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‘Oppenheimer’ worth a chance?


The new movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer,” promises to be a dramatic, emotional and touching story. This movie is based on the true story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist, and the creator of the atomic bomb. It is based on the 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “American Prometheus” by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin about Oppenheimer.

Much of “Oppenheimer” was filmed in New Mexico where the events originally took place. The story of Oppenheimer is about a man who “changed the world forever,” Nolan said in an interview with Hugo Decrypte.

“We live in a world of his (Oppenheimer’s) creation and that will never go away, and I do find that frightening,” Nolan said.

It was here in Southern New Mexico, on the Jornada del Muerto just west of the Tularosa Basin, the first atomic bomb was tested. Oppenheimer led the team creating and setting it off in our backyard. The plot of the film hopefully will continue past the devastating bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 to look at Oppenheimer’s regret and sadness following the start of the atomic age.

“What I first learned about Oppenheimer that really grabbed was that there was this moment where he and his fellow scientists on the Manhattan Project could not eliminate the potential of a chain reaction from that first test that would destroy the entire world,” Nolan told Decrypte. “And yet they pushed the button.”

Filmed in IMAX 65mm and 65mm large-format film, Nolan used practical effects and minimal CGI. He wrote it in the first person, and it alternates color and black-and-white scenes to signify both objective and subjective perspectives.

Starring Cillian Murphy as the title character, with a supporting ensemble cast including Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, and Kenneth Branagh, Nolan wanted to make the film as subjective as possible. The production team decided to visualize Oppenheimer's conceptions of the quantum world and waves of energy. 

“Oppenheimer’ has the potential to be an amazing movie, full of the drama and personal life of its title character and the event that catapulted him into history and changed the world. My hope is people remember this is only based on a true story and is not a documentary. My fear is this Hollywood production will aggrandize one man in a spectacular portrayal and leave behind the estimated 210,000 real humans who died because of what he did.

Bulletin staff writer Elva K. Österreich is also the author of a book about the Trinity Test, “The Manhattan Project Trinity Test: Witnessing the Bomb in New Mexico.”