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Oppenheimer: The Destructive Power and Responsibility of the Scientific Genius in Christopher Nolan's Bold Vision.

"Whether we like it or not, J. Robert Oppenheimer is the most important person who has ever existed. He made the world we live in, for better or worse."

Cillian Murphy portrays J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated thriller based on the book "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer," published in 2005 by columnist Kai Bird and historian Martin J. Sherwin.

The initial reactions to "Oppenheimer" after its premiere in Paris on Tuesday at Cinema Le Grand Rex speak of the impressive achievement of Nolan's ambitious new production, which is also a philosophical character study. The film has been described as "a critical portrait of Oppenheimer that not only dramatizes formative and significant events but also explores his psychology and interrogates the consequences of actions."

The nature of humanity, the duality of man, the capacity to be both light and darkness at the same time, has been a great motivation for this filmmaker when telling stories. That's why there is interest in undertaking this portrait, which involves a play of objectivities and subjectivities to explore. "Oppenheimer's story is one of the greatest stories that exist. It is full of paradoxes and ethical dilemmas, and that is the kind of material that always interests me. While the film tries to help the audience understand why people have done what they have done, it also questions whether they should have done it. Cinema, as a narrative medium, is especially suitable for bringing the audience to a subjective experience, allowing them to judge things the way the characters do while also looking at these characters a bit more objectively. At various points, we try to delve into Oppenheimer's psyche and take the audience on his emotional journey. That was the challenge of the film: to tell the story of a person who was involved in what ultimately became an extraordinary destructive sequence of events but done for the right reasons."

As indicated by the production, if with "Inception" Nolan took us into the deepest thoughts and fantasy of a group of skilled thieves in dreams, and with "Interstellar" he transported us on a mind-bending journey to the limits of outer space, in this new adventure, he makes an urgent call, following the mind of the brilliant American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer. The production states that "the film follows the father of the atomic bomb, the man behind the revolutionary invention that represented the absolute sum of human ingenuity, an invention that would remake civilization, even though its very creation posed a threat to the future of humanity." Christopher Nolan comments on this: "What I wanted to do was bring the audience into the mind and experience of a person who sat at the absolute center of the greatest change in history. Whether we like it or not, J. Robert Oppenheimer is the most important person who has ever existed. He made the world we live in, for better or worse. And his story needs to be seen to be believed."

Oppenheimer led the Manhattan Project, a secret scientific and military research plan carried out during World War II under the government of Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the goal of building the first atomic bomb. While his invention meant the end of a war, after the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the scientist faced a moral and ethical dilemma regarding its destructive potential. In a 1965 NBC documentary titled "The Decision to Drop the Bomb," Oppenheimer himself, two years before his death from cancer, quoted the line from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita that still resonates today: "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

Oppenheimer and his team faced the fear that once the bomb was activated, it could ignite the atmosphere and destroy the entire planet, something they called the "terrible possibility." Nolan wanted to amplify that crucial moment for humanity in his new film. "There was no mathematical or theoretical basis on which they could completely rule out that possibility, however small it might be, and yet they pressed that button anyway. It's an extraordinary moment in human history. I wanted to bring the audience into that room and be there for that conversation and then be there when that button is pressed. It's just the most incredible moment, if you think about it. The risk of it, the relationship between science, theory, intellect, the things we can imagine, versus the practical nature of taking these abstract ideas into the real world, treating them as concrete realities, and all their consequences." J. Robert Oppenheimer gained more prominence after this invention, serving as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission for the U.S. government, and between 1946 and 1967, he received three nominations for the Nobel Prize in Physics, although he did not win any of them.

This story also brings up another key character in the development of nuclear weapons and energy, Lewis Strauss. Nolan narrates both the scientist's and the naval officer and philanthropist's perspectives, differentiating them with the use of color and black and white. Oppenheimer's scenes are in color, while Strauss's scenes are in black and white.

Beyond the script and narrative themes, there is another aspect of enjoyment in Christopher Nolan's filmography, and that is the visual design of his films. "Oppenheimer" was shot entirely with large-format cameras, the 65mm Panavision and the 65mm IMAX, which will provide great clarity in the photography. The other effect lies in the sharpness and dimension, giving the sensation of 3D without the need for glasses.

By using these cameras, in addition to the visual spectacle they produce, offering an immersive experience and conveying grandeur, it was a challenge and an experiment for the director of photography, Hoyte van Hoytema, and his team: "From the beginning, I have always been curious to discover if large format can be equally powerful when used for close-ups. I wondered if we could make this large format an intimate medium, being able to show the psychological aspect. There has been a great evolution in that regard with Oppenheimer." Due to being shot in this manner and with two types of material (color and black and white), they had to edit, color correct, and print for IMAX and standard digital. The result is a 70mm print that spans 17.7 kilometers and weighs a little over 270 kilograms. It's as eye-catching as it is exciting!

"Oppenheimer" will be released worldwide on July 20th, and it features a cast of over 40 actors. This is Nolan's twelfth feature film and has a runtime of 181 minutes.

Image credits: UIP.

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