Skip Navigation or Skip to Content

The Batavia Spectator

Skip to Article or Skip Sidebar
Skip to Comments or Skip Article
REVIEW: ‘Oppenheimer’ an ‘American Prometheus’

Oppenheimer exceeds expectations with 13 Oscars and a powerful message in movie theaters and homes around the world.

By Lylah Jakubiak

In a crowded movie theater, darkness stretches across the screen. Suddenly, the audience is encapsulated by a rolling, roaring cloud of glowing fire that snakes across the black. The theater falls silent as they read the words on screen, the first words from an Award-winning Oscar movie that’s taken the media by storm. It reads, 

“Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. For this, he was chained to a rock and tortured for eternity.” 

Now, those words mean nothing to the audience. But by the time the screen goes dark again, in approximately three hours, they will.

Directed by Christopher Nolan, the movie Oppenheimer was released last July to movie theaters, telling the tragic, historic, and vivid backstory of one of history’s most notorious scientists: Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atom bomb, who is a scheming villain to some, an innovative hero to others, and a revolutionary in his own right. In the 2024 Oscars, the movie received “Best Cinematography,” “Best Film Editing,” “Best Sound,” “Best Actor,” “Best supporting Actor,” and seven more awards.

For a movie about the creation of a bomb, it’s surprisingly metaphorical and deep. It follows Oppenheimer, played by Cillian Murphy, throughout his life: from schoolboy to teacher to scientist to figurehead. The ability to paint Oppenheimer in so many lights, situations, and perspectives is one of its most unique characteristics. It’s a must-watch for anyone willing to indulge in a historical drama about a man who changed the world forever. Even for those who don’t understand science or politics or find them interesting, it’s still enjoyable on many levels. 

Since he was a boy, Oppenheimer knew he’d do great things. With many unexplored ideas, he knows there are mysteries just waiting for him to solve. He knows there’s something beyond his reach that could change the course of history- and he knows he’ll find it. Though the movie follows him throughout his academic, professional, and personal life, his story is not the only one told. There’s a split narrative between Oppenheimer’s memories and another’s, someone largely forgotten by history: Lewis Strauss, a politician who met Oppenheimer late in his career. Yet, as is later revealed to the viewer, their stories are destined to weave into a web of lies, deception, and shocking twists that will leave the audience stunned.

The film’s cinematography is consistently striking, portraying memories and thoughts as flashes of color among dark, starry scenes. At first, these short clips and glimpses into the future and the past don’t make sense, but as the movie continues, the stories are slowly pieced together- thriller style. With no explanation behind the order or time of these memories, it leaves plenty of room for interpretation and a glimpse into the mind and madness of Oppenheimer. 

“You see beyond the world we live in.”

Its pacing, music tempo, and style provide an eye-catching experience that moves with the events and characters, putting the viewer right into the action. One stand-out instance is when young Oppenheimer meets Niels Bohr, a Belgian physicist, and looks for insight into how he can grow into what he knows he can be. Bohr looks at him and says: “The important thing isn’t if you can read the music, it’s if you can hear it. Can you hear the music?”

This is followed by a chorus of music, and a fast-paced montage of his progress and the research he conducts. The movement of the scenes paints him as eccentric, passionate, and a little insane.

“You can’t lift the stone without being ready for the snake that’s revealed.”

The film features a host of dynamic and deep characters: power-hungry leaders, suppressed revolutionaries, and desperate innovators hoping to make a change. Set during WWII and later the Cold War, the conflicting ideas of democracy and communism were on full display. We can see fear and tension on all sides, whether it be between countries or people. The movie beautifully demonstrates the impact of fear on success and innovation and how that roadblock can change the course of history. 

“The power you’re about to reveal will forever outlive the Nazis and the world is not prepared.”

Yet, the movie doesn’t just cover topics of science and discovery. Like real life, the story doesn’t end with the making of the atomic bomb, but it goes much further into the implications of such an event. Many historical figures and events are mentioned or seen, such as John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, President Harry Truman, and more referenced figures. It’s intriguing to learn the story behind the history you know so well. 

“I don’t wish for three centuries of physics to be a weapon of mass destruction.”

The acting was incredibly believable and immersive. In fact, Murphy and Downey Jr. won the movie two Oscars, one for Best Actor and the other for Best Supporting Actor. Both perfectly adapted, changed, and evolved their personalities and that of their characters to fit the scene. Their acting skills were astonishingly realistic, making you forget entirely that they were acting.  

What I found most amazing about the movie was its emphasis on Oppenheimer’s internal struggles with morality, loyalty, and ethics as the creator of a weapon that could destroy the world. The power brought to the world was not lost on the viewer and was stressed repeatedly. It silently encourages the viewer to question the creation of the bomb. The bomb he created was a key to world peace, but it was a key born in fear and death.

“I feel that I have blood on my hands.”

Oppenheimer elegantly highlights the depths of science, discovery, fear, power, grief, love, and hate. With unseen twists and a surprisingly captivating three-hour run time, the viewer is navigated through the madness, morality, and magic of the world beyond worlds: The power of the undiscovered.

“You are an American Prometheus.”

Comments will have to be appoved before being posted