Christopher Nolan pulls out the stops as only he can to bring to the big screen, in the grandest possible way, the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb who lived to see the devastation and long-term dangers that his weapon of mass destruction unleashed on the world.

Oppenheimer, a cinematic achievement of blinding brilliance, achieves a sublime combination of visual grandeur, technical flair, emotional intimacy and an examination of the limits of human endeavour and ambition. Through all the layers that constitute the film, what peeps out most prominently is the director's unambiguous acknowledgement of the ethical questions that surround the brilliant American theoretical physicist's legacy.

At a more superficial level, the film gives the writer-director the scope to orchestrate the elements of space and time in a straightforward but a highly enthralling manner and tap the dramatic potential of the tragic story of a genius who pushed the boundaries of quantum physics only to trigger a dangerous arms race.

The three-hour epic is about a man, quantum physics, and a point in history, but it comes off as a timeless, almost Shakespearean morality tale about an impossible achievement and its horrific consequences. The film crammed with diverse narrative and spatial elements that Nolan and his cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema harness and press into the service of an engrossing story about science, war and political vendetta.

It isn't, however, only the formal attributes of the film that are impressive. Its thematic depth turns it into an introspection (no matter how wordy) on science, weapons and the horrors of war without actually putting footage of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and their effects on the screen.

As a scientist who unwittingly armed the human race with a self-destruct button, Oppenheimer, played with unwavering solidity by regular Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy, is presented as a genius who pays as high a price for his deadly invention as he does for his subsequent decision to turn into an advocate for nuclear arms control.

The excitement of scientific research, the upshots by political exigencies and the workings of personal relationships are all woven into the dense but never less than dynamic storyline. Nolan, with the aid of Murphy, turns Oppenheimer into a figure who inspires awe and admiration to begin with. But as a powerful adversary turns against him and seeks to corner him by harping on his pro-left affiliations, the hero turns into a hapless victim of a "kangaroo court."

Oppenheimer's wife Kitty (a terrific Emily Blunt) and the firebrand Communist Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh in a memorable cameo) with whom he has an affair are integral parts of the story, as are the friends and rivals who surround the scientist as he works on the bomb in the hope that it would end all wars.      

The atomic bomb that Oppenheimer delivers to the US military does bring World War II to an end in the Pacific, but it also starts a public battle that a national hero has to fight to protect his own reputation as well as a moral conflict that is triggered by pangs of guilt.