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  • Writer's pictureKen Silvers


"Oppenheimer" is one of those films that makes you realize how little you actually know about physics unless you study or have studied in that field. So director Christopher Nolan presented us with "physics 101" in the biographical thriller. Of course we all know how this film dominated the summer box office with the "Barbie" film, with the two making unusual cinema pals. The film first introduces us to J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) as a 22-year-old doctoral student under the instruction of experimental physicist Patrick Blackett (James D'Arcy) at the University of Cambridge in England. While at Cambridge,. Oppenheimer becomes homesick and suffers anxiety while dealing with his required lab work, leading him to almost carry out an unfortunate action against his professor. Despite his unhappiness, Oppenheimer is recommended to study theoretical physics in Germany, where he finally completes his PhD. After completing his studies in Germany, Oppenheimer returns to the U.S. and begins teaching at the University of California in Berkeley and the California Institute of Technology. While teaching, he meets his future wife Katherine "Kitty" Puening (Emily Blunt), a biologist and ex-communist, and later has an affair with a member of the Communist Party USA Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh). Thus, Oppenheimer is intelligent in the world of physics, but lacks such in his personal life. In 1938 when they discovered Nazi Germany had made tremendous progress in nuclear fission, Oppenheimer and his colleagues strive to replicate their results. Then we jump to 1942, when Oppenheimer is recruited by U.S. Army General Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) to lead the Manhattan Project in order to develop an atomic bomb before the Nazis, but not before he declares he has no communist connections or sympathies. Being Jewish, Oppenheimer is especially anxious to develop the bomb before the Nazis and recruits a top notch scientific team to help in the endeavor. Eventually the scientists are successful in their creation of the bomb, but after Germany surrenders many question the need for the weapon, but Oppenheimer believes use of the bomb will quickly end the ongoing war in the Pacific. Oppenheimer and Alfert Einstein (Tom Conti) had discussions about the destruction of the entire Earth if the bomb is used. Despite their concern, the bomb passes the Trinity test (the first detonation of a nuclear weapon), and President Harry S. Truman (Gary Oldman) orders the bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The resulting devastation leads Japan to surrender, and forces Oppenheimer in the public eye, where he is dubbed "father of the atomic bomb". However, he is haunted by the immense destruction and mass fatalities, and recommends Truman restrict further nuclear weapon development, but is dismissed by Truman. Oppenheimer's stance against further nuclear weapon development is not popular in Washington, and he comes under attack by AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey, Jr.), as tensions rise in the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Strauss is part of a hearing which is intended to eliminate Oppenheimer's political influence, and it does not end well for one of the gentlemen. The film is fascinating and tense, even though at times you feel as if you are taking a course in physics. All the actors are superb, and expect Oscar to come calling during awards season. Downey, Jr. was especially effective as the slimy and underhanded Strauss, and made you almost jeer him. Murphy was perfectly cast in the lead role, and dominated the screen in his scenes. Director Nolan has created another masterpiece to go along with his excellent filmography. "Oppenheimer" is a perfect film for history buffs and those who love quality cinema. (Rated R)



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