‘Oppenheimer’ Remakes Dread Into Thrills — And Back Again

Christopher Nolan approaches a crucial moment in world history with fresh eyes and a thirst for understanding.

Nikki Davis

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(via Universal Pictures)

It was odd, going into this film. I’m automatically down for any Christopher Nolan feature, but settling into the theater for this one was like shoring up for the season finale of some of my favorite tv series: I knew I was there to get emotionally wrecked; that’s what I signed up for.

Oppenheimer, being the story of the man whose invention begot a terrible real-life occurrence, hits differently. Reexamining our past collective behaviors is a new (and overall positive, I think) trend in our current media landscape — so it’s only fitting that one of our finest filmmakers is the one to lay out the history of the invention of the worst creations humanity has ever produced.

In the late 1920s, J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) had been earning his PhD in England when he realized that America was sorely lacking a curriculum in quantum physics. Back in the States, he keeps an ongoing affair with Communist party member Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh) and a courtship with ex-Communist Kitty Puening (Emily Blunt). He teaches at both the University of California, Berkeley and at the California Institute of Technology. While furthering Stateside knowledge of applied physics, he’s recruited by U.S. Army General Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) in 1942 for the Manhattan Project: development of an atomic weapon that can rival Nazi Germany’s supposed nuclear weapons program.

In the remote location of Los Alamos, New Mexico, Oppenheimer populates a town of thousands to support lab work for the project at hand: building the United States’ first atomic bomb. Despite Germany’s surrender, and even under the risk of potentially igniting the earth’s atmosphere, the “Trinity” test of their creation goes forward without a hitch. The bomb is then used by President Truman (Gary Oldman) in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to force a Japanese…

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Nikki Davis

Pop culture fiend and perpetual word nerd. Self-proclaimed expert playlist maker. Writing about film, TV, music, productivity, and self-care. 🤓🎞️🏳️‍🌈