When I returned from Oppenheimer, I was tremendously impressed by this dramatic (an realistic) biopic with plentiful courtroom drama. British director Christopher Nolan proves again that he is able to reinvent himself by digging into the life of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, while maintaining all technical innovation that the cinema has to offer.
But while Nolan still uses impressive imagery and scenery that’s representative of how the science of Oppenheimer’s atomic bomb is working, it’s only there to highlight an otherwise small picture….style wise that is. Because while it’s again a big production, Nolan focuses heavily on smartly scripted dialogue and acting sequences.
Hefty dystopian themes for these times
The underlying theme below all this marvellous acting and visual artistry is massively big and very topical though. This movie comes at a moment in time when humanity slowly starts to recreate its own geopolitical and global crises. Whether it’s the dysfunctionality of current (democratic) politics, in which there is no durable reflection on ideas and innovations of our own making, or all the subsequent crises that happen because of it; Brexit, Trump’s legacy, the reignited nuclear treats of the Ukraine-Russia War. But let’s not forget the Corona Pandemic either, which happened on a planet severely overpopulated by humans.
Nolan exquisitely shows the moral changes Oppenheimer went through after the Trinity test bomb was declared a massive success. From the pure scientific focus on creating nuclear fission towards all ethical complications that sprouted out of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. And by giving so much screentime to Robert Downey Jr’s character, Lewis Strauss (Secretary of Commerce in Eisenhower’s cabinet for only a few months), Nolan realistically shows that an almost Bond-esque antagonist can rise to power. And to such an extend that the moral implications of certain inventions are put aside.
Nolan’s love for Bond, even in Oppenheimer
Bond-esque…..we hear that a lot on our website jamesbond.nl. But there’s no surprise in that. First of all the film has plentiful elements, again, that have certain Bond-esque thrills. The countdown of the Trinity test bomb in Los Alamos is exquisitely filmed, and has been done before on so many occasions in recent James Bond film (though Octopussy comes to mind foremost). Robert Oppenheimer himself was a pure scientist, though in his later life he clearly showed a lack of interest or, perhaps better verbalized, an indifference towards the people who turned against him. And those people around him could very well be Bond characters. From ‘villain’ Lewis Strauss to his own wife who verbally knew how to fight certain mean spirited committee members as a…James Bond.
Nolan does want the job. So do we?
Yet despite all his craftmanship that he so wonderfully utilized for another potential Oscar winning movie, I do think Nolan is too big a director for a future James Bond film. During an interview with the Happy Sad Confused Podcast with Josh Horowitz a few weeks ago, he told that he’s very much open to direct a future James Bond film. Even more so, he still is enormously positive about the James Bond phenomenon, and he has been in talks frequently with his producer buddies Barbara Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson.
But this quote gave me some valid concerns of what could happen with a future James Bond film: “You wouldn’t want to take on a film not fully committed to what you could bring to the table creatively. So as a writer, casting director, everything – it’s the full package!” And while I do agree that every director wants to have a say in who’s going to be his future co-worker on both cast and crew, Nolan’s films work because he has the full creative power over the entire production process; producer, director, casting, writer, he does the whole damn thing.
Bond needs more ‘Cubby’
And to me this does clash with the very ethos that ‘Cubby’ Broccoli once introduced in the 1960’s. He truly believed in one person too. But that wasn’t just a producer/director (Nolan) or actor (Craig). That person was James Bond 007. And when he was producer he made sure that both cast and crew comprised of enough talent, but with as little ego as possible. Back in the late 1970’s there were talks of Steven Spielberg becoming a director for the James Bond films, but ‘Cubby’ didn’t give in.
The picture, with Bond up front, should be the driving force of both movie quality ánd movie marketing. James Bond is the biggest of all, even bigger than Nolan and Craig. And when that adage is fully embraced, you get this ‘house of talents’ working on a tremendous new Bond production. From one unique director to a new Bond actor, from another new cinematographer that doesn’t have immediate ties to the director, to an editor or composer that has barely worked with either that cinematographer or that director. Thát cross-pollination of ideas from all directions, and not just one big name like Christopher Nolan, is what the 26th James Bond film needs. I just hope Barbara Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson see this as such as well. They still are the stewards of the franchise that ‘Cubby’ ran so steadily for decades.
It might happen though…
However, my gut feeling tells me that, considering the ‘sleeping beauty’ character of our beloved James Bond film franchise, both Barbara and Michael wouldn’t mind to continue or expand their production style that’s less about tighter creative control. A Christopher Nolan Bond-film, from the point of view of the EON execs, would perhaps then really become a reality. It’s just that…well…‘Cubby’……
Until then: please visit Oppenheimer!
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