What a coincidence that I went to see the Film Oppenheimer today, 6th August, the 78th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
The film tells the story of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, played by Cillian Murphy, who, during WW2, was appointed to work on the top-secret Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer and a team of scientists spent years developing and designing the atomic bomb. Their work came to fruition on July 16, 1945 with the world’s first nuclear explosion in Hiroshima, an event that forever changed the course of history.
There are two storylines and the film moves back and forth between the two. One is in colour and tells the story of Oppenheilmer’s early life, his work in the Manhattan project and the loss of his security clearance because of early communist connections but probably more so because of his opposition to the development of the H-Bomb. His name was never cleared fully until 2022, around the time the trailer of this film was released
The second story is shown in black and white and follows the confirmation of Lewis Straus to the Senate. It unfolds that Strauss was almost single-handedly responsible for the stripping of Oppenheimer’s security clearance.
I was most impressed with the portrayal of Oppenheimer’s torment in the wake of the bombing in Japan. I read somewhere that after witnessing the destructive power of the bomb he had designed, he quoted Hindu scripture: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”.
I think it’s also worth remembering on this day, Paul Tibbits who captained the aircraft, Enola Gay (named after his mother) that dropped the bomb. He did not share Oppenheimer’s regrets at the events of August 6th, believing instead that it was the only way to win te war. Furthermore, to dissuade anti-nuclear protests when he died, he asked that there would be no funeral rites and no grave; that his ashes be scattered over the English Channel.