First of all, lets recognise that this Christopher Nolan movie is a biopic and its based on American theoretical physicist J Robert Oppenheimer who is also known as the father of Atom Bomb. So this is a movie with no mind-twisting dreams or the cool gadgets of a caped crusader or interplanetary travel with complex scientific space theories etc. And yet Nolan makes us believe that this movie has some of these with the approach he takes to present this movie to us. Oppenheimer movie review, in short if you view it through the biopic lens, this is one of the few biopics films that stands out and makes it an enjoyable movie-going experience(on a large screen if possible).
Oppenheimer is not Christopher Nolan’s best film, but it is his way back to focusing on drama after this Dunkirk and Tenet. I fall into the category of Nolan fans who didn’t enjoy these two movies, just because the craft overshadowed the movie itself and deprived the audience of enjoyment.
The movie is based on the 2005 biography American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin. What I feel Nolan set out to make is a first-person view of the event conspired with his research and his life at mainly 2 stages in his life, before the Trinity test and after the test. One part shot in back and white; while I found is confusing at times to know the particular scene falls in the timeline but you get used to it. The aftermath of how the bombs were used in Nagasaki and Hiroshima was not shown in the movie apart from the title characters’ reaction. But this, I feel is the intention; showing more of this would have deviated from the goal he was trying to achieve and we would have had a whole different movie at hand. I agree with this decision.
Nolan manages to extract excellent performances from the lead actors, mainly Cillian Murphy as the title character, Emily Blunt as his wife, Matt Damon as head of the Manhattan Project, Robert Downey Jr as U.S Atomic Energy Commission member and Florence Pugh as a Communist Party USA member. There are other prominent actions in the movie, but it’s worth noting that this is the first time Nolan has had an explicit nude scene in his movies. That, too, a provocative bedroom scene with “Bhagavat Gita” being used in this scene which created some controversies in India. Albert Einstein makes an appearance in this film and its interesting how Christopher nolan has weaved it into the film.
Nolan starts the movie with a strong sound design with Oppenheimer’s visions presented it out us in out and clear visuals, and while watching, I kept thinking about why take this approach and this approach stood out as being more in your face and felt unnecessary for a theoretical physicist going through his day to day life. Its clearly visible that it’s a tactical approach. but the payoffs of that approach come way later in the film, and the powerful silence speaks for the parts of its silence.
To wrap up, I found the movie enjoyable and believe it’s worth the ticket cost to see it on an IMAX screen. While not Nolan’s best work, he did an exceptional job working with limited material within the limitation of a biopic. The movie is lengthy at three hours, but it doesn’t feel tedious and enjoyable.
Rating 6 out of 10