Barbie is this summer’s big blockbuster, but, for the science teacher in me, Oppenheimer was a movie experience not to be missed!
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan and based on American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin in 2005, the Oppenheimer movie is a masterpiece. Covering multiple timelines in J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life, the movie not only delves into the development of the atomic bomb during World War II but also exposes the McCarthyism of the time.
Cillian Murphy is, in short, amazing as Oppenheimer. He manages to convey Oppenheimer’s conflicting attitudes toward the atomic bomb while at the same time being heartbreakingly silent. Emily Blunt, as Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty, is brilliant and delivers some of the most astute observations of the security hearings that led to Oppenheimer’s downfall. Matt Damon portrays General Leslie Groves, the US Army Corps of Engineers officer who was the director of the Manhattan Project. Robert Downey Jr is Lewis Strauss, the chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission.
Writer and director Christopher Nolan is impeccable in his dedication to historical accuracy. Much of the script directly quotes American Prometheus and explores the ethical and existential quandaries of the Manhattan Project delicately and at the same time solidly.
Was Oppenheimer a hero or a villain? Thirty years ago I would have said that history will tell. The movie portrays him as a well intentioned but conflicted man. In his defense, the Manhattan Project would have continued and the atomic bomb would have been developed, with or without him, so laying blame on his shoulders is shortsighted, in my opinion. If nothing else, the atomic bomb reminds us of the lengths people will go to when they are truly scared.