Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer: a Departure From Neutrality Into the Straight – Forward Political Arena

Movies0 min read

“We knew the world would not be the same” – thus, Christopher Nolan introduced his au courant movie “Oppenheimer” to the world with a brave heart, leaving much room for criticism. Drawing inspiration from the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant mind behind the invention of the atomic bomb, Nolan delves into a new realm with this project.

While Nolan has historically refrained from politicizing his films, some have perceived a subtle right-wing undertone in his previous works. His Dark Knight trilogy supports a capitalist vision and is fundamentally conservative. In contrast, Dunkirk leans towards sentimental nationalism.

However, “Oppenheimer” appears to depart significantly from this pattern. Set against the backdrop of America’s struggle between capitalism and communism, “Oppenheimer” narrates the complex left-wing principles that prevailed in a world mostly led by right-wing ideologies.

In “Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan takes audiences on a gripping journey into the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy). He is the man whose intellectual brilliance shaped history through his ground-breaking work on the atomic bomb.

Cillian Murphy, the main Oppenheimer movie cast, again proved his brilliance with the toughness of acting.

Here, Nolan’s narrative goes beyond the life of Oppenheimer as a scientist and tells the story of the ideological warfare between socialists and capitalists. He presents a nuanced perspective on his connection with left-wing communities and his involvement in their activities.

Plot And Oppenheimer

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer was the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, depicted on screen by Nolan in 2023.

Plot And Oppenheimer

The father of the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer, has had intellectual prowess from an early age. He completed his graduation in chemistry from Harvard University and then ended up in a Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge under JJ Thomson, the discoverer of electrons.

Well, he tried to kill Cambridge University tutor Patrick Blackett, whom he hated. He injected potassium cyanide into an apple but later changed his decision. It was when Oppenheimer struggled with his early lab days. 

This was when he started struggling with the mental dilemma that carried him throughout his life in and outside of the atomic project. During his research days, Oppenheimer delved into theoretical physics.

Well, Manhattan Project, a US Army experiment, was a result of the World War II eruption. Historically, Oppenheimer was appointed as the director of the project.

It’s time to delve into the creation of the world-altering weapon! 

Oppenheimer and his crew depended on isotope separation, creating a sustainable chain reaction. This was the crucial step to harness nuclear fission power that people could never imagine back then.

Notably, it was a race against Germany, and the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory had to do something immediately. Well, he was not alone, but the Army Corps of Engineers General Leslie Groves helped him and trusted him a lot to explore the world of physics and find out the unmatched explosion chain. 

In 1945, his endeavors culminated with the first atomic bomb called “Trinity.” 

World War II was on the verge! Oppenheimer’s efforts as a physicist and politicism helped the world stop the war with a major loss in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Nolan’s Portrayal Expertise In The Movie

No doubt, Oppenheimer highlighted the scientific dedication and political curiosity to shape human history. 

Still! Why would you go and watch the movie when we already have an idea of the person and history? Well, it’s Nolan; thus, we cannot be cynical!


Being one of the most exploring directors of this era, he included themes and possessions to history that people will cherish for three hours.

Cillian Murphy, who portrayed the character of Oppenheimer, was stunning with his acting prowess, and visuals of Nolan in the Imax shooting camera made it intense and watchful.

Nolan’s historically significant and aesthetically daring movie Oppenheimer is all about conversation, close-ups, and different psychologically intended emotions on Imax 70mm. This gripping story exposes the mysteries of human personality and the unforeseen impact of critical decisions made by societies and individuals.

Here Nolan’s academically psychedelic biography of Oppenheimer tells us the story of urgency and responsibilities. It is exactly the same story that you know from the history regarding Oppenheimer. 

Well, to express a watcher’s thought, it’s better to bring in Robert Downey Jr.’s comment on Nolan’s Oppenheimer. While we know that Robert Downey Jr. played the significant role of Lewis Strauss, it’s unavoidable to know his personal feelings on Nonal’s direction.

In an interview on his experience with Oppenheimer, Robert Downey Jr. expressed that he went back to some origins of great cinema school while shooting for the closer shots on an Imax camera.

Oppenheimer Vs. The Right-Wings

The scientist disavowed his former communist involvement throughout the film. However, those affiliations shaped his worldview and contributed to his ideological evolution. Nolan, therefore, takes audiences on a compelling journey to witness how Oppenheimer’s mindset becomes the focal point of various clashes in the narrative.

Nolan's Portrayal Expertise In The Movie

Nolan does not shy away from showcasing the ideological clash between J. Robert Oppenheimer and Lewis Strauss (played by Robert Downey Jr.), the director of the AEC. The battle between the liberal scientist and the conservative politician (seemingly right-wing) turns into a broader left-versus-right battle amidst the backdrop of the Cold War era.

Nolan dedicates most of the film’s runtime to showing the legal and psychological conflict between Oppenheimer and his nemesis. His artful narration of the legal confrontation is something novel to the familiar style within his oeuvre.

