Oppenheimer – The BRWC Review

Oppenheimer – The BRWC Review

Oppenheimer – The BRWC Review. By Daniel Rester. 

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” 

Julius Robert Oppenheimer, quoting from Bhagavad Gita, made these words infamous when he uttered them. The theoretical physicist became known as the “father of the atomic bomb” after being the director for the Los Alamos Laboratory, which assisted with the Manhattan Project under Major General Leslie Groves during WWII. The bombs created led to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Oppenheimer eventually feared the further creation and use of atomic weapons. His stances and past associations with Communist members led to the revocation of his security clearance, staining his character for some. 

All of this and more is captured in Christopher Nolan’s 3-hour biopic Oppenheimer. It’s a mostly brilliant, occasionally exhausting picture that moves ten miles a minute and is filled with wall-to-wall dialogue. It is indeed Nolan’s most talky film, with the conversations often accompanied by Ludwig Göransson’s rich but overused music score. Nolan frames the film with Oppy’s security clearance meetings and a cabinet hearing for Lewis Strauss while detailing Oppenheimer’s personal life and the Manhattan Project at the center. The film covers a lot of ground, but Nolan’s intelligent writing (based on the 2005 book American Prometheus) and Jennifer Lame’s precise editing help ameliorate the more convoluted sections. 

The cast of big-name stars is huge, with the great Cillian Murphy leading the way as the title character. His performance here ranks among his best as he shows Oppenheimer’s struggles and successes expertly. Murphy’s eyes do a lot of acting while the others’ mouths are moving. 

Matt Damon plays Groves with some humorous touches while Emily Blunt plays Katherine, Oppenheimer’s alcoholic wife, with fierceness. Florence Pugh portrays Jean Tatlock, who Oppenheimer had an on-again-off-again relationship with. Robert Downey Jr. dominates the last hour of the film as Strauss, turning in the most memorable supporting performance in the film. The rest of the shiny cast includes – deep breath – Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, Jason Clarke, Kenneth Branagh, Benny Safdie, Jack Quaid, Tom Conti, Alden Ehrenreich, Dane DeHaan, Gary Oldman, and Matthew Modine, just to name a few. 

Being a Nolan film, the production aspects are very impressive. Oppenheimer was shot on IMAX 65 mm film by Hoyte van Hoytema and the film used little to no CGI according to Nolan. The images and practical effects are simply astounding at times, especially during the Trinity test scene; the sound design during that section is expertly done too as silence is as important as the boom. The subtle old-age makeup used throughout is also excellent. 

Oppenheimer is a long film, but it never causes a sense of ennui. The subjects are both intriguing and terrifying as Nolan warns against nuclear possibilities and character assassination. His cast handles the material with skill and no one comes up as a weak link. The technical craft on display is sublime. Nolan could have trimmed a few sections down and let other scenes breathe without music a bit more often, but for the most part Oppenheimer is a terrific picture that will likely be an Oscar season favorite.                  

Rating: 8.7/10

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