Ok. I studied pop culture in graduate school and I continue to look at life through that lens whenever any form of entertainment comes up on the radar. So, of course, when I went to see Oppenheimer, that's how I viewed the movie.
First, I have to say that I think Christopher Nolan was brilliant to bring this story to the public right now. If you're a history buff, you'll learn a lot; if you're interested in science, you'll learn some bits and pieces, if you like politics, you'll get a huge dose of that, and, of course, there better be some sex and romance or the story is not complete.
In the July 31st issue of the New Yorker Magazine, the critic Anthony Lane looked at the movie way differently than I did. I know he's more scholarly but I'll give you my thoughts about his analysis anyway. He could not figure out why so much of the political controversy of the times was included whereas to me that part emphasized what Christopher Nolan was trying to say in the movie: that scientists, humanists, and politicians all look at life differently and, if we let the politicians be the winners, we're in deep trouble.
I think what makes Oppenheimer such an interesting character is that he's a scientist but he's also a human being with a sense of right and wrong and then he gets caught up in the political web that doesn't honor his humanity, his flaws. Instead there is a self-righteousness on the part of those who are accusing him of not being loyal to his country because they just want a target.
There are so many contemporary pieces to this movie that make it so outstanding. All the explosions remind me of when I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy with my grandchildren. Audiences always love this excitement and Nolan incorporates this appeal into his film. Some people I've talked to who saw the film complain about the flipping back and forth between time periods. My own view is that people's attention spans are similar to the flipping back and forth that takes place in the movie.
Just a few more observations. I loved Matt Damon's portrayal of the General in charge of Oppenheimer. I found it fascinating when he was asked in the 1954 private panel investigation whether or not he would give Oppenheimer security clearance at the current time Groves was being questioned and he, after a meaningful pause, said no. To me it showed how times had changed and so had the circumstances. When Groves hired him for the Manhattan Project, he wanted someone who could do the job. The panel and the politicians were currently in a communist scare moment that did not exist when General Groves originally hired Oppenheimer. My immigrant grandparents were communists when they first came to America, but when the stigma of what it meant to be placed in the same category of communists as the Russians occurred, they bowed out.
One more thing: I found it was fun to learn about a little known junior senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy being one of the three senators who denied Strauss to be voted in as Secretary of Commerce during the Eisenhower administration. Was he clairvoyant? And, if one didn't want Strauss to be approved of, do we hope for more Senators in the future who might also be clairvoyant?