Christopher Nolan deserves every superlative for his brilliant take on J. Robert Oppenheimer (a flawless Cillian Murphy), the dark knight of the atomic age. This terrifying, transfixing three-hour epic emerges as a monumental achievement on the march into screen history.
Just watched Oppenheimer a second time, with a third play date scheduled, and likely more views after that, which motivates me to comment in more detail about what is so impressive about the movie.
Now outstanding cinematography is one thing, almost a given, as many movies succeed at that.
But what is, as far as I can recall, unique is the way Oppenheimer conveys a huge amount of information, and a very complex story, swiftly and efficiently so that viewer does not get **** has a large number of short scenes (I will try to count them next time, maybe) each of which conveys at least one important piece of information about Oppenheimer, the people in his life, the people associated with the atomic bomb program, or the atomic bomb program itself. The information is conveyed in short statements or exchanges, epigrammatic in quality, that summarize real, important facts of history. The economy of dialog is impressive. Visuals are effectively used to set context, evoke character, and to mark the progress of the atomic bomb program.
The casting is brilliant. All of the 60-odd named historic personages are convincing portraits, even if they have only a brief screen time (I. I. Rabi, Neils Bohr for example). Since all the actors do a terrific job, and the list is long, it is a little difficult to single out the most outstanding - but the casting of Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer, Emily Blunt as Kitty Oppenheimer, and Benny Safdie as Edward Teller is brilliant - they really carry their roles with complete conviction. The brilliant Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock is a special case, having a singular and probably the most difficult role to carry, which she does excellently. Matt Damon as Leslie Groves is, I think, slightly smoother than the famously gruff general, but I really liked his portrayal even though, since he conveys the brilliant leadership of history’s greatest project manager.
But I leave best for last. The truly remarkable, absolutely critical role of Robert Downey, Jr. as Lewis Strauss. The two most important achievements in the film are the use of security hearing - orchestrated by Strauss - as a key story telling mechanism, and the other is the genius move of making Strauss himself the narrator of the story. This is Downey’s greatest acting achievement. The actor totally disappears into the role. After having just seen the film, I commented to my wife that Downey should win best supporting actor next year for his performance, and she asked “what role did he play”? She was astonished when I told her Lewis Strauss – she had no idea who the actor was.
The movie benefits greatly from repeated viewing, as things that happen early in the film gain much significance from what is learned later.
It is a shame that the great Roger Ebert is not alive to write a review of it.
P.S. I hope it wins best picture, best director, best editing, best screen writing, and best supporting actor for Downey. But it would be possible for it to sweep the acting awards. Sure you can throw in cinematography also.
The cumulative effect is so stunning and antithetical to anything Hollywood is doing at the moment – the equally audacious Barbie aside – that it feels like a completely different art form. And, frankly, hallelujah for that.
Not for the first time, the demonstrative cleverness of [Nolan's] storytelling can seem too precise, too hermetically sealed and engineered, for a sense of raw collective devastation to fully take hold. That might be a rare failing of this extraordinarily gripping and resonant movie, or it could be a minor mercy.
Perhaps inevitably, it falls short of its ambitions. But it’s bracing to see a studio movie these days, particularly one with such huge scope, that at least attempts to serve up more than recycled goods.
Oppenheimer is an indication that Nolan refuses to be pigeonholed as a director. While there’s something to be admired about that, this isn’t a home run. Still, many of the flaws are more than compensated for by the flashes of brilliance and the strength of the central character’s presentation.
Oppenheimer has the bones **** movie. The first two thirds of the movie is excellent, the last third is absolutely awful and unnecessary. This movie would be a masterpiece if they cut an hour out of it.
Overrated movie, don't understand the high score on IMDB. Not only was the editing horribly done and confusing, the message of the movie was highly politically biased and is basically propaganda. The movie was way too long and could have been 2 hours. And ofcourse it wouldn't be a Hollywood film if there were no misplaced sex scenes involved. The dropping of the bomb on Japan on none civilian targets was basically genocide and a war crime, but the movie didn't touch upon this subject. Also the movie fail to mention that Admiral Chester Nimitz who was in command of the pacific fleet campaign against Japan, wrote a petition to Harry S Truman personally not to use the bomb as the Japanese were about to surrender anyways. However Japan wanted to surrender to Russia under conditions. USA wanted Japan to surrender to USA unconditionally. The dropping of the bomb was therefore politically motivated and was not necessary. This is a failed opportunity of Nolan to clarify history and make this topic relevant that USA should never have built this bomb and use it and basically committed war crimes while doing so, but instead make it anti communist movie instead. The communist threat that never existed. Vietnam became a moderate country, and China is more capitalist than any western nations. The Soviet Russians became democratic and that worked out of them alot, NOT. Russia under a democracy became more military aggressive than during the Soviets communist era. Since democracies have conducted more wars the past few decades than communism, this checks out.