Experience the breathtaking global phenomenon that has captivated audiences around the world. Written for the screen and directed by Christopher Nolan, 'Oppenheimer' thrusts audiences into the mind of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), whose landmark work on the Manhattan Project created the first atomic bomb.
Unfocused erratic biopic (yet well-made)
- Oppenheimer review by AER
SPOILERS - Oppenheimer 5 out of 10 - As you know, I'm into movies I can get some emotional push and pull from and this one left me cold. OK, what did I expect from a business-like biopic of J Robert Oppenheimer, the godfather of the H-Bomb? Well, a bit of coherence and focus for a start but this low-stakes drama seemed to want to ditch the scientific aspects and achievements in favour of endless commie witchhunt interviews which didn't turn me on at all. We've been here before but more interestingly in films like Michael Mann's The Insider, and Oliver Stone's JFK, only in Oppenheimer it never really comes to life. I would've been more interested if they'd focused on the moral dilemna at this story's heart - if the military are the only ones to finance your experiments to push the boundaries of known physics, how would you feel if your creation was used as a WMD? How far does your patriotism go? I found the film muddled. It wasn't so much that I was too daft to follow what was going on (for once), I just had the feeling that it wasn't very good at communicating what was happening very clearly.
Plus points go to the actors and the SFX... the bombastic score (at times is impressive) and the editing was superb.
A Christopher Nolan film that is extraordinary yet flawed, an epic story of the invention of the atomic bomb and its main architect, Robert J. Oppenheimer. This is an audacious film and structured in a way that occasionally reminded me of an Oliver Stone or even Francis Coppola film in its recreation and authenticity of American history and its convoluted timelines. I suppose this is a biopic but that description seems too limiting due to the sheer scope of this film. The narrative goes far beyond a story of one man's life. There is scenes of Oppenheimer's years at Cambridge University including a disturbing moment in which he considers and begins an attempt to murder a hated teacher but this is mostly a political drama centred around the race to build a new weapon before the Nazis build it, the scientific confrontations with the political power of the US including the military and the effects of using it against the Japanese. The mix of black and white scenes and the stunning colour used especially in the desert where an entire town was built to house the vast staff and their families is exceptional. The standout of the film is Cillian Murphy's towering central performance, it's surely an award winning one I would expect, as he channels Oppenheimer's enthusiasm, his doubts and his realisation at what he's given to the world. Matt Damon as the bullish General who oversees the project and Robert Downey Jr as the devious Lewis Strauss are both excellent too. The two main female characters are woefully underused but are absolutely magnetic when on screen. Florence Pugh as Oppenheimer's lover who he abandons and Emily Blunt as his wife Kitty, a complex personality that deserved more than just being in the background. There are two scenes in which Blunt is quite marvellous, one where she confronts Jason Clarke's boorish prosecutor at a hearing and another where she deliberately shuns a disloyal scientist. The main set piece is the first, risky, bomb test which Nolan delivers in an impactive way, the build up is first class cinema. An interesting, very long film from Nolan. Possibly a passion piece I would guess. It's not his best film and it may test many who will find it too character focused (and there are a lot of them) and perhaps tiring. Nonetheless this is impressive filmmaking and a film to experience at the cinema. I suspect it will lose it's power on the small screen.
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.
A devastating, seismic & stunning account of the atomic bomb & its creator's emotional journey
- Oppenheimer review by TB
In 2020, Christopher Nolan released Tenet. It was the culmination of many years of slowly pushing towards the point where he basically went up his own backside with pretension, wrapped up in a film so convoluted & cold that it made me question some of the reasons I liked Nolan's work in the first place. As much as there is an unrelenting coldness in pretty much everything he does, this has before been offset by his excellent work. So I did go into Oppenheimer wanting it to be great but also keeping my optimism to a minimum so as I wasn't set up for another failure. I am delighted, as per my star rating, to say that Nolan is back to his amazing best with what is his best film since Interstellar, although in some ways it's even better than that, because this film really nails the ending.
