A couple of weeks or so ago, Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, said: “We must be ready for war by 2029.” He meant with Russia, but in any case that scary sentiment prompted me into thinking that I really needed to watch Christopher Nolan’s multi-garlanded film Oppenheimer, which does somewhat address a truly terrible topic: the destruction of the world.

Nolan’s back catalogue includes the spectacular 2006 film The Prestige, a tale of arch trickery and villainy in the world of magic in Victorian London that featured David Bowie (as featured on the home page here). There are many more one could mention – Dunkirk, Memento, Tenet (they frequently have one-word titles) – but, rather infamously, his oeuvre had been short on the awards front. Oppenheimer changed all that.

This year it won seven Oscars, including best picture, best director for Nolan, best actor for Cillian Murphy as Robert Oppenheimer and best supporting actor for Robert Downey Jr. It won seven British Academy Film Awards and five Golden Globes. Nolan’s work was assailed by accolades.

Oppenheimer’s test at Los Alamos proves that his creation is a success and America is all set to go with its atomic bomb

The film itself, which deals with a very heavy subject, is certainly lengthy. It charts Oppenheimer’s early career, beginning with his studying quantum physics at Cambridge. He completes a PhD and then lectures at universities in California. He marries Kitty Puening (Emily Blunt), a biologist and a communist. He has an on-off affair with another communist, Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh). When nuclear fission is discovered in 1938, Oppenheimer realises its military potential. And soon there was a war on – even if the United States didn’t enter it until 1942.

That year, Oppenheimer is interviewed by General Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) regarding his suitability to oversee the United States’ development of an atomic bomb. Groves has taken opinion from elsewhere. “My favourite response,” he says, “was that Oppenheimer couldn’t run a hamburger stand.” He grins and replies: “I couldn’t. But I can run the Manhattan Project.” And he does.

Later, much later, after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer tells his adoring audience “I bet the Japanese didn’t like it” and “I just wish we’d had it in time to use against the Germans.” But his heart is already not in it, the death and destruction his creation has caused. He is called to see President Truman. When Oppenheimer says he feels he has blood on his hands, the president suggests the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn’t care who built the bomb. “They care who dropped it. I did.” Oppenheimer is dismissed as a “crybaby”.

His communist friendships and relationships ineluctably lead to a McCarthy-like investigation into him and his suitability to retain his security clearance. Behind his back, Rear Admiral Lewis Strauss (Downey) has been on manoeuvres against him, not least because he believed that Oppenheimer had spoken badly of him in a conversation with Albert Einstein (Tom Conti). In time we learn that their conversation had not been about Strauss at all; rather about Oppenheimer’s fear that he might have started a “chain reaction that will destroy the entire world”. Which is rather where we came in…