistically is simply beautifuly. The film is visually stunning, and the use of black and white helps to create a sense of atmosphere and mood. The film is a feast for the eyes, and the use of black and white is a big part of that.

The film's use of black and white is particularly effective in creating a sense of realism, dread, and atmosphere. The film is a must-see for anyone interested in history, science, or film.

Comparison to Nolan's previous films
Oppenheimer is a departure from Nolan's previous films in a number of ways. First, it is a much slower-paced film. Nolan's previous films, such as Inception and The Dark Knight, are known for their fast-paced action sequences and their use of visual effects. Oppenheimer is much more deliberate in its pacing, and it relies more on dialogue and character development.

This film is a much more serious film than Nolan's previous films. Nolan's previous films often have a sense of humor, even in the darkest of moments. Oppenheimer is a much more somber film, and it deals with some very heavy themes, such as the development of nuclear weapons and the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

Oppenheimer is a much more personal film than Nolan's previous films. Nolan's previous films often have a large ensemble cast, and they focus on the action and the plot. Oppenheimer is a much more intimate film, and it focuses on the character of Oppenheimer and his inner turmoil.

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