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Oppenheimer Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

This biopic about the father of the atomic bomb is not a simple retelling of the life of Robert Oppenheimer but a complex, explosion, of a political thriller.
Oppenheimer shaking Lewis Strauss hand

Genre: Biography / Drama / History / Thriller

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Josh Hartnett, Jason Clarke, Alden Ehrenreich, Kenneth Branagh, Florence Pugh & Tom Conti.

Run Time: 180 min.

US Release: 21 July 2023

UK Release: 21 July 2023

German Release: 20 July 2023

Since the first teaser dropped early last year, I have been patiently waiting for Christopher Nolan’s newest release. I am a big fan of his directorial style, his screenplay treatments, as well as his visionary style for cinema. Having finally seen it, I consider it to be one of the most relevant films playing today! With the renewed tension between the East and West, most notably due to the Russian-Ukraine conflict, the fear of nuclear war hasn’t been as prominent since the Cold War. Nolan’s bio-drama touches exactly upon that topic! So, get ready to be enlightened by my review for… Oppenheimer!

Based on the 2005 biography “ American Prometheus”, this epic showcases the life of American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, including his role in the development of the atomic bomb, in a race against Nazi Germany.

During the end of production for Tenet, actor Robert Pattinson gifted the director with a book of Oppenheimer speeches. Nolan, who long wanted to make a movie about the American scientist, obtained the idea to write the script in first person, intent on conveying it from Oppenheimer’s perspective. His goal was to put audiences in the shoes of the theoretical physicist, to make them understand what it was like to be him, in the defining moments of the Manhattan Project. To my surprise, it also is mostly historically accurate.

That unique point of view is what makes the narrative so great, as audiences begin their journey by viewing the world through his scientific eyes, driven by the thirst for knowledge and discovery. During the final act, when the power of his creation is unveiled, the focus shifts from scientific pursuit to an emotional chain reaction within him, as he realises the catastrophic result his invention could mean for humanity. This is not a simple historical drama, it is a tale of caution!

Nolan also redefines the biographical genre, breaking up the linear structure, by adding layers of a political thriller in between, which take place at a later stage in Oppenheimer's life. This makes for a refreshing experience, concerning what could have been a very cut-and-dry watch. The three-hour runtime is barely noticeable, as the plot is fast-paced, thanks to its dense structure. Ironically, it also marks the most straightforward story told by the regisseur.

The dialogues are very intricate, including philosophical discussions, questioning the very act of creating a weapon that could well destroy the world. Then there are disputes among physicists that include a lot of scientific jargon, yet it is easy to follow, never talking down to its audience.

Even more impressive, is the fact that the technical side tops the already fantastically elaborated screenplay plus acting. Christopher Nolan is a visionary when it comes to cinematography, still shooting on actual film, as well as making pictures for the cinema! Oppenheimer is no different! The editing is immaculate, with fast-moving scenes that jump between different periods of time, creating the illusion of watching a two-and-a-half-hour-long film. Scenes are multi-layered, containing a lot of information, perfect for multiple viewings! It feels like watching a documentary, credited to the brilliance of DP Hoyte van Hoytema!

According to different press releases, the director denied making use of CGI for his historical drama. While it is believable that no computer effects were used in the foreground, it is hard to accept that none were used to clean up the imagery in post-edit. Nevertheless, the practical effects and imagery used, including the explosion imitating the “Trinity” test, are breathtaking! This also includes set, just like costume design, which accurately represents the era.

In the past couple of years, Nolan’s flicks did have severe sound mixing issues. The music, as well as sound effects, muted a lot of the dialogue. This production makes an absolute improvement, although at times it still is hard to understand what characters are saying. The soundtrack, by Ludwig Göransson, is bombastic and heavy when it needs to be.


Verdict: This might well be the director's cinematic masterpiece, at least on a technical level. It also is the first film of the year that I found to be flawless, enjoying every single image on screen. It is not my favourite Nolan production but it is in my top three! This biopic feels more like a documentary than a summer blockbuster, which is thanks to a fabulous script written by the regisseur himself. Maintaining a lot of historical facts as accurately as possible, the plot focuses on telling the life of the titular figure, from a first-person perspective. This allows viewers to learn about the father of the atom bomb, from a completely different perspective. Nolan treats his cast as real people, blending stars into the background. Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer and Donwy Jr. as Lewis Strauss give performances of a lifetime! Technically, the feature is impeccable. Using fast-paced editing plus jaw-dropping practical effects. Finally, the sound issues that plagued Nolan’s last couple of productions are mostly fixed, while the score by Göransson is goosebumps-inducing. Oppenheimer absolutely deserves a 10 out of 10!

What about you? Did you enjoy this epic about one of the most famous scientists in modern history? Or did you get bored by the three-hour runtime? Let me know below!


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