Oppenheimer Review

Friday 21 July 2023

Plot: The story of American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in the development of the atomic bomb.
Film: Oppenheimer

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writers: Christopher Nolan, Kai Bird, Martin Sherwin

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr.

Oppenheimer, as I’m sure is obvious at this point is based on the rise and fall of J. Robert Oppenheimer dubbed as the father of the atomic bomb. Played by Cillian Murphy and joined by an absolutely star-studded cast, I will make the bold claim that this is my favourite film from director Christopher Nolan. The combination of non-linear storytelling and being based on a terrible historical event, make for a cinema experience that that you feel immediately sucked into and are unable to look away from. 

One of my favourite things about seeing a film in the cinema is getting the live feedback from an audience, whether it’s a horror, comedy or in this case a drama. While the feedback for a drama may not be as obvious as the other genres I mentioned, silence speaks volumes. When the first test for the atom bomb is performed and the film goes silent as the characters take in the sight for themselves, the audience did not make a single sound. In a sold-out screen it was a very impressive.

Not too long after that moment, I found myself staring back at Cillian Murphy and tears were in my eyes as the weight of what Oppenheimer had accomplished really settled on his shoulders. The truth of his actions being that while he had been sat by the phone waiting for a progress report, tens of thousands of people, which would soon become hundreds of thousands, had just lost their lives. They say the truth hurts and, in those moments, while being ushered in front a crowd chanting his name, Oppie, as he is affectionately referred to as, was a shell of the man that they were cheering for. His speech that followed was hollow, realising that by ending a war, he had started something much worse.

The academy may as well set aside the Best Actor award for Cillian now, anyone who can make me feel sympathy for a man being shunned by his peers after causing the deaths of two-hundred thousand people, deserves all of the praise that is undoubtedly coming his way. I’m not here to review history, that is a debate I don’t feel like I can have and do justice to but, I forget which character asked it, and I will update this when I have rewatched, but Oppenheimer is asked; ‘If the people of Japan knew what was coming, would they surrender?’, only those stationed at Los Alamos had any inkling of what the atomic bomb could do, historians can speculate all they want, there is no way to answer that question as the Atomic Bomb had never been, and never again would be to date, used in warfare, and that was the moment I felt the coldest while watching this film. 

If we’re handing out awards, both Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh will be strong contenders for supporting roles. Emily Blunt as long-suffering wife Kitty gave an incredible performance during Oppenheimer’s security hearing, something that is hearkened back to in the finale of the film when she refuses to shake another character’s hand for speaking against her husband, it’s impeccable cinema. Florence Pugh’s role of Jean Tatlock, Oppenheimer’s former lover serves as a way to show that he wasn’t an unkind man, he was in love, and she called on him when it suited and for a long time he answered when she needed him simply because she asked. Jean was unwell and Florence’s portrayal of the mental anguish of wanting and not wanting Oppenheimer while also finding him brilliant but arrogant and wrong, means this is one of her best acting roles to date. 

The film is every bit as visually stunning as you’d expect from Christopher Nolan but it’s also in what they don’t show that makes this film as good as it is. We don’t see the bombing of Hiroshima and Nygazaki but we see the reaction to the aftermath through Oppenheimer and that was enough. If you haven’t already booked your tickets then absolutely do not miss your chance to see this one on the big screen, I’ll be watching multiple times before it’s run is over.

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