The most explosive movie of the year so far.
Christopher Nolan has proven himself to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. One who knows the stakes, pushes himself to new limits, and isn’t afraid to work with some of the best actors around. “Memento,” “The Dark Knight,” “Inception,” “Interstellar,” “Dunkirk,” and “Tenet” are among his giants that are worthy of being in any film collection. “Oppenheimer” is his next masterpiece, and it’s one Hell of an explosive piece of entertainment. Another World War II drama after “Dunkirk,” if you will. But this time around, it’s about how the atomic bomb was developed during the Manhattan Project, under the influence of the brilliant theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Cillian Murphy, a Nolan regular, is perfectly cast as Oppenheimer, throughout his years as a college student, his collaboration with Lt. General Leslie Groves (Matt Damon), his marriage to Kitty (Emily Blunt), his on-and-off affair with psychiatrist Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh), and the accusations aimed against him as a communist. That’s when Robert Downey, Jr. appears as Lewis Strauss, a senior member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, who wants to exploit the allegations against Oppenheimer. He’s considered to be a villain in American history.
Most of the Strauss segments are shot in black and white, which serves as a throwback to Nolan’s earlier films “Following” and “Memento,” and really gives Downey, Jr. a distinctive look, especially when he’s an antagonist. But really, according to a Digital Spy interview, the director has to distinguish the different timelines in the film, especially when it’s told from different perspectives.
There are many memorable scenes with Oppenheimer’s connections with Kitty, Tatlock, Groves, Albert Einstein (Tom Conti), the Danish physicist Niels Bohr (Kenneth Branagh), the nuclear physicist Ernest Lawrence (Josh Hartnett), and the military intelligence officer Boris Pash (Casey Affleck), among others. This is a big ensemble piece with the faces of Rami Malek, Tony Goldwyn, Dane DeHaan, Josh Zuckerman, and Jason Clarke, among many others, also appearing.
Seeing “Oppenheimer” in IMAX is a great way to feel the vibrations of the explosions, and the stress of whether or not this bomb would have destroyed the human race, which of course, it didn’t. But the movie isn’t indulged in all that mayhem, because it uses the 3 hour limit to explore the physicist and his opinions and ambitions to take science to limits that no one thought could be reachable.
Nolan is a filmmaker who knows the stakes, and never ceases to amaze us. He assembles the right team of professionals to give us the illusion of bombs going off, whether or not we’re just hearing sound effects. And he also makes the story challenging in developing this historic figure, and how Murphy resurrects him with the greatest of ease.
“This”Oppenheimer” is Nolan’s first R-rated movie since “Insomnia,” and there are many good reasons why it goes for that rating. It shows us a memorable naked scene, one you never see coming, and not one you’re thinking of right now. It uses its words to express the anger and challenges of what goes on in Oppenheimer’s life. And it also frightens us with how the bombs are prepared, how they’re set to go off, and how these scientists must protect themselves from the mushroom clouds. It really knows how to use a timer.
But even if the film was rated PG-13, which it’s not, it still draws us into Nolan’s cover version of history in the ways he makes this film look and feel like a blockbuster without being indulged or consumed in all that commercialism. He wants to tell a story and bring the right crowd of people inside. This is unmissable on all accounts.
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.