Film Review: “Oppenheimer”


  • Starring: Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt
  • Directed by: Christopher Nolan
  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 3 hrs
  • Universal Pictures


The Academy Awards ceremony is several months away, but a serious contender is already in theaters now – Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.” Based upon the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2005 biography “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by American novelist Kai Bird and the late historian Martin J. Sherwin, “Oppenheimer” is an important work of cinema about a figure most Americans don’t know. Led by a fantastic performance by Cillian Murphy (“Inception”), seamless direction by Nolan, and a three-hour story that doesn’t waste a second of our time, “Oppenheimer” is a diligent drama that also manages to generate some suspense.


The story takes us back to 1929 when Oppenheimer was just a young, anxiety-riddled physics student. After earning his physics doctorate in Germany, he returns to the U.S. to teach quantum physics, initially in California. It is during those pre-war years that Oppenheimer develops ties to the Communist Party via an on-and-off relationship with a female party member and later his future wife, Katherine (Emily Blunt) an ex-Communist herself. Despite these associations, which were dangerous to have in America at the time, Oppenheimer is recruited by U.S. Army General Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) to lead the Manhattan Project, a top-secret initiative to build an atom bomb before the Nazis.



Once he sees the destruction wrought by the dropping two atom bombs on Imperial Japan, Oppenheimer becomes a vehement opponent of a nuclear arms race. His past interactions with the Communist Party, and his personal dalliances make good cannon fodder for slighted U.S. Atomic Energy Commission member Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey, Jr.) to go after when he seeks out to ruin the “father of the atomic bomb.”


Nolan, who adapted the novel into screenplay form, does not waste a moment of our time with a fairly accurate story that is always moving forward. The pacing never wavers, and Nolan keeps it basic without a lot of special effects. Even though we know how the experiment is going to turn out, it is still terrifying, for example, when Oppenheimer and his crew realize there is a slim chance that their bomb may spark cataclysmic destruction on a global scale.


Murphy delivers a complex performance of a man who raised to the pinnacle of fame only to see himself crashing to earth. Blunt as his alcoholic wife shares some good moments with him with Downey, Jr. arguably delivering the best performance of his career.


Overall, “Oppenheimer” is a satisfying movie that is educational, enlightening, and entertaining.


“Oppenheimer” receives four stars out of five.

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