Author Kai Bird discusses controversy around towering nuclear scientist in latest SpyTalk podcast
Counterintelligence has never been easy, but the British perfected methods in WWII that worked much better and should be studied by all who want to protect the USA. If we look at our worst betrayals in the past 50 years, we see not so much from "contractors" or lower paid people, but many betrayals from senior and very entitled people. Some (as in the FBI) had access beyond their need to know. Security is basic and we should not ignore the rules.
For a view of the era, one might want to take a look at 'The Verona Papers'. translation and analysis of files of the KGB turned over to the US Embassy in Moscow in the early 1990's.
Excellent interview with Kai Bird, adding depth and context to the fil—which was outstanding.
Yes, the movie glossed over the spy story, no matter how much Cillian Murphy raved over the script (https://www.faber.co.uk/product/9780571381319-oppenheimer/).
The movie also failed to update long-term effects of nuclear radiation on near-by, uncompensated residents (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/30/opinion/international-world/oppenheimer-nuclear-bomb-cancer.html).
Some moments, too, seemed to pander to Hollywood executives, e.g., the one-off reading in Sanskrit from the Bhagavad Gita – during sex. You can almost imagine how that came about: executive to director, "Nolan, you gotta spice up that foreign-language quote! Just having Oppie intone 'Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds'... it's is boring! Get it: intoning = boring?"...
Overall, this biopic really told us little if anything about Oppenheimer himself.
That is, its amazing opticals (and even more powerful silences) did not overcome the lack of dialogue in which Oppenheimer might have explained, for example, how Oppenheimer's interests in Physics co-existed with interests like Communism. Aside from his earlier dream of doing science in New Mexico, did he later have any regrets about nuking the hell out of that beloved countryside – or had he changed over the years and sold out his ranch in a boondoggle (or did he not care, because his land was safely distant, or already sold)?... How could such a European-focused, intellectual, rather stiff scientist tolerate a nickname like "Oppie": don't you think he must have bristled, then perhaps come to accept it?...
The movie does manage to cram an amazing amount of events and information into what seemed a short 3 hours – but largely with one-liner dialogue that mostly checked boxes in the timeline and moved the story along. Its length is the a giveaway: either make a 90-minute movie or switch to limited series. (For this story, I would have preferred a limited 2-3-4-part series.)
Bottom line, the movie left me with no more insight into what drove Oppenheimer than before I saw it.
Nor does this movie's reassertions of Kai Bird's assertions about Oppenheimer's innocence convince me any more than Bird's assertions that VENONA's ALES was Wilder Foote and not Alger Hiss, as the late Eduard Mark countered (https://www.jstor.org/stable/26923052). (NOTE - this last comment comes from a descendant of Whittaker Chambers.)
Maybe the trick to a great biopic movie is to give bigger, clearer helpings of compelling insight – and then leave judgement more to viewers. "No man is an island" is the quote I now associate with this movie.