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How Accurate is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’?

A nuclear engineer reviews the blockbuster film.

· 9 min read
How Accurate is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’?
Manhattan Project physicists at Los Alamos, from left to right: Kenneth Bainbridge, Joseph Hoffman, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Louis Hempelman, Robert Bacher, Victor Weisskopf, Richard Dodson. The Manhattan Project was established during the Second World War to develop the atomic bomb. Science History Images / Alamy Stock Photo

The critics rave—and I don’t disagree—that the box-office blockbuster Oppenheimer is the greatest film, or at least biopic, since Lawrence of Arabia. The cinematography is grand, the acting is fine, the pace is excellent, and the story has real importance. If, considered as a meal, most movies today are a bag of skittles, Oppenheimer is a thick juicy corn-fed Iowa steak. So, if all you need to know from a film’s review is whether you should go see it, the answer, in Oppenheimer’s case, is unquestionably yes.

But is Oppenheimer accurate? That’s the question that Claire Lehmann asked me to answer for the readers of Quillette.

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