Saturday, July 22, 2023

Oppenheimer: A Triumph of Movie Making


कालोऽस्मि लोकक्षयकृत्प्रवृद्धो लोकान्समाहर्तुमिह प्रवृत्तः ।

ऋतेऽपि त्वा न भविष्यन्ति सर्वे येऽवस्थिताः प्रत्यनीकेषु योधाः ॥
"I am Death in the form of Time, the destroyer of worlds; I have grown now. I am engaged in the dissolution of the worlds. Even without you, these people assembled on the battlefield would not continue to exist."

Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer is the movie that makes you feel what you see on screen, through visuals, sounds, acting, or even darkness. Visuals of vibrating atoms, a black hole, or the test explosion of the bomb are so majestic to watch on a big screen, creating intrigue, fascination, and panic, respectively. The movie turned out to be a symphony of countless elements blending into each other and producing an effect that is as close to a mystical experience as possible.

Nolan uses several techniques used in his previous movies, but in this one, none are used as gimmicks. It is not his desire to awe the viewer. He seems invested in making us relive the life of a man who did something grand, realised the consequences, and mentally prepared to grin and bear what came his way within three hours. It is not easy to tell a man's story in that little time, with all his rise and fall, his loves and hatreds, his virtues and evils, his bravery and fears, his friends and foes, his loyalties and betrayals, especially when that man is someone who achieved a lot and lost all of it in one lifetime.

So we see Nolan in a breakneck race against time, collecting and displaying every facets of his complex protagonist and then removing them as quickly as possible to show the next one to his viewer. Historical characters, each of whom deserving their own movie, flit in and out of the screen so fast that, if you blink once, you have a high chance of missing someone important. Some of them are just mentioned in passing, like John F. Kennedy. The characters of the movie are also in a race against time, like its director. First, they have to develop the bomb before the Nazis, and then they have to test it before a meeting between the Allied leaders. To add the 'Nolanic' element, we watch the whole story of the preparation of the Bomb in flashbacks recounted during two hearings, one told in colour, named fission, and the other in black and white, named fusion.

When the whole movie—both the maker and his plot—is busy competing against time, his protagonist alone stays unwavering and unhurried in the middle of it all, always giving the audience the right amount of joy, grief, anger, and frustration as is precisely required. It is a joy to watch Cillian Murphy enact, or, for lack of a better word, imbibe, Oppenheimer in all his complexity and brevity. In the role of a lifetime, he makes us feel like the pompous, arrogant scientist who acknowledges all the ways he has hurt the world and tries his best to stop any further damage.

Oppenheimer is an awe-inspiring cinematic experience that takes you deep inside the scientific and historic features of its plot and its protagonist. It is a triumph for Nolan as well as for the cinema.