Movie Review: Oppenheimer – Christopher Nolan’s Complex Exploration of Science and Destruction

"The legendary Christopher Nolan delivers a dense and intricate period piece that goes beyond the boundaries of a typical biopic"

In Christopher Nolan’s latest cinematic feat, “Oppenheimer,” the legendary director delivers a dense and intricate period piece that goes beyond the boundaries of a typical biopic. With a formidable scope and ambition, Nolan weaves together multiple timelines, creating a captivating tapestry of courtroom drama, romantic liaisons, laboratory epiphanies, and lecture hall personality cults. At the heart of this cinematic masterpiece is Cillian Murphy’s mesmerizing portrayal of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” who becomes a tragic figure akin to an atomic-age Frankenstein.

Image by Universal Pictures

Set in the backdrop of the atomic age and the development of the Manhattan Project, “Oppenheimer” dives deep into the complexities of its titular character. Nolan’s brilliance shines through as he seamlessly shifts between timelines, giving us glimpses of Oppenheimer’s stellar academic career, humiliating security clearance hearings, and the development of the deadly bomb itself. The non-linear storytelling adds an engaging layer of mystery and depth, requiring viewers to immerse themselves fully and unravel the intricate threads of the narrative.

Cillian Murphy’s physicality becomes one of the film’s most potent weapons. As Oppenheimer, Murphy embodies the persona of a theoretical man, contrasting sharply against the robust military figures he works alongside. This portrayal emphasizes Oppenheimer’s captivation with the boundless possibilities of science, ultimately leading to the creation of a weapon with an unimaginable capacity for destruction. Murphy’s portrayal conveys a profound sense of isolation, brilliantly capturing the burden of knowledge that weighs heavily on the physicist’s shoulders.

Nolan’s preference for shooting on Imax 70mm film elevates the film’s visual experience, immersing the audience in a depth of detail that demands to be explored. The furious blackboard scribbling, symbolic of scientific genius, is juxtaposed with abstract moments that transport viewers into the heart of the atom itself. As Oppenheimer’s world is rocked by the shockwaves of his creation’s consequences, the sets tremble with tension, adding a visceral layer of intensity.

The film’s soundscape is a masterful achievement, with Ludwig Göransson’s score contributing to the mounting sense of threat and dread. Nolan brilliantly conveys the horrors of war without visually depicting them, allowing the audience to feel the catastrophic potential of Oppenheimer’s work through what they hear.

However, “Oppenheimer” isn’t without its flaws. The cursory treatment of female characters, particularly Florence Pugh’s Jean Tatlock and Emily Blunt’s Kitty Oppenheimer, leaves viewers yearning for more substantial development. Though these characters have impactful moments, they could have been further explored and given greater agency within the narrative.

Oppenheimer Sex Scenes

Christopher Nolan takes a departure from his usual style by including sex scenes, a first in his illustrious filmmaking career. The film’s inclusion of intimate moments adds a layer of complexity to the narrative and highlights the personal struggles and vulnerabilities of its central characters.

One of the pivotal sex scenes in the movie involves J. Robert Oppenheimer (portrayed by Cillian Murphy) and Jean Tatlock (played by Florence Pugh). Jean Tatlock was a real-life person in Oppenheimer’s life, and the film explores their extramarital affair. The scene between the two characters is emotionally charged, reflecting their shared connection and the intensity of their relationship.

In a distressing scene in which Oppenheimer has to answer personal questions about the affair as his wife Kitty (Emily Blunt) sits behind him, Nolan enhances the cringeworthiness by first showing Oppenheimer naked as he sits in the hearing. Tatlock is then shown on top of him. They have sex in front of the senators and Kitty.

I really wanted to push as hard in the direction of showing how uncomfortable that must have been and how strange that must have been for everyone involved

Nolan said.

Christopher Nolan’s decision to conclude the film on a chilling note is bold and powerful. He asserts Oppenheimer as one of the most influential figures in history, whose actions irreversibly changed the world. Through a captivating performance by Cillian Murphy, the film delves into the psyche of a man torn between scientific curiosity and the monstrous potential of his own creation.

In summary, “Oppenheimer” is an enthralling journey through the life of a complex and enigmatic historical figure. Nolan’s directorial prowess is on full display as he delves into the depths of human ambition, the consequences of scientific progress, and the unquenchable desire for power. “Oppenheimer” is a must-watch for those seeking a thought-provoking and immersive cinematic experience that challenges perceptions and sparks introspection.

Watch a trailer for Oppenheimer

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