I am sure there are already many reviews wax lyrical about Oppenheimer – and I agree with all of those reviews. It is a deja vu for my feeling as when I watch The Post or Beautiful Mind or on the lighter side but no less quality, Bohemian Rhapsody. That feeling when you watch a masterpiece, even three hours went so fast and every other moment you feel awestruck on many of the scenes.
Oppenheimer is basically a truly epic biopic written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Nolan is award winning Director with his latest achievement is Dunkirk (he won Academy Award as the Best Director) but also Interstellar, Memento (my favorite), Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy, among others. He is comfortable with esoteric or nascent scientific concept as well unconventional narrative structure. It is a story about Robert J Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist who developed the first nuclear weapon as part of Manhattan Project.
While the biopic nearly focus on the Manhattan Project phase of his life, it also walked through Oppenheimer earlier life stage to form a more complete picture of his character. It is an ensemble movie where even the supporting casts are truly powerful actors who are award winning. Cillian Murphy is the male lead as Oppenheimer and Emily Blunt as Oppenheimer’s wife. We have Florence Pugh playing Jean Tatlock, Robert Downey Jr Lewis Strauss, Matt Damon Leslie Groves as secondary leads. Then ensemble supporting actors and cameo such as Jack Quaid Richard Feynman, Tom Conti Albert Einstein, Rami Malek David Hill, Josh Harnett Ernest Lawrence, even Kenneth Branagh playing the illuminated Niels Bohr as well Gary Oldman Harry Truman. There are many more, Matthew Modine, James D’arcy, Josh Peck, Jason Clarke. This is one of those super ensemble cast. Many of these names are lead actors and many are award winning actors at that. However, unlike Marvel Infinity which you can still see the actors, these are method actors, and this is such movie that allow all these accomplished actors to disappear into the role they play. Watching Niehls Bohr in action, I have to remind myself this is played by Kenneth Branagh. This is also a movie in which Robert Downey Jr can disappear into the role and we left the theater for sure with some degree of animosity to Lewis Strauss. This is the movie where Cillian Murphy shine, if he is not a method actor in this movie, the result shows how he is one with the role, there is no trace of Cillian Murphy in his past roles, he has wrestled the challenges to play Oppenheimer successfully and went on to comfortably match Robert Downey Jr quality of acting as Lewis Strauss. Robert Down Jr acting quality is always top notch and this time portray Lewis Strauss ably. Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh acting are no less strong playing intellectualy powerful and emotionally tortured ladies in Oppenheimer life.
To begin with, Nolan hired Andrew Jackson to work on Trinity Test scene at its original location – without CGI. On this merit alone, the effect displayed in this movie is truly stellar. I would not want to begin to explain as it takes away the take-your-breath-away frame-by-frame scenes. Not to mention other landmark scene such as the scene where Oppenheimer gave his success speech to the Los Alamos residents. Not to mention scenes that visualise the dynamic of all fission and fusion experiments. It is plainly amazing. And many more. Then the sound engineering of the movie is something I have not encountered before, it is truly amazing on how to bring to live all the effect created. I never know that the sounds of atom collision can move my emotion. The sound of tapping feet coupled with brilliant acting of Cillian Murphy transformed a speech scene from run-on-the-mill into one of the landmark scene of the movie that is full of landmark scenes. There are a lot of scenes scientist furiously writing in the blackboard and arguing endlessly, yet somehow these are not boring scenes. I am rambling here as too many things to write about this feast of a movie from technical cinematography side of things.
Above all, storyline that is solid, fast paced and the dialog is crafted well. The fact that Christopher Nolan wrote the storyline himself and then direct it, shows there is no gap of interpretation, and everything mesh together to a trademark Nolan movie. The fact that the theme is something he felt keenly personally, it shows on the strength of the dialogue, brought to live superbly by the actors. Lewis Strauss near monologue at the end, Oppenheimer speech and even the dialogue between Oppenheimer and Jean Tatlock, they are all powerful dialogue that unboxed Oppenheimer character and struggle as individual, but also put the anguish of Lewish Strauss of being treated derogatorily by Oppenheimer and how that fester into something that is insidious at the ending part of the movie. Many of the dialogues are efficient and fast paced, Nolan has superbly avoid many times of potentially the dialogue becoming grandiose. The critical dialogues are efficiently developed but effectively loaded with the right emotional intensity. Who knew the phrase of “clearing the sheet” can be so heavily emotionally delivered. The rating of Oppenheimer certified further its quality in which IMDB gave 10 out of 10 rating while Rotten Tomatoes gave superb 94%.
In short, it is absolutely a must watch movie even if you are not movie buff nor science geek (like me). It is one of those movies that you watch with your treasured friends, your loved ones and your team at work to be able to not only be entertained but even better be inspired to be the best version of ourselves and as well to stay true to our core values.
Verdict : A must watch