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Why Should We Bring Up Oppenheimer Now?

Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan's latest cinematic masterpiece, delves into the complexities of nuclear power and its implications for humanity's future

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There are thousands of filmmakers out there but only one Christopher Nolan. Faithful to celluloid, favouring IMAX, preferring thunderous sound design, investing in physical visual effects rather than CGI, and visualizing history with lightning editing, Nolan is among the handful of artists who have acquired near mastery over the cinematic playground of time and space. In a directing career with a body of work of just 12 films, he has delivered artistic and commercially viable cinematic masterpieces multiple times grossing over US$5 billion.

At 52, Nolan is arguably the most significant and exciting person in the film director’s chair today.

Nolan’s latest cinematic outing, Oppenheimer provided me with everything I expected and more. In the race to build the bomb that will end all wars, the audience comes face-to-face with the paradox that is quantum physics and the conflicts stirring the mind of the scientist who knows too much. Nolan creates a multi-tiered storytelling structure while dealing with the legend of a genius who knew half a dozen languages from Sanskrit to Dutch, and was inspired by Picasso and Braque. Nolan’s epic thriller intercuts between different time zones and reverses chronological order to go after both the science and politics of the WW2 era. The film is accurate about the post-WW2 ethical concerns of scientists, the cold war, the McCarthy period, and the debate about using a nuclear weapon. Nolan however ignored the cinematically attention-grabbing international espionage element in the Manhattan project. The fast-paced film nevertheless remains arresting from start to finish. Nolan reserves the best scene of the movie for the atomic test scene itself and fills the IMAX screen with spectacular scary images of radioactive hellfire.

Cillian Murphy as the tragic historical figure and the father of the atomic bomb is likely to win each and every honor in the award season this year. Nolan also cast some of the famous stars and actors in minor parts and cameos and many of them delivered studied and restrained performances. The elaborate cast includes Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Rami Malek, Kenneth Branagh, Josh Hartnett, Benny Safdie, Casey Affleck, and even ‘Iron Man’, Robert Downey Jr who gave a career-defining enactment as Lewis Strauss, the founder of the US Atomic Energy Commission. Gary Oldman who had ably depicted Churchill earlier is Truman here. Another important member of the cast is Tom Conti as Albert Einstein at Princeton.

At the end of the 3-hour-long biographical film, the audience is left to meditate on the future course of nations unleashing nuclear power and an invention that could potentially end human civilization. A public intellectual Oppenheimer foresaw and forewarned us about the reality of nuclear weaponry. There are nine nations today that ‘officially’ possess nuclear weapons complete with microdot accuracy delivery systems. We live in a world with despots, military dictators, non-state actors, and even leaders with crazy mindsets who can be in possession of nuclear footballs and launch codes leading to catastrophic consequences. Beyond watching Nolan’s Oppenheimer humankind must question and debate the repercussions of WMD, nuclear threats, and nuclear terrorism and ensure that we bequest a peaceful, safe, and non-nuclear weapons world to future generations.

This will be the greatest gift that we leave behind on our planet.

That is what makes Nolan’s Oppenheimer the most important film of our times.

And that is why we should bring up Oppenheimer now.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Bhuvan Lall

The author is the Chairman of Lall Entertainment

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