Watch this Albert Einstein documentary on Netflix after ‘Oppenheimer’
(Credit: Netflix)

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Watch this Albert Einstein documentary on Netflix after ‘Oppenheimer’

Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer recently nabbed the Bafta for ‘Best Film’ at the 77th British Academy Film Awards. Oppenheimer may not be streaming on Netflix yet, but there is a documentary that will make for the perfect viewing as supplemental material to the biopic.

Einstein and the Bomb arrived on Netflix on February 16th, 2024, to mixed reviews, with some calling it cheesy. Nonetheless, people are tuning in to learn more about one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century and his thoughts on the weapon of mass destruction that was tested on indigenous land on July 16th, 1945, in the Jornada del Muerto desert of New Mexico. 

Oppenheimer weaves its story around J. Robert Oppenheimer, offering an insight into the events preceding the development of the atomic bomb. However, the consequences of the Trinity Test, including radiation exposure and subsequent health issues, have had lasting impacts on the indigenous peoples of the region—something omitted from Nolan’s blockbuster.

With its recent release on the streaming platform, now is the perfect time to delve deeper into the life of Albert Einstein and his pivotal role during this era. But before you tune in to Einstein and the Bomb, here’s all you need to know about it.

What is Einstein and the Bomb about?

Einstein and the Bomb is “a part essay, part revisiting the chapters of his life.” Directed by Anthony Philipson and produced by Anne Mensah with James Van Der Pool as the executive producer, this docudrama employs archival footage and dramatisations to chronicle the life of Albert Einstein. 

It begins with Einstein’s escape from Nazi Germany and delves into the mind of this tortured genius, exploring his profound impact on the Manhattan Project. The documentary also sheds light on Einstein’s fierce moral convictions, portraying him not just as a brilliant scientist but also as a radical pacifist with a deep sense of wonder about the mysteries of the universe. 

Did Einstein and Oppenheimer meet in real life?

Yes, Einstein and Oppenheimer did cross paths in real life, albeit their relationship was more cordial and complex than portrayed in Christopher Nolan’s fictionalised version of events in Oppenheimer. Their first encounter dates back to 1932 at The California Institute of Technology. However, their interactions became more significant until Oppenheimer’s involvement in the Manhattan Project.

While Oppenheimer’s film depicts their encounters, it doesn’t fully explore the depth of their relationship. In reality, their dynamic was a mixture of admiration, professional respect, and occasional disagreements. Despite their differing approaches to physics and their philosophies, Einstein and Oppenheimer shared moments of camaraderie. According to Vanity Fair, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin wrote in the biography American Prometheus, “Einstein eventually acquired a grudging respect for the new director [of Los Alamos].”

It was only in the final years of Einstein’s life, following the conclusion of the war and their shared tenure at Princeton University, that their relationship deepened into what Oppenheimer described as becoming “close colleagues and something of friends,” he wrote in 1965.

In Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy’s Oppenheimer seeks solace from Einstein during moments of crisis. Einstein’s words of wisdom reflect their mutual understanding of the pressures faced by scientists entangled in the complexities of wartime politics. However, some of these interactions are unlikely to have happened in real life, especially regarding the calculations on the chain reactions that could ignite the entire atmosphere. 

In the film, a physicist in the Manhattan Project, Edward Teller, fears the atomic bomb could trigger a catastrophic chain reaction. Contrary to history, Oppenheimer seeks Einstein’s counsel, a fictional scenario that never happened. Historically, Oppenheimer consulted Arthur Compton, who directed the University of Chicago efforts of the Manhattan Project. Nolan admitted to The New York Times about altering this fact for audience familiarity, “I shifted that to Einstein. And Einstein is the personality people know in the audience.”

You can watch Einstein and the Bomb on Netflix and catch the trailer here: