Oppenheimer is a stunning spectacle of filmmaking but you’ll probably need a rewatch to catch everything

Review of Oppenheimer 

Despite their drastic contrasting tones, two of 2023’s Summer blockbusters in particular have dominated the collective consciousness of movie fans around the globe: Barbie and Oppenhemier.

Dubbing July 21, the release date of the two films “Barbenhemier” day, fans flocked to the theater to catch both films on the same day resulting in a whopping $311 million domestic opening weekend for the two films. 

As Barbie seems to have the lead financially now sitting at the highest domestic opening for a female-directed feature ever, Oppenheimer is dazzling fans with stellar reviews, scoring a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and is already gaining Oscar buzz.

An enthralling period drama from acclaimed director Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer tells the story of J. Robert Oppenhemier or as the world knows him, the father of the atomic bomb.

The film dissects the physicist from every angle from his Communist ties, to his infidelity, to his mental torment over having created one of the deadliest weapons in human history. 

With a 3 hour runtime and incredibly bleak subject matter, it’s easy for many to assume that Oppenheimer would blend into the background as another tasteless historical depiction.

 Thankfully, the film refuses to be forgotten with its captivating direction, star-studded cast, and a creation of an atmosphere that’ll leave viewers moved yet unsettled. 

The film opens with a quote about Prometheus, a Titan from Greek Mythology who stole fire from the Olympian Gods and gave it to mankind manifesting itself in the form of technology and knowledge.

We’re then transported to the aftermath of WWII as Oppenheimer delivers a statement to a board of gentlemen assembled to take him down, shifting the film between slow burn historical thriller and fast paced courtroom drama. 

These two tones work for the most part though the gentle pace that leads to the eventual construction of the bomb is far more compelling than what comes after although Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in these moments is nothing short of Oscar-worthy. 

Most of the film pre-bomb creation, centers around Oppenheimer’s associations with the Communist Party through his brother and sister-and-law and his lover Jean Tatlock played elegantly and thoughtfully by the beautiful Florence Pugh. 

Matt Damon enters the equation as lieutenant general Leslie Groves recruiting Oppenhemier to The Manhattan Project with reluctance as his Communist ties are still apparent. 

Putting his personal policies aside, Oppenhemier under the guise of Groves, begins to build the team of scientists that will be charged with crafting an unimaginably catastrophic weapon.

The already insanely recognizable cast expands extensively during the second act as it’s mostly spent in rooms where loaded dialogue is exchanged and moral consequences are put to the test. 

If you’ve seen any movie in the past 10 years you’re sure to see a familiar face amidst the crowd of Oppenheimer’s colleagues. From Benny Safdie to Jack Quaid and even a brief appearance from Devon Bostick (if you know, you know). 

This ridiculously large influential cast not only speaks to the large production of the film but also the themes of humanity and togetherness as everyone is affected by the horrors of war.

Emily Blunt’s role as Kitty, Oppenheimer’s alcoholic, yet perspective wife exacerbates this idea intensely as her emotionality is weaponized to showcase the tolls the development of the atomic bomb has on its creator’s families as they watch their loved ones introduce unprecedented destruction and they can do nothing to stop it. 

All of this leads up to the hauntingly extraordinary execution of the climatic testing of the atomic bomb as the film utilizes sound and imagery like never before to allow viewers to really understand and feel the impacts of this event.

What follows though the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are never shown, is a man truly grappling with the repercussions of his creation, the people who praise him, the people who hate him, and what happens next for the U.S as future conflicts arise. 

The film’s ending is particularly chilling as Oppenheimer converses with Albert Einstein played by Tom Conti in uncanny costuming. Their exchange articulates the gravity of the new world they live in and leaves viewers breathless as the credits roll. 

Oppenheimer is certainly a film to behold and exercises all of Nolan’s best qualities as a filmmaker, this unfortunately means that some of his most notable critiques come into the limelight as well. 

To put it simply, the film is disorienting and confusing. Unless you’re a physicist or someone who’s well versed in all things WWII and J. Robert Oppenheimer, you’ll probably find yourself wishing you could rewind at a few moments. 

The dense vocabulary and sometimes choppy editing might alienate some viewers and decrease their enjoyment in certain scenes but it doesn’t take away from the fact that from the moment the film begins you are fully immersed in Oppenheimer’s world.

As the story unfolds in front of you, accompanied by exhilarating sounds, visulas, and performances, you’ll find yourself inching toward the edge of your seat or pressing yourself back into it in horrified anticipation of what’s to come next. 

An unflinchingly painful look at the world and how it’s shaped the fabric of humankind, Oppenheimer is a film that will be remembered for years to come not just because of its “Barbenhemier” cultural impact, but because of its testing the limits of filmmaking, reminding us that through art we can accomplish the impossible.

Pop Culture Press