The conflict between the liberal scientific genius and the right-wing administration is further explored through the conversation between Oppenheimer and 33rd US President Truman (played by Gary Oldman).

Truman simply made the foundational decisions of our world. In contrast, Oppenheimer had ideological conflicts. The conversation between these two, in the president’s room, gives vertical tension to the audience.

Waiting outside, he was looking at the Oppenheimer poster on the Time Magazine cover page! Eyes wide open! Pin-drop silence in the theater room! This is Nolan at his best!

Somewhere, the right-wing notion of Truman believed that “Hiroshima isn’t about you (Oppenheimer).” no one remembers who built the Oppenheimer bomb but dropped it.

Even after Oppenheimer leaves the room, Truman shrewdly tells his assistant – “Don’t let that crybaby back in here.

The Manhattan Project was the beginning! It was far more than the idealistic notions of Oppenheimer to deal with the quirky power they wanted.

Additionally, the film provides a comprehensive narration of how communists worked in America against the backdrop of capitalism. Nolan adeptly portrays the complexities of this struggle, capturing the essence of the historical events that unfolded during this tumultuous time.

Nolan’s main purpose is to portray the protagonist as an individual whose life is bigger than his invention is made possible by his communist milieu.

His prior political activities – hanging posters on classroom walls – evidently show his political inclinations.

He picturizes the connections of the Oppenheimer family with the communists in the USA. In a trial of security clearance in AEC, a detailed history of Katherine Oppenheimer (‘Kitty’ played by Emily Blunt) and Frank Oppenheimer (played by Dylan Arnold) has been told so accurately that one can smell the depiction of the cinematic brilliance of Nolan.

Oppenheimer” also shines a light on the early political career of John F. Kennedy. He later became an American president, opposing the cynical politician Strauss, a brilliant cast of Oppenheimer (film). The film depicts Kennedy as a socialist supporter, further enriching the exploration of left-wing ideologies within the context of American history.

Nolan’s Political Perspective

Throughout his illustrious career, Nolan has steadfastly maintained his stance as a cinematic activist, firmly establishing that he does not belong to any political group. Many of his films, like “The Prestige,” “Memento,” and “Inception,” retain his political neutrality and rather delve into the unfathomable psyche of human beings.

Nolan’s Political Perspective

On the flip side, many film critics may consider “The Dark Knight” as right-leaning and conservative. Set after the September 11 attacks and after the Patriot Act, it justifies the need for mass surveillance, authoritarian law enforcement, and capitalist superheroes.

Nolan’s historical War thriller “Dunkirk,” set on the backdrop of the Dunkirk evacuation during WWll, could not debar itself from jingoism. However, both in the case of The Dark Knight and Dunkirk, the right-wing theme was a necessity.

Additionally, Tenet, a film that hunches back in the other direction, offers (if overly confusing) comments on the convergence of capitalism and war.

Unlike these aforementioned films, Oppenheimer is thoughtful towards left-wing causes. Communism is pivotal in Oppenheimer’s life and, therefore, in the movie. The right-wing authoritarian figures are shown in antagonistic light as opposed to socialist protagonists.

The Transition

Nevertheless, behind the monumental impact of the ‘Little Boy’ and the ‘Fat Man,’ the political rivalries and conflict become a little bit blurred. So it can be said that “Oppenheimer” serves as a testament to Nolan’s political neutrality.

the transition

Nolan’s direction skilfully navigates the complex web of ideologies without leaning towards either right-wing or left-wing perspectives. Traditionally perceived as a filmmaker with right-wing leanings, Christopher Nolan challenges these preconceptions with “Oppenheimer.”

This time around, Christopher Nolan has presented a cinematic masterpiece that transcends political allegiances and reaffirms his role as a cinematic activist with no political loyalty.

Oppenheimer stands as a supreme storytelling realm for Nolan. The essence of humanity and conflicts takes the focus lane here. It is about the psychological dilemma of the protagonist as the political tension in an ideologist manner.

Nolan meticulously explored the left-wing activities of J. Robert Oppenheimer; however, the protagonist never formally joined the left wing. Here you will get no inclination towards the right-wing nor a firm construction of communism.

A Work Of Cinematic Art Beyond Politics

Unburdened by the constraints of political labels, Oppenheimer expressed, “Now I am become death. Destroyer of worlds.” Taken from the most revered scripture of Hinduism, Bhagwad Geeta, this smashing quote is closely connected to the real-life Oppenheimer.

Coming out of the political arena, screenplay, acting, editing, and direction of modern movie wizard Christopher Edward Nolan is spellbound.

However, the more powerful the country is, the more indexed and dangerous the lab test will be!

Why won’t you fight?

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Ayantan Maity is a cricketer by passion turned into a Writer by profession. When it's about finding peace with devotion, cricket, sometimes good movies, and also traveling through the snowy mountains are top priorities. He enjoys writing everything from finance to travel, health to wealth.

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