Oppenheimer - Review
Theory Will Take You Only So Far.
Directed by Christopher Nolan
The story of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s role in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II.
In the summer of 2020, audiences were expecting Tenet to save cinemas after the pandemic threatened the future of the industry. Tenet didn't do badly but it certainly didn't bring cinemas back to their full form. It took a few more years, a couple more lockdowns, Spider-Men joining forces, Tom Cruise flying jets and James Cameron returning to Pandora to get to where we are now - where Christopher Nolan returns in IMAX 70mm glory, this time going up against his past studio home and the most popular doll in the world to bring audiences flocking back to cinemas.
Oppenheimer is a harrowing and dense look at the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, his role in the development of the atomic bomb and the impact it left on our world. Over three hours, the film keeps a constant fast pace cutting back and forth amongst Oppenheimer's past, going deep into the psychological effects a project of this scale can have on a single man.
A cast where there is truly no small part, this film is full of notable names giving the performances of their careers. Resting on the shoulders of Cillian Murphy in the title role, he delivers a performance for the ages capturing the eerie sense of charm and complexities of the character. Emily Blunt, Matt Damon and the rest of the supporting cast match the momentum but it's Robert Downey Jr. who is the standout, shedding his iron suit and transforming into the role of Lewis Strauss.
A very different film from what Christopher Nolan has taken on before, pointing his fantastical lens at the biopic - arguably one of the most distressing stories in history. Laid out like a courtroom drama, the film jumps between the creation, the detonation and the aftermath of the atomic bomb exploring the inner workings of creating a project with such a monumental level of impact and how it should be used if successful. The editing and screenplay flow together seamlessly jumping between time to show how the past and present influence each other to build a distressing future.
Ludwig Göransson creates one of his best scores to date building a looming sense of tension, setting music to help personify the chaos inside of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Set to the stunning IMAX visuals that only Christopher Nolan can pull off at this scale. Pushing the medium to its max in stunning 70mm which I felt so honoured to experience. With no CGI in the entire film, it makes for such a refreshing and exhilarating experience that shines a light on the power of practical filmmaking. The Trinity sequence is a standout, proving why he is such an impressive visionary filmmaker.
Jumping between subjective and objective sequences, Oppenheimer is a heavy watch that like other Nolan films, will take multiple viewings to unpick and analyse. Outside of a few sequences, it doesn’t bring the level of spectacle that Inception or Interstellar prides themselves on, instead making for a more mature and distinctive film, potentially marking a new era for one of cinema's strongest players.