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The Campus Lantern

Oppenheimer’s Labyrinth

Note. AI generated image using Photoshop from the prompt man wearing a hat standing in front of the trinity explosion

In Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan uses close-up shots to display the impact that weapons of mass destruction have on not just the physical world, but on the emotions of people as well.

The film begins by introducing J. Robert Oppenheimer, an up-and coming physics student tortured with the idea of quantum physics. Played by Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer is depicted as a mysterious figure throughout the film,after leaving the viewer to guess his inner thoughts and feelings. Oppenheimer is soon recruited to lead the Manhattan Project, a top secret scientific research facility in the desert. With the goal of creating a nuclear bomb, at first, Oppenheimer is enamored by the opportunity to lead such an important venture, and justifies to himself that the development of the bomb will ultimately bring about world peace. The climax of the movie features the first nuclear test, where Oppenheimer is overjoyed. However, this exultation does not last. Oppenheimer falls into a deep depression, haunted by visions of destruction and dead children. He fears that his creation will destroy humanity. While suffering from panic attacks, a guilt ridden Oppenheimer tries to convince the governments of the world to cease development of all nuclear weapons. He is sidelined and ignored.

The movie Oppenheimer dissects the story of this complex and cryptic man through the use of cinematography. Director Christopher Nolan uses uncomfortably long close-up camera shots of Oppenheimer’s face to display his worries about unleashing the atomic bomb on the world. Close-up shots like these are used throughout the film, as Oppenheimer’s weapons haunt him. Towards the end of the movie Oppenheimer meets with President Truman to advocate against the further development of nuclear weapons, Truman calls Oppenheimer a “crybaby”. Again, Oppenheimer dissociates, as the camera holds his gaze for an awkward amount of time, while the screams of children and parents echo in the background. The repeated usage of these shots confront the audience to convey the sickening feeling that Oppenheimer experiences, and the sin his mathematical labyrinth has unleashed upon the world.

Oppenhimer is a movie that utilizes cinematography to depict the terrible mental impact of the atomic bomb on people and its burden on humanity. Complemented by an excellent script and cast, it will be a fan favorite for decades.

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About the Contributor
Julien Friedland '25
Julien Friedland '25, Staff Writer, Editor
Julien is currently a junior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, and this is his first year on staff. Outside of school, he can be found playing golf, reading a book and trying to find the best places to eat. He also likes to play the electric bass.
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  • B

    Bobby FillerFeb 9, 2024 at 7:24 am

    Great overall review.