Director Christopher Nolan’s latest film “Oppenheimer” depicts the story in such a way that inherently doomed the film from the start.
With Nolan’s adherence to his strict objective guidelines, he ended up telling a story that was anything but objective. This led to him leaving out the most polarizing and emotionally eliciting part of Oppenheimer and the atomic bomb’s history: the pulverizing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“Oppenheimer” recounts the events leading up to and after the creation of the atomic bomb through the eyes of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who is widely recognized as the “father of the atomic bomb.”
What the film fails to detail though is the unparalleled death and destruction that came as a result of the bombings, which has many questioning the movie’s merit.
“There are missed opportunities in terms of how Japanese survivors’ experiences were not at all featured in the film,” said Naoko Wake, a history professor at Michigan State University, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
While this is true, Nolan makes it abundantly clear from the opening scene that this film is only focused on Oppenheimer’s plight in reaching a scientific pinnacle while simultaneously creating a weapon of mass destruction.
Instead of including scenes of the aftermath in Japan, Nolan chose to highlight the guilt and inner turmoil that Oppenheimer experienced over creating such a deadly weapon for the sake of his country and ending a world war.
The intent of this movie was never to be a documentary, but more of a profile. Every event is shown from Oppenheimer’s point of view, including the deployment of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagaski.
“To depart from Oppenheimer’s experience would betray the terms of the storytelling,” Nolan said in panel interview with NBC.
However, at the end of the day, how viewers interpret the film could rely heavily upon their ethnic identity.
For many American viewers, the film’s goal of being a profile is easier to understand and accept, as the film’s ultimate purpose is to entertain. Nonetheles, the nuances of the story and history behind it might get lost within the entertainment.
For Japanese American viewers on the other hand, “Oppenheimer” is not as simple.
“It’s not just history… there are a lot of victims of the bombings and the [bomb] testing that are still alive and dealing with the consequences,” said Nina Wallace, Densho’s Media and Outreach Manager, in an interview with Axios.
There are too many differing emotions tied with “Oppenheimer” and the Manhattan Project for the film to equally appeal to both sides.
Even though Nolan provides vivid detailing surrounding the struggles faced by the “father of the atomic bomb,” the one aspect he neglects to cover lies in the gray of a film predicated on the black and white.