When it comes to Hollywood’s most respected directors, few names carry as much weight as Christopher Nolan. Nolan’s Oppenheimer was one of the most anticipated films of 2023, set to tell the true story of the titular physicist’s creation of the atomic bomb. Starring Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer’s story is laid out for all to see over the course of a three-hour historical epic.
Not unlike the Manhattan Project, the film is an impressive gathering of the most talented people in its field. Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Kenneth Branagh, and Alden Ehrenreich all feature heavily, with many other familiar faces appearing in roles of varying importance. What they create is far less destructive than an atomic bomb, but it’s solidly impressive.
The film follows Oppenheimer’s story from his early studies of quantum physics right through to his twilight years. Though much of the focus is on the Manhattan Project, it’s more the story of the man himself and the various political and moral forces that undermined his scientific career. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear, it’s an ambitious film.
Oppenheimer Is Thoroughly Engaging In A Visual And Narrative Sense
With such a talented director at the helm and a wealth of impressive actors, Oppenheimer is as brilliantly-crafted as you might expect. Standout performances from Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., and Emily Blunt all bolster the inherently fascinating story of one of the most significant moments in human history. It’s the collective commitment to telling this story as robustly as possible that makes the film such a spectacle.
Visually, there are many strokes both small and large that speak to Nolan’s ability as a director. Unlike many of his other movies, there are no unbelievable set pieces, but rather historical accuracy and shockingly stark visuals that perfectly complement the nature of Oppenheimer‘s story. The use of both color and black and white scenes highlight the contrast between Oppenheimer’s world and that of the politicians in an excellent piece of aesthetic flair.
Oppenheimer’s Bloated Nature Borders On Excess
With a three hour runtime, there’s no denying that Oppenheimer is a lengthy film packed with heavy subject matter. However, it’s not just in its expansive story that it feels a little bloated, but in its staggering cast. The sheer number of characters, names, and faces that the film introduces can be a little dizzying at times. The appearances of big name actors in minor roles only furthers this excess.
Whether Oppenheimer tells too much story is a matter of opinion, but it’s ultimately not a fair criticism. The story it tells is fascinating and horrifying, and the film even leaves one or two burning questions unanswered even after three hours. One thing that’s clear throughout, though, is that Nolan understands the importance of Oppenheimer’s story, and that makes the film truly something to behold.
Summary: Oppenheimer is a hugely important film. It’s dark and touching and deeply engaging, although it occasionally slips into the excess characteristic of Hollywood biopics.
Highlight: The scene in which the detonation of the bomb changes Oppenheimer forever is the film’s most powerful. It shows his mixed feelings: the pride, the horror, the overwhelming guilt. It’s a tough watch, but it’s the film’s most important scene.