When Oppenheimer meets Truman, he is still reeling from the body count of his creation. However, Truman is cool and boastful about having bombed Hiroshima; he has completely forgotten about Nagasaki. Oppenheimer turns the issue over to the Soviets, but Truman, in proud ignorance, declares that Russia will never have a nuclear bomb. His mood is only heightened when Oppenheimer suggests returning Los Alamos to its indigenous inhabitants. No, the US military will keep the lab active to guide the development of new weapons.
Oppenheimer finally admits that he has blood on his hands, and Truman’s contempt erupts. He waves a handkerchief in Oppie’s face, calling his regret for arrogance: the Japanese only care about whoever dropped the bomb, the Commander-in-Chief declares. “Oppenheimer” was shot in IMAX, but the alternating close-ups of Nolan’s Murphy and Oldman faces feel as confined as a 4:3 frame, trapping the audience in the awkwardness of conversation.
Oppenheimer is escorted out of the Oval Office and listens as Truman orders that the “crybaby” never be in his presence again. In real life, Truman called him a “fucking jerk.”
Now, some might be glad Oppenheimer isn’t getting any sympathy; thousands died because of his creation, so his regrets can only feel like crocodile tears. However, Truman’s reaction suggests an unflattering truth about him, which runs counter to the myth-making of his legacy.