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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Oppenheimer was the perfect blend of history and cinema

The poster for Oppenheimer that has already brought in 900 million dollars to the box office.

Oppenheimer was one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. This primarily began when it was announced that Barbie and Oppenheimer would be released on the same day, which is what sparked the trend of the summer: Barbenheimer.

I, of course, saw both movies. Barbie first, and then around two weeks later, I saw Oppenheimer. Admittedly, it took some convincing before I was allowed to accompany my family to the theater due to it being rated R. To be honest, while I absolutely adore the Barbie movie, I think Oppenheimer took me by surprise and became my favorite of the two.

The movie was genuinely extraordinary from both a film and storytelling perspective. I’m not a movie connoisseur or particular expert in deciding what makes a great movie, but Christopher Nolan, the director, really made the story feel personal in a way other directors can’t. For every troubling moment and dramatic climax, you feel as if you are there with the characters, experiencing everything they are. I don’t understand a thing about quantum physics, but this movie made me feel like I was right along with them as a scientist struggling to make the puzzle pieces fit.

To even begin to explain the astounding directing, though, we have to begin with what is at the heart of the movie: the story.

Oppenheimer tells three stories in one, each separated by a distinctive filming style; the first of which begins with J. Robert Oppenheimer, portrayed by Cillian Murphy, sitting in a conference room in the midst of a hearing for his supposed ties to communists. It is primarily used as a plot device to explain the events going on in the main storyline and to clear up confusion. This part of the story is distinguished by the wide-screen perspective, where there are the typical black bars on both the top and bottom of the screen. The wide-screen point of view is meant to represent the subjective view we, as the viewers, are seeing it from, and this again contributes to the audience being almost a part of the movie. 

The next is the crux of the film: the making of the first-ever atomic bomb. This storyline is identified by the full-screen perspective and is filled with so many close-ups that I feel like I’ve seen every single imperfection on Murphy’s face. This core plot comes from this, where we see flashbacks to what led up to the atomic bomb and the process that would elicit the creation of it. This story is raw as we see the struggles and mistakes Oppenheimer makes on his track to making history. We see how he brings quantum physics to America, how he meets his wife, and how he deals with the pure, unadulterated guilt of realizing he, in part, caused the death of entire cities of people. This helps us understand his motivations and struggles, therefore making him a multi-dimensional character that the audience can care about.

Oppenheimer perfectly walks the line of telling history in a fascinating way while also not romanticizing a tragedy.

The third and final story perspective is the story of government official Lewis Strauss, played by Robert Downey Jr., in his attempt to become a member of the U.S. Senate. This story is characterized by the black-and-white perspective, which is told by Strauss. It tells a tale of jealousy and disdain that, over the years, bubbled to the surface, and the story is eloquently done in a way that you don’t quite see how it all adds up until the end. It plays a significant role in leading the audience to see an outside perspective of Oppenheimer’s work and how the odds were stacked against him in several ways.

Each story plays a unique role in the film and is executed in an indicative manner that allows the audience to piece together the puzzle of the story and makes the ending all the more enjoyable when the viewers can feel as if, in a way, they figured it out themselves.

However, the film can essentially be split into two sections: the before and after of the first explosion of the atomic bomb. After the first explosion, the movie shifted, and the rest felt as if it were almost an entirely different film, similar to what Nolan did in one of his other films—The Dark Knight. It shows not only the action but the consequences of the massive discovery that would forever change war. The second half shows the story of a once-beloved man admired for his scientific achievement now being shamed for the very same one and the immense guilt he grapples with having to know what he’s created.

The film is multi-faceted on an astounding number of levels. Every character has a motivation and both an internal and external conflict that makes the story all too real while showcasing both an entertaining movie and accurate history.

Another unexpected but astonishing part of the movie that I haven’t seen anyone talking about is the soundtrack. I find myself listening to it over and over again, and I’m listening to it right now as I’m writing this because the music is so quintessentially accurate to each specific moment in the film, and listening to it transports you into the movie. It’s done in a way that whether the music is blaring loud or merely a whisper, you notice it. It is impossible to ignore in the most immaculate way as it perfectly ties together the entire movie. I wholeheartedly believe that without this specific soundtrack, the movie would have been nowhere near as captivating as it was. Ludwig Göransson composed all of the music for the movie, and he flawlessly tied in notes of music from the movie’s time period with a twist that makes it a bit more modern and authentic to the telling of the story.

Oppenheimer is about a dark period of time; it tells the unfortunate story that led up to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By default, we are supposed to think of the scientists and military officials involved in the project as inhumane or evil in a way for working on the bomb that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. Still, this movie finds a way to humanize each and every one of them by seeing some of the more specific motivations for each person, even if only on a surface level. Although it was a horrible thing to have happened, looking back on history allows us not to repeat our past mistakes. Oppenheimer perfectly walks the line of telling history in a fascinating way while also not romanticizing a tragedy. 

If you are considering seeing Oppenheimer in theaters, do it. The film tells an accurate and monumental moment in both American and world history while telling it in a way that intrigues and pulls you into the story. Every moment felt as colossal as the explosion because of the elegant storytelling and directing, and we can only hope this will lead to more films like Oppenheimer coming into theaters.

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About the Contributor
Addie Woltil
Addie Woltil, Copy Editor
Addie Woltil is a sophomore entering her second year writing for The Central Trend. She is excited about another year of writing on staff and more to come. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, going to the mall, and watching overrated reality TV shows. She loves ending her day in room 139 and can't wait for what's next. Favorite fruit: Mango Favorite TV show: How I Met Your Mother Favorite day of the year: July 24th

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    MarikaSep 8, 2023 at 3:48 pm

    You brought things up that I don’t think I even realized while watching it. Such a great movie and now I want to see it again to notice the things you pointed out and listen more closely to the score.