Oppenheimer chronicles the creation of the atomic bomb, overseen by Oppenheimer along with the contributions of many others in the scientific community. It is the height of WWII and there is increasing desparation from the West and the US to ensure that the technology does not fall into the hands of their enemies. The film also looks closely at Oppenheimer's personal life, including his Communist sympathies & his affair with one of the principal members of the Communist party, Jean Tatlock. Mixed in with this is the sham trial that the film repeatedly cuts back to, trying to discredit Oppenheimer when he realises the horror & evil that the creation he helped to birth can do.
The most important thing this movie does is make you feel, through the incredible crafting of cinematography, sound & performances, how tense & pressured the whole team working on the Manhattan Project was. There is the constant pressure from the official chain of communication, primarily led by Matt Damon's Leslie Groves, to bring forward the time when the bomb will be ready. This firehose is then turned on Oppenheimer as he changes from a man of science, committed to completing the project he was given, to one of the most outspoken proponents of controlling these weapons, as he could see what was going to happen once the arms race started.
The cinematography is stunning. I saw this in 70mm IMAX & there is simply no way I can communicate effectively how all-encompassing it was to be a part of this movie. The sound design is some of the most incredible I've ever experienced, and this film features the most use of IMAX in a Nolan film so far. Frustratingly, due to the noise IMAX cameras make, dialogue scenes have to be shot on conventional film cameras. But also, every time I see a Nolan film, I appreciate why he is such a fanatical defender of & proponent of film stock: the quality, colour palette & depth of field is unmatched.
And finally we get to the performances. In his first lead for Nolan after multiple supporting roles, Cillian Murphy is magnificent. His Oppenheimer is in many ways an almost childlike character, full of nerves & insecurities, but always driven by what he emphatically believes. Florence Pugh also does excellent work with what is effectively a small supporting role. But in all the roles, the one that stood out more than most was Josh Hartnett. He is really really good. After multiple rom-coms, followed by a long hiatus, he is outstanding as Oppenheimer's colleague Ernest Lawrence. Even though I won't spoil it, there are many amazing cameos as well.
This film is sensational. I loved it and it is also an important warning to civilisation now, right now. Especially after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, we need to as a species start to seriously see the risks we are taking not only with our lives but the whole of humanity & the planet. Sadly, like Oppenheimer muses late on in the film, this isn't one we probably will take...
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.
Drama-free long-haul talk-fest
- Oppenheimer review by Alphaville
This tedious Christopher Nolan talkie about the life of the physicist is a real disappointment and a long haul. For three hours the confused plotting zips around all over his life and all over the place, never settling on one scene long enough for any drama to develop. Even worse, the endless meetings are mostly concerned with the audience-boring political implications of his early communist leanings. It doesn’t help that star Cillian Murphy has only one expression and half-whispers his lines in a monotone.
The hours drag by with scene after scene of assorted suits politicking in assorted corridors and boardrooms. After nearly two hours there’s some brief tension when the first atom bomb is tested (to an annoying score of what sounds like scraping violins), but it’s soon back to the politicking. By the end (if you last that long) it’s just words, words, words. Whatever happened to “show don’t tell”? The script was based on a book and would probably have made a better play if not for the huge cast of interchangeable characters. Such a disappointment given Nolan’s track record.
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.
Way overlong, talky courtroom drama with some Nuclear bombs...
- Oppenheimer review by PV
I was massively disappointed in this - a great cast, largely British like the director - I actually find a lot of Christopher Nolan's films tedious and overlong too. I have never warmed to courtroom dramas and that is what this is (watch CHAPLIN instead to see McCarthyism, or The CRUCIBLE maybe as a metaphor).
Not sure how this compares to the 1980 TV miniseries BUT that is probably better - special effects, CGI, big budget and the rest only go so far.
Watch HIROSHIMA - DROPPING THE BOMB a BBC drama-documentary or other documentaries on it, WORLD AT WAR documentary classic, early 70s.
Interesting fact: the test bomb in New Mexico would not have worked without a tiny microscopic wire manufactured in the UK, in Wales, by the MOND factory (Mond was a family of Austrian Jews).
