Cillian Murphy stars as physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan’s film, “Oppenheimer” (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

(“Oppenheimer” trailer courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Very few can doubt the brilliance of filmmaker Christopher Nolan with hits like “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” under his belt.

Even his misses like “Tenet” could not deny his greatness.

But genius gets reserved for very few in Hollywood.

Just think about how few musicians get the moniker musical genius.

Over the past 50 years, arguably only Prince and Stevie Wonder deserve the distinction.

But with “Oppenheimer,” Nolan has given moviegoers a genius film about the misunderstood genius J. Robert Oppenheimer whose brilliance created the atomic bomb and all its infamy.

Dave Morales of BackstageOL and Fox 26 Houston put it best when urged moviegoers to find the biggest screen with the best sound system because “Oppenheimer” is a movie that you need to feel, literally.

Sure, history buffs might know all about the Manhattan Project, former President Harry Truman’s decision to end World War II with Japan with the push of one button and the catastrophe that followed for Japanese civilians.

But “Oppenheimer” drops moviegoers into a time capsule, which has not since occurred in books, documentaries or other theatrical films about World War II.

In “Oppenheimer,” Robert (Cillian Murphy) is at a weird place in his life.

Not many people around the globe understand the science of quantum physics and quantum mechanics.

Frankly, to study those disciplines Robert must leave America to study abroad because there are no quantum physics programs in the United States.

While others favor a more hands-on approach to physics via labs and physical inventions, Robert favors the theory of physics and want can be accomplished with a more solid understanding of that science.

In “Oppenheimer,” Robert is respected and admired by all the leading minds of the day like Albert Einstein.

He has offers to work at universities and for government programs.

And his brilliance has made him somewhat of a celebrity amongst the opposite sex, including those that are supposedly married.

But as Pam (Tichina Arnold) on the sitcom “Martin” would state, just because a person is married does not mean they cannot date.

But who one dates is not just subject to ridicule if the person is married.

In the early half of the 20th century, who a person dates and who a person associates with could put them at odds with the American government especially if those acquaintances have Communist sympathies.

Having ties to Communists, even if not a card-caring member, could get one blacklisted from American society, making it virtually impossible to get a job or to find acceptance from a country that favors democracy and capitalism over autocracy and socialism.
However, when America is forced into World War II thanks to the actions of the Japanese military, the government might have to make strange bedfellows with those it would probably consider persona non grata in peace time.

In “Oppenheimer,” Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) recruits Robert to head a group of physicists to develop an atomic weapon that would beat the Nazis to the punch and hopefully end World War II.

But at a time when no one can be trusted, finding the right scientists who are loyal to the United States and its allies could become another battle in and of itself.

And when former American allies began taking the lead on developing another weapon of mass destruction, suspicion obviously turns to the physicists present during the Manhattan Project studies.

And if one of the American physicists, credited with saving the world, is found responsible for helping a future enemy to the United States, heads might roll.

Unfortunately, “Oppenheimer” is offensively long.

Furthermore, some of the science mumbo jumbo, like fusion and fission, might go over the heads of mere mortals.

But longevity and ingenuity aside, “Oppenheimer” gets basically everything correct.

Nolan brought out the heavy hitters for “Oppenheimer” like Robert Downey, Jr., Emily Blunt, Jason Clarke, Tony Goldwyn (“Scandal”) and Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”).

And everyone does the darn thing, especially Downey who delivers one of the most cutthroat performances of his career.

But the star of all stars is Murphy.

He plays Oppenheimer with a cocky arrogance that is still likable and charismatic.

He is not the stereotypical socially awkward science geek.

Murphy plays Robert with a charm that seduces the most beautiful ladies and inspires the most powerful minds.

But Robert still has a vulnerability and insecurity that his hubris sometimes hides.

As a result, his wife Kitty (Blunt) provides the missing links to cover up his flaws and weaknesses.

If there is a second star of stars, it is the director, Nolan.

“Oppenheimer” literally shakes like an explosion which is very apropos for a movie that depicts one of the biggest explosions of all time.

The feel of “Oppenheimer” is palpable.

And the visuals are breathtaking, especially the scenes in Los Alamos, N.M. before the Manhattan Project commences.

The wardrobe, style, sounds and automobiles are nostalgic like in many period pieces.

The switching to black-and-white from color also adds to the nostalgia in “Oppenheimer.”

But for the history buffs, “Oppenheimer” presents the ultimate catch-22 in politics.

Doing the right thing for one’s country might be catastrophic for people in other countries.

And many times, the catastrophe hits civilians just as hard as servicemen.

How does one sleep at night, regardless of the decision they decide to make?

Additionally, “Oppenheimer” depicts the savagery of politics, where no one should be trusted, and no one is your friend.

Because at the end of the day, politics is about protecting one’s own a$$, even if that means obliterating everyone else’s a$$ in the process.







Todd A. Smith
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