Review: Oppenheimer – Masterclass in Cinematic History


The phrase usually tells of how there are movies, and then there is cinema. While that can often sound cheesy, there are those occasional instances where it’s appropriate to apply to a movie that excels in many ways. Christopher Nolan is a director name that is often associated with a high level of excellence in movies, which has garnered a fan base over the years. And while each film he’s done has been different, they all share a commonality of excellence that makes them scene as pure cinema more often than just movies. His next film, Oppenheimer, which tackles the story of the father of the atomic bomb follows the same path as his previous work. It’s not just a look at American history that changed the world, it’s cinematic history rendered to near perfection.

The story of Oppenheimer isn’t solely about the creation of the atomic bomb and the race against the Nazis for powerful weapons. The movie follows the overarching career and life of J. Robert Oppenheimer in all of its good and terrible moments. Everything from the early days of his career as a physicist, during his time as director of the project at Los Alamos, and the fallout of his creation being used towards the end of World War II is covered. Oppenheimer isn’t just a man who created a powerful weapon that impacted history in a significant way, but a bright man who struggled with the weight of his gifts and the pressure of the world around him during a time of great uncertainty and war.

There’s a lot of ground for the movie to cover, making the runtime around three hours. For some that may seem like a movie that can become very boring to watch. And yet, the pacing and performances throughout Oppenheimer don’t let the long runtime feel as daunting, as you’ll be invested in what is going on the entire time. The delivery of dialogue between characters, the cinematography, and the jumping between timeframes keep things interesting.

The movie switches between color and black & white at various points to play with the viewers’ perspective, alluding to certain plot points that appear quaint at first, but eventually become incredibly important. When you realize some important revelations of what happened earlier in the film, it will give certain scenes deeper relevance to things that come after. There are many layers to Oppenheimer in all of its aspects that make the entire film feel very detailed and carefully crafted, without feeling needlessly obnoxious or boring.

Much of the intrigue in the film is due to the great performance of Cillian Murphy, who plays the center role of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He never skips a beat in any scene and becomes fully immersed in the role, making his dialogue and presence on the screen magnetic. When he dons the signature hat and pipe, everything just fits together. Without Cillian filling the role of Oppenheimer so well, the rest of the movie would not be as interesting and most likely fall apart, despite so many other parts of it being delivered very well. Cillian is without question the core of the movie, and it shows in every aspect of his acting on screen.

And yet that doesn’t go to say that the rest of the cast in Oppenheimer deliver any less of a stellar job with their respective parts. Cillian Murphy has an excellent supporting cast that each hit a high bar of acting with their roles, from the smallest to the second largest roles in the movie. Robert Downey Jr. and Emily Blunt are phenomenal as Lewis Strauss and Kitty Oppenheimer respectively, delivering performances that give Cillian great people to work off in various scenes.

Matt Damon is just as memorable as Leslie Groves when the story moves to Los Alamos, along with Josh Hartnett as Ernest Lawrence in the lead-up to the Manhattan Project. And while these actors don’t have as much material as Cillian Murphy’s Oppenheimer, they each deliver home-run performances that feel important and very entertaining to watch.

Even the smallest roles in Oppenheimer’s story still have a quality to them that feels as if they had the same care as the bigger ones. Florence Pugh appears for a brief time as Jean Tatlock, but has a major impact on both Oppenheimer and the audience when she appears and eventually leaves the story. Even Rami Malek and David Dastmalchian, whose small roles are more important towards the end of the film, deliver performances that will very much stand out. Tom Conti plays Albert Einstein, who shows up at key points of the film that are heavy and drive many aspects of the plot after. And if you think that’s surprising, Gary Oldman plays Harry S. Truman in a brief scene when Oppenheimer visits the White House after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The very brief time he’s there will definitely stick with you more than you realize after reaching the end.

But what about the event that Oppenheimer was most known for? How does the film handle the infamous Trinity Nuclear Test that happened at Los Alamos? Although Christopher Nolan didn’t actually drop an atomic bomb for the film, the practical effects used to render the historical testing are done in a very tasteful and grand way. But it’s the lead-up to the moment when the button is pushed that make the actual bomb going off on screen satisfying and awesome to watch.

The tension of gathering scientists together, setting up the Los Alamos facility, the worry about spies lingering around, and even the weather on the day of the test compound upon one another. The movie does a great job showing the whirlwind of emotions that Oppenheimer and the rest of his team feel as they race to have a successful test before the Nazis or Russia have a chance to have one of their own.

It’s that same tension that diffuses into many of the slower moments later in the film, where there’s a lot of talking between characters. After the bomb is successfully used in Japan, there’s a shift that still feels in line with the overall tone of the movie. The tension comes from the political fallout and stressful situation that Oppenheimer finds himself in, which maintains a level of intrigue that is delivered very successfully. Questions of whether regret for unleashing the type of power that Oppenheimer managed to help create was worth the heavy consequences, especially after what happened in Japan.

The jump between hearings and full-blown government interviews gets very tense, especially when Oppenheimer is accused of being a communist sympathizer during a time of McCarthyism. The movie smartly shows us what leads up to this early on in the film, before the Manhattan Project, and has it pay off in a way that makes the final act of the movie interesting to watch. By the time the film comes to an end, things come back full circle to ideas and topical discussions which are still relevant today that Oppenheimer presents from the start.

There are movies that are just movies, and then there are those higher than the rest that feel like cinema. Nearly every aspect of Oppenheimer feels like a masterclass in making history feel cinematic, aiming to give more than a retelling of a historical event. It’s filmed incredibly well, has excellent performances from all of its actors, and feels like the movie has something very direct and real to point out to the audience. While some might not consider it the best Christopher Nolan movie they’ve seen, it will definitely stand out as a very good film when compared to many others. Oppenheimer is definitely a contender for one of the best movies you could watch in a long time.

Do you plan on watching Oppenheimer? What is your favorite Christopher Nolan movie ever? Go ahead and let us know all of your thoughts about Oppenheimer in the comment section below!

Oppenheimer
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Fantastic

Oppenheimer is a movie with amazing cinematography and excellent performances. The story is interesting and made all the more intriguing with how everything is delivered on screen. While the run-time is long, the pacing and presentation of everything will keep it from feeling boring or uninteresting. Overall, Oppenheimer is a showcase of excellence that few movies can hope to achieve.



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Jakejames Lugo
Jakejames Lugohttps://muckrack.com/jakejames-lugo
Jakejames Lugo is a writer and content creator that has been covering video games, movies, and various sides of entertainment for over a decade. He has published reviews and articles on many different outlets and continues to make content for different platforms. Jakejames also makes video content regularly for places like YouTube and TikTok, and share daily posts about gaming on social media.

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