Oppenheimer is the latest from The Dark Knight trilogy director, Christopher Nolan
After Tenet, many people eagerly anticipated Christopher Nolan‘s next project, which was surprising to hear that it would be an epic biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer. The story about the father of the atomic bomb is a 3-hour blockbuster that is facing off against Barbie. It features an all-star cast that engages the audience with every minute of runtime. This film feels important, not in an artificial way, but in a way that feels timely to current world politics at large.
The film is based on ‘American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,’ a 2005 biography by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. Cillian Murphy stars as Oppenheimer. It is a story chronicling how the theoretical physicist was brought on board the Manhattan Project and led the creation of the first nuclear weapons. Nolan crafts an interesting narrative here. The film jumps back and forth between Oppenheimer’s early days bringing quantum mechanics to America and his postwar life, where he spoke caution about using atomic weaponry. Most of the film is within the Manhattan Project, and science has never been portrayed so interestingly on screen. Given the subject matter, the film moves along quickly and justifies the length. A lot of Nolan’s technical flourishes are here. Even the most basic activities look incredible on the big screen. It’s a true feat from a crafts perspective.
Cillian Murphy is an established actor in his own right.
He is a frequent collaborator with Nolan, but he has never been given a stage this large to showcase his talents in a lead role of this magnitude. Murphy seems like he’s born to play Oppenheimer, and this will be a career-defining performance for him. Not only is Murphy able to deftly portray Oppenheimer’s intellectual prowess, but he can also show the ethical dilemma Oppenheimer faced in a nuanced and complicated way. Oppenheimer was a theorist first and foremost, and he didn’t feel it was up to him to decide how these creations were used.
To go through every member of this truly stacked cast would take quite a while. However Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, and Robert Downey Jr. are all particularly memorable in their supporting roles. Downey Jr. stands out here, as he has done away with the Tony Stark persona to play Lewis Strauss, a key figure with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. It is great to see Downey Jr. doing something different here. In the film, he is aged up and taking on a bit of a villainous turn. Also, keep an eye out for Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, Kenneth Branagh, Benny Safdie, David Dastmalchian, Jack Quaid, Josh Peck, Dane DeHaan, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and more.
You can’t discuss this film without mentioning Ludwig Göransson’s excellent score. The argument could be made that the movie would not work without it. There is rarely a quiet moment in the film, with the score creeping along and creating a sense of urgency and stress to the action.
I give Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is a technological feat that takes a subject matter that may not interest wide audiences and makes them care about it. However, there are some slower moments throughout the film. Still, it’s an acting and filmmaking showcase that shouldn’t be missed on the big screen. I expect it to be a big part of the Oscar conversation in the coming months. 4.5 out of 5 stars.