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BBC Storyville – The Trials of Oppenheimer (2009)

BBC Storyville 2009 The Trials of Oppenheimer

J Robert Oppenheimer was one of the most celebrated scientists of his generation. Shy, arrogant and brilliant, he is best known as the man that led the Manhattan Project to spectacular success.

As the years progressed he also grew into a scientific statesman, leading a government agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, which was trying to develop ways to avoid a nuclear arms race. His attempts at politics, though, were a lot less successful than his scientific endeavours. As he grew more powerful, he started to make serious enemies amongst the establishment, particularly a friend of President Truman’s – Lewis Strauss.

This film tells the extraordinary story of the rise and fall of Robert Oppenheimer. David Straithairn, whose previous recreation of this era in Good Night and Good Luck was Oscar-nominated, plays Oppenheimer trying to defend himself as he was effectively put on trial for being a communist. Re-creation is mixed with expert testimony from a definitive range of commentators, ranging from Oppenheimer’s Manhattan Project colleagues to academics like Martin Sherwin and Priscilla MacMillan.

Narrated by Zoe Wanamaker, whose own father experienced the virulent anti-communism of McCarthyism first-hand, it weaves Oppenheimer’s biography with the dramatic events of his trial and its tragic aftermath.

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