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Oppenheimer (2023) | Review

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

by Ella Haig

*Contains spoilers

Oppenheimer (2023), directed by Christopher Nolan, tells the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), an American physicist and the “Father of the Atomic Bomb”. The film follows Oppenheimer from his days as a student at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, to his creation of the atomic bomb with the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. The last third of the film concentrates on the trial Oppenheimer faced, which revoked his security clearance due to his alleged connections with Communism.

Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Nolan’s widely renowned directorial reputation precedes him in Oppenheimer as he produces an intricate script intertwined with awe-inducing images. The spectacular cinematography is integral in illustrating the intensity of the historical context the film is set within. It’s a gripping three-hour whirlwind of emotion, adrenaline and devastation. It is highly thought-provoking and raises relevant concerns regarding the development of nuclear weapons, including how far men will go in the name of scientific innovation.

The final scene of the film reveals a conversation between Oppenheimer and famous physicist, Albert Einstein, in which Oppenheimer says to him: “When I came to you with those calculations, we thought we might start a chain reaction that would destroy the entire world [...] and I believe we did.” These chilling final words mirror Oppenheimer’s fear and realisation that he created something that has the potential to end the world, and that he cannot undo. This scene is arguably one of the most significant in the film, because we are, in fact, living within that very chain reaction and in a never-ending cycle of nuclear weapons development.

Oppenheimer was a multi-layered and highly intelligent individual, which only deepened my curiosity for him and his endeavours. The film captures Oppenheimer struggling between an eagerness to push his scientific intelligence to extraordinary limits, and his concerns about the immorality of the project.

This story is important because the education and media in certain countries have somewhat shielded the complete implications of the project, and failed to emphasise the horrifying number of innocent civilians that were killed. Nolan unveils the fact that inaccurate and limited information about the project was diffused during the war, which concerns us as to what other undercover projects may be taking place today.

While the film was prominently centred on Oppenheimer himself, I was also hoping for greater insight into those affected by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The impact of this tragedy on civilians has often been neglected, despite them being the very victims of the disaster. I believe the film would have benefitted from delving deeper into this, and temporarily shifting away from Oppenheimer’s torment about the use of the bomb, which seems somewhat self-engrossed considering his role in the event.

I truly recommend watching this film as it represents an important chapter in history. I was amazed by the quality of the performances delivered by Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh, whose commitment to their roles was distinguished and completely captured through the screen. Murphy’s mannerisms and resemblance to the real Oppenheimer are reflective of the dedication he put into embodying the character, and a testament to his accomplishments as an actor.


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