I was annoyed by some modern language used for scenes in 1920s/30s and the usual modern need to focus on women characters and relationships - but some stories are just more male, war stories and this. The lovelife stuff bored me.
2.5 stars rounded down.
0 out of 1 members found this review helpful.
Well acted, interesting story but disjointed and over rated.
- Oppenheimer review by JD
I found the film very interesting, giving some food for thought where both the negative and postive aspects of how the US operates were demonstrated. Having taken a interest in geopolitics over the last few years, the film was indeed very interesting in this regard.
The acting is fantastic and the whole production is extremly well done. This is a film that has been polished to within an inch of its life and in this respect alone, its fantastic.
The film is bloated. Bare in mind there is no science in this film. What tiny bit there is, is accompanied with simplistic explanation. There is also very little definition of the destruction these weapons cause. These subjects seem to of been brushed aside to focus on the people and events.
And there is the biggest flaw. Youll notice most people are keen to say they understood the film and thats because it jumps around between different times and storylines in a very fragmented way - Im not fussed to admit it, both me and my GF couldnt keep up with it all. It doesnt make you stupid, or invalidate your not-5 star rating. It just means you cant be bothered playing a memory puzzle while watching some entertainment and eating pizza.
A good film yes, but 5 stars, no. There are far, far better films out there.
The movie is too long and is 99% talking. The sound track tries to inject some excitement into it, but fundamentally it's a bit of a dull film. Well acted etc (of course) which is why the critics love it, but many people will struggle to get through the 3 hours I suspect.
0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.
Powerful historical epic
- Oppenheimer review by PD
This very lengthy but powerful and watchable film about the man who created the atomic bomb slices and dices chronology, psychodrama, scientific inquiry, political backstabbing, and history in roughly equal measure. Cillian Murphy gives a superb performance as Oppenheimer, making him fascinating and multi-layered: his “Oppie” is an elegant mandarin who’s also a bit snakelike — at once a cold prodigy and an ardent humanist, a Jewish outsider who becomes a consummate insider, and a man who oversees the invention of nuclear weapons without a shred of doubt or compunction, only to confront the world he created from behind a defensive shield of guilt that’s a lot less self-aware.
The film opens with a flash forward to the 1954 hearing of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission that ultimately resulted in Oppenheimer accused (among other things) of having hidden Communist ties, being stripped of his security clearance. This was the government’s way of silencing him, since in the postwar world he’d become something of a dove on the issue of nuclear weapons, a view that didn’t mesh with America’s Cold War stance of aggression. The film keeps returning to the hearing, weaving it deep into the fabric of its three-hour running time. As Oppenheimer defends himself in front of a committee of hanging judges, the film uses his anecdotes to flash back in time, and Nolan creates a hypnotic multi-tiered storytelling structure, using it to tease out the hidden continuities that shaped Oppenheimer’s life. We see how the Cold War really started before World War II was over — it was always there, shaping the paranoia of atom-bomb politics. We see that Oppenheimer the ruthless nuclear zealot and Oppenheimer the mystic idealist were one and the same. And we see that the race to complete the Manhattan Project, rooted in the makeshift creation of a small desert city that Oppenheimer presides over in Los Alamos, meant that the momentum of the nuclear age was already taking on a life of its own.
