There are movies you will always remember. “Oppenheimer”, Christopher Nolan’s newest biopic, is one of them. Inspired by the prize-winning biography "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer," the 2023 movie retraces the life of the theoretical American physicist, dubbed the "father of the atomic bomb." But it is so much more than a simple biopic. It is a work of art.

Like most Nolan movies, the plot is non-linear and complex. For the first 20 minutes or so, the audience is unsure of what to expect. The director is always one step ahead, leaving the viewers no other choice but to fully immerse themselves.

The main narrative follows the interrogation of J. Robert Oppenheimer, as portrayed by the hypnotic Cillian Murphy. In a closed room, men interrogate him on his past, his supposedly communist affiliations, his role in the Manhattan Project, and his later views on nuclear policy. All this is shot in colour, to portray Oppenheimer’s life experiences without ever revealing or expressing his personal views. The second narrative, shot in black and white, follows the Senate hearing of Oppenheimer’s former colleague, Lewis Strauss, portrayed by the outstanding Robert Downey Jr.

The audience is unsure where to stand with Oppenheimer, a complex man with an incredible capacity for construction and destruction. He was one of the most brilliant minds of his century and studied at the universities of Cambridge and Göttingen. He spoke many languages fluently and was a brilliant teacher and researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology, where he created America’s most important department of quantum physics. In the movie, his conceptions of the quantum world are beautifully depicted as waves of energy. But Oppenheimer was also an egotistical and neurotic man with complicated liaisons, as depicted through his relationships with his alcoholic wife Kitty (Emily Blunt) and his clinically depressed lover Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh). We never know what Oppenheimer thinks. Perhaps he didn’t know it himself.

Murphy’s physicality adds a lot to the role. The way he moves, his thinness (the Irish actor lost weight for the role), and his blue eyes present something so beautiful and terrifying at the same time. You never know where he stands, and he never takes responsibility. The character of Oppenheimer seems, rightly so, morally conflicted, and Murphy’s performance is incredibly captivating.

Perhaps Oppenheimer is best not understood but felt. It is not for us to condemn the decisions or actions of the past. Originally, the bomb was developed to prevent the Nazis from developing their own. U.S. General Leslie Grove, portrayed by Matt Damon, puts Oppenheimer in charge of the secret Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb in Los Alamos, a secret city in New Mexico. But even after Germany’s defeat, the U.S. government continued to develop the bomb and drop it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The bomb test in Los Alamos is one of the most poignant moments in Nolan’s movie. The build-up leading to the climax is simply incredible, and Ludwig Göransson’s masterful score adds much to the scene and the rest of the movie. When the red button is finally pressed, there is an explosion, and everything becomes silent. It is a moment where scientists begin to grasp what they’ve done, but it is also a moment of great accomplishment. From then on, Oppenheimer, who until now viewed the bomb as a scientific achievement, shifts his consciousness. While others congratulate him and see it as progress, he sees only death. He knows the atomic bomb is just the beginning and that the Trinity test he helped create launched a chain reaction. From now on, men will create nuclear weapons to self-destruct and destroy the planet itself.

Oppenheimer changed the course of history and humanity forever. At the time, people saw it as progress and couldn’t imagine the consequences. Or maybe they could, but didn’t want to see. In a way, it is linked to the AI debate we are seeing right now. There are so many questions we can’t answer because we don’t know enough yet, but we want to keep moving, we want progress, and we want the future. But at what cost?