By Aranyak Goswami
A timeless masterpiece or just a great creation in contemporary cinema
What is the greatest lesson that a scientist can learn from the story of Oppenheimer? The Government machinery will come to you with its own agenda. They will make you a hero and catapult you to an unseen level of glory pride and importance. They will get all the work done and as soon as their purpose is fulfilled, they will throw you out as a leper and if need be, turn yourself into a scapegoat and ultimately into a monster.
Oppenheimer as a movie is a classic piece of creation both in terms of science and arts. As in the case of many Nolan films, every film on release is dubbed to be his best. This Herculean piece of work is an edifice of research, grit, and aesthetics. However, the mood is quite somber and not thoroughly entertaining.
The movie has the quality and template of a documentary film. The movie unfolds like a history channel documentary only with a scale that is unprecedented for a documentary. The visuals are stunning and meticulously constructed without the aid of any visual effects. The storyline is so dense and convoluted spiraling between timelines that it often becomes difficult to keep hold of everything that unfolds in front of your eyes.
All the typical elements of a Nolan movie are retained in this movie ranging from a complex labyrinth of storyline. However, what comes across as a defining moment of the whole movie is the way complex psyche and mental ramifications of the titular character and how the evolution of the protagonist from a triumphant national war hero to the poster boy of American supremacy to an almost tragic figure riddled with guilt, dichotomy, and humiliation has been depicted with great sensitivity and empathy in the whole movie.
Nolan has a fascination with playing with time in all his movies. Time acts as a different dimension as is the theory of relativity by Einstein who quite intriguingly is present in person as an omnipotent entity throughout the film. The film crisscrosses between timelines displayed in black and white and color with the ongoing story about the Oppenheimer timeline playing in black and white and the way to the development of the bomb depicted in color.
Cinephiles around the world would dabble around peripheral facts like how masterfully the blast scene has been created without the aid of any visual effects. This movie will also be remembered for the towering tour de force performance of Cillian Murphy who has a very high probability of walking away with every major acting award on this planet. However, the cinematic triumph for me in this movie is the depiction of the complex psychological underpinnings of Oppenheimer while he was just executing the project and the burden of the guilt that one must encounter once the effects of the bombing become truly apparent.
In the ending scene where Einstein narrates how the political machinery will eventually turn a visionary scientist into a war hero, an outcast a dark knight, and after deriding his individuality and his life as an active scientist will give him a title and epithet celebrating their achievement and not of the scientist, we see the movie coming to fruition, a satisfying conclusion.
Murphy is towering with his eclectic performance, but he has been supported by brilliant performances with help from very competent masterful actors who have enlivened the drama and have added great dimensions to the historical events unfolding in the whole movie.
Christopher Nolan developed such a mythological reputation that even bits and piece role major actors will happily oblige to perform. However, the casting has been so impeccable that even the smaller roles have greatly contributed to the development of the narrative.
The tonality of the movie with its somber atmosphere has been elevated to a great extent by the riveting music by Ludwig Göransson who acted as a due successor of Hans Zimmer the maverick music director who collaborated with Nolan in most of his movies. Not only the music but the background sound effects, and sound design has been so exquisite that it perfectly complements every set of pieces depicted in the movie. All these effects combined have built the foundation for a movie that might look timeless, and a class apart associated with such greatness that it might carve a permanent place in the history of world cinema.
The film indeed aspires for greatness and is beyond a doubt a master class in filmmaking, one of the finest historical films of all time but it has its own shortcomings and complications that resists it from being one of the all-time greatest in history.
The movie aims to bring the mental agony of the creator and guilt associated with the curse that was built in terms of the atomic bomb which would lead to a new form of global power dynamics; however, the atrocities languishment and horror of Nagasaki and Hiroshima is never adequately represented in the movies.
The tragedy of such ghastly actions comes in the form of symbolism and imagery which might appear as artistic expressions but never comes across as personal euphemism that connects with the audience in a deep psychosocial manner.
The film is extraordinary in the bits where it tries to become personal showing the social and individual dichotomy of the protagonist but amidst its greatest technical and artistic extravaganza these personal bits only shine in places and in most other occasions get lost in translation.