The film has a mesmerising first half, encompassing everything from Oppenheimer’s mysterious Princeton encounter with Albert Einstein to his far from utopian marriage to the alcoholic Kitty (played with some force by Emily Blunt). Just about everything we see is stunning in its accuracy, for this isn’t a film that traffics in composite characters or audience-friendly arcs; Nolan channels the grain of reality, the fervour and detail of what really happened. Meanwhile, the build-up to the creation of the first atomic bomb ticks with cosmic suspense, but the big bang itself, when it finally arrives, is something of an anti-climax as Nolan shows it impressionistically — the sound cutting out, images of what look like radioactive hellfire. Thus the terrifying awesomeness, the nightmare bigness of it all, does not come across, nor does it evoke the descriptions of witnesses who say that the blast was streaked with purple and grey and was many times brighter than the noonday sun. The Japanese experience is, perhaps inevitably, largely side-stepped, and although it's hinted at that bombing the defeated Japanese was less to save American lives and more designed to cow the Russians with a ruthless demonstration of the US’s nuclear mastery, the concentration on the effects of this on Oppenheimer seems rather morally incongruous given the forces unleashed. And once we're past that nuclear climax, the intensity rather subsides - we’re still at the A.E.C. hearing (after two hours), with an Oppenheimer who is now fighting the invention of the more powerful hydrogen bomb, as if it were some utterly different weapon from the one he created, and who is desperate to rein in the existence of nuclear weapons in general, but forgetting the key lesson of the revolution he was at the centre of: that human beings will always be at the mercy of what science makes possible.
Oppenheimer review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The most notable quote of Oppenheimer, his dark observation on becoming the destroyer of worlds, is first delivered in this movie during a sex scene. Not one so much of a joy but of a foreboding nature that creeps under the skin of passion he shares with Jean Tatlock. It’s perhaps the best way to describe the intoxicating nature of Christopher Nolan’s biopic on the father of the atomic bomb. There’s an awe to it all, but one that oozes with dread for where it all leads.
Nolan’s film does some jumping around in its first act to lay the groundwork. We get to see the origins of the young J. Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) and how the ideas formed in his led with perspective on atoms and light. We slide around in time with the bookending courtroom drama of a post-bomb Oppenheimer being grilled by a commission and his opponent Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.) getting just as much heat. With this framing, the movie is more of a courtroom drama, considering how long the picture holds on these powerful moments. The fact that Nolan embraces this aspect with IMAX cameras and makes some stunning visual choices makes this such a remarkable biopic, leagues above its competition.
Of course, having an all-star ensemble cast doesn’t hurt, and there are so many performances to take note of here. Emily Blunt has great force and scorn as Opp’s most critical wife, Kitty, not giving him a moment of pity after his affairs and concerns. Florence Pugh performs devilishly well as the quietly scrutinizing Jean, a communist who indulges Opp’s passion but also peers deep into his soul, where a one-night stand ends with an uncomfortable gaze between them. Matt Damon brings his usual ease to the role of the rival Lt. General Leslie Groves. Josh Hartnett delivers probably the biggest breakout role in the film as a skeptical scientist whose trust dwindles for Opp as the project continues.
The most important aspect of making a film like this is not to be led astray by what is being communicated with the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer has a drive to explore and deliver the atomic bomb on time but his politics, morality, and ethics are always in the passenger seat, never leaving even when tuning them out. What started as a man interested in communism to better the world soon transforms into a rationalization that his creation could end war, a bizarre rationale that does not go unchallenged.
Even though it takes the dropping of the bomb in the first test to make him truly take in the horror of what he’s about to unleash, it’s not like anybody tried to warn him. The inspirational Niels Bohr (Kenneth Branagh) is tapped for the project and, although grateful for his rescue, refuses to participate in what he can sense is coming. Albert Einstein (Tom Conti) becomes just as terrified and distances himself from Oppenheimer when he realizes his creation could bring about the world's end. When the bombs finally drop on Japan, Oppenheimer is shaken by the blood on his hands. President Harry Truman (Gary Oldman) can do is give him a tissue and tell him to man up with a too-late-for-pathos expression.
Even though it is three hours long, Oppenheimer speedruns much of the scientist's life for all the highlights with fast dialogue and zippy non-linear editing. It forces the viewer to keep up with the shifting of time and dares them to find the moral decay as the project progresses past all of Oppenheimer’s pushed-aside ethics. The final result is a masterful film far more exciting than the centerpiece of the atomic bomb dropping. The movie does not end there but continues to its logical extreme, where the fallout is more important than how big the mushroom cloud appears. It’s a fantastic and surprisingly mature film from a director who always has great ideas but seems to relegate them specifically to action scenes. Here, the explosion in the least impressive firework of this engrossing masterpiece.
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