Oppenheimer is the latest film from director Christopher Nolan, who is one of the best directors working today. From The Dark Knight to Inception, Nolan is a masterful storyteller who keeps us thinking long after the film has ended. Now, he’s taken everything he has learned over the years and combined it into this film. It perfectly balances both aspects of itself during its 3-hour runtime: a star-studded WWII epic/thriller and a character piece about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Father of the Atomic Bomb.
Oppenheimer is based on the acclaimed biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. It follows his beginnings as a theoretical physicist and his involvement in the Manhattan Project during WWII. The film also tackles his personal life and his relationships with other scientists (Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr), his friend/rival Lewis Strauss (played by Robert Downey Jr.) and his romantic relationships with his wife Katherine/Kitty (played by Emily Blunt) and mistress Jean Tatlock (played by Florence Pugh).
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My biggest critique of the film is difficult because it was necessary to tell this story: the runtime. While the film is three hours long, it earns that runtime and doesn’t make it drag at all. The way the story itself is told and shot aids in this; we get flashbacks (in color) to Oppenheimer’s life, the Manhattan Project, and his 1954 security clearance hearing while jumping forward (in black-and-white) to the confirmation hearing for Lewis Strauss to become U.S. Secretary of Commerce for President Eisenhower.
Cillian Murphy, a longtime collaborator with Nolan, finally gets the lead role he deserves as J. Robert Oppenheimer. He gives a brilliant, nuanced performance in various stages of the physicist’s life; he was a brilliant man who saw the world in a way no one else did. Robert Downey Jr. also gives a career best performance in my opinion as Lewis Strauss, a calculated man who was a true rival to Oppenheimer. I believe both of them will be nominated for Academy Awards for their performances, and they both deserve to win.
The supporting cast is filled with great performances across the board; there’s someone you are bound to recognize in every scene of the film. Since the cast is full of so many wonderful actors, here are my Top Five Supporting Role Performances:
- Matt Damon as Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, the U.S. Army officer who oversaw construction of the Pentagon and directed the Manhattan Project
- Emily Blunt as Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer, J. Robert Oppenheimer’s wife
- Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock, a psychiatrist and physician as well as Oppenheimer’s mistress
- David Krumholtz as Isidor Isaac Rabi, an American physicist and friend of Oppenheimer
- Tom Conti as Albert Einstein, a German-born theoretical physicist and one of the greatest scientific minds of all time
Overall, I would say this film is an absolute must-see in theaters, especially in IMAX if you can. It is fantastic across the board: directing, writing, acting, cinematography, score, and visual effects. If you are prone to jump scares or aren’t a fan of loud noises, be advised that it might not be the best film for you to see in theaters. It is easily one of the best films of the year and will certainly stay in that conversation in the second half of 2023. I can’t wait to see it in theaters again and hopefully I can see it on the same day as Barbie to have the full “Barbenheimer” experience.