Oppenheimer (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Christopher Nolan, US 2023, 180 mins.

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh

Review by Carlie Newman

Christopher Nolan has given us a blockbuster that has real heart behind it. It is a superb production with an outstanding performance by Cillian Murphy as J Robert Oppenheimer, the ‘father of the atomic bomb.’ Sensitive, understated acting from Robert Downey Jnr and Matt Damon. Only criticism: loud background music sometimes drowns out the dialogue.

OPPENHEIMER is best seen in Nolan’s preferred format: IMAX 70mm. This gives a full picture of the terrific cinematography employed showing every movement of Cillian Murphy’s face and particularly his piercing eyes as he battles first to invent the bomb and then to deal with the terrible consequences when the bomb is used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.  

We see the build-up of Oppenheimer’s career as he studies and then becomes a very special and outstanding theoretical physicist scientist who strives to invent the atomic bomb. When