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Oppenheimer Review

Christopher Nolan is back with the biopic Oppenheimer, his first film since Tenet, the action spectacle that Nolan and Warner Brothers hoped would bring people back to the cinema during the height of the global pandemic. Though Tenet fared as well as it could under such conditions, its performance, along with Warner's decision to stream all other theatrical releases to HBO Max on the same date they debuted in theaters (Tenet excluded), left Nolan's relationship with the studio fraught. Upon hearing about the strained relationship, Universal came courting Nolan causing him to break with the studio for the first time in twenty years. It was announced shortly after that his first film for the studio would be a biopic on J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man who would help pioneer the creation of the atomic bomb during World War II.

As is Nolan's signature fashion, he doesn't tell his story in a conventional non-linear way. Instead, Oppenheimer jumps around three different timelines. Nolan shows us, in color Oppenheimer's (Cillian Murphy's) life from college up to, and following the creation of the bomb. This is interspersed with a security clearance hearing later in his career, as well as a former colleague's (Robert Downey Jr.) senate confirmation set in black and white. Oppenheimer is a long and sprawling epic, three hours in length, where most of its screen time is devoted to dialogue-driven scenes between characters discussing possibilities and consequences. Yet despite all of that, its fast-paced editing keeps the viewer hooked throughout its hefty runtime.

Oppenheimer may be Christopher Nolan's most ambitious undertaking yet, which says a lot since this is the same man who helmed Inception, Interstellar, and The Dark Knight trilogy. The film spans decades and features one of the largest and most talented casts in recent memory. Yet Nolan balances it all effortlessly and manages to inspire some of the strongest performances from each member of his sizeable cast. But everything hinges on the shoulders of Cillian Murphy, who gives the most devoted performance of his career. His take on Oppenheimer anchors the film, as he takes us from a passionate young scientific mind to an ultimately tortured and haunted shell of a man. So much here is shown only in glances, but it's incredible what he can convey.

As mentioned previously, the supporting cast is quite impressive and everyone is giving it their all--it's hard to know where to begin when giving praise. Many actors only get a few minutes of screen time, but every single one of them makes the most of their part whether big or small. Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Josh Hartnett, and Jason Clarke in particular are all fantastic in their respective roles. As are Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh who portray the women in "Oppie's" life, though admittedly I wish both roles were a bit more fleshed out. But given the story is mostly from Oppenheimer's perspective, I can forgive the limited lens through which we see these women.

Oppenheimer is truly Christopher Nolan firing on all cylinders, crafting a film with all of the finest elements of filmmaking on display. From its powerful score, striking cinematography, and its tremendous sound work to name just a couple of standouts--it's hard to think of a category that won't be recognized with the bare minimum of an Oscar nomination. Could this finally be Christopher Nolan's year? We've still got plenty of movies left to come out, but it's hard to imagine what else will be giving Oppenheimer a run for its money.

Oppenheimer's subject matter doesn't make it an easy movie to watch, but it is absolutely essential viewing. It's a movie that demands to be seen and when it is, it stays with you and even becomes a part of you.

RATING: 9/10


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