To End All War: Oppenheimer & The Atomic Bomb

17 July 2023

To End All War: Oppenheimer & The Atomic Bomb

Ahead of Oppenheimer, the movie releasing in theatres this month, the feature-length documentary To End All War: Oppenheimer & The Atomic Bomb tells the true story of how one man’s brilliance, hubris and relentless drive changed the nature of war forever, led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and unleashed mass hysteria, and how, subsequently, the same man’s attempts to contain the fallout of his invention made him a pariah and led him down a path of deep despair.

J Robert Oppenheimer was a fascinating, tragic, complex and consequential physicist. But the great achievement of his life – the atomic bomb – was a heavy cross to bear. Driven by intellectual curiosity and patriotic duty to invent the bomb, only when he succeeded did he allow himself to freely ponder its grave consequences. It was then that this scientific genius lauded for his technical brilliance became a voice of moral conscience to a civilisation that suddenly had the unprecedented power to destroy itself. And when that happened, the war machine that he had helped to build turned on him.

The Manhattan Project was the defining turning point not only in Oppenheimer’s life, but arguably, in the history of the world, which can be split into two sharply contrasting periods – before and after the bomb. The narrative centrepiece of the story – and the zero hour in the history of warfare – is the Trinity test in the New Mexico desert on 16 July 1945. For Oppenheimer, the successful detonation of the first atom bomb validates years of tireless work. But in this moment of seeming triumph – as the first mushroom cloud ever seen envelops the pre-dawn sky – Oppenheimer is struck hard by the gravity of what he has done. He sees before him a destructive power of almost supernatural magnitude. As he would say later, he feels he has “become death, the destroyer of worlds”… and life will never be the same.

Directed by Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Christopher Cassel (Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero, Rise of the Superbombs, Rome), To End All War has a 9.2/10 rating on IMDb. The film features interviews with filmmakers Christopher Nolan and Jon Else, science communicator Bill Nye, grandson Charles Oppenheimer, Hiroshima survivor Hideko Tamura, Los Alamos resident Ellen Bradbury Reid, nuclear physicist Michio Kaku, and nuclear security expert Mareena Robinson Snowden, as well as knowledgeable biographers and historians like David Eisenbach and Alan Carr.

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