“Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. For this he was chained to a rock and tortured for eternity.”
With these sentences on the screen, Christopher Nolan’s recent movie Oppenheimer starts, giving us an impression that the movie will feature the “father of the atomic bomb” as a god or as a hero.
Based on the book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (2005) by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, the movie delves into the life of the American physicist (portrayed by Cillian Murphy) who played a pivotal role in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II.
The movie features Oppenheimer’s personal journey, exploring his early life, education, and his rise to prominence within the scientific community. It showcases his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he led the Manhattan Project, a top-secret research initiative aimed at creating the world’s first atomic weapon.
Nolan, who is known for his critically acclaimed works such as Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014) and The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012), employs his unique storytelling style and his ability to create visually stunning scenes to create this thought-provoking film.
The movie focuses on Oppenheimer’s internal conflicts as he grapples with the moral implications of his work. It explores his struggle to balance his scientific ambitions with the potentially devastating consequences of unleashing such destructive power upon humanity.
In the movie, Oppenheimer aspires to be a god, but even in his personal life he is no saint. In one of the early scenes, Oppenheimer is seen poisoning an apple belonging to his Cambridge tutor Patrick Blackett. In another scene, he betrays his wife.
However, the movie contains different time frames as it tells the story of 40 years of Oppenheimer’s life across multiple points. So, we see Oppenheimer as a student, then as a young professor, then as an experienced scientist, and although this can be confusing, it serves the development of the story. Also the timeline is divided in black-and-white scenes versus colour.
Don’t expect to see massive explosions. This film focuses on the main character grappling with his feelings.
Even so, Nolan’s ability to blend entertainment with deep philosophical questions makes the movie a unique experience. It is not just a biographical drama; it tackles the ethical dilemmas that scientists face and the consequences or risks of their discoveries and the inner conflict that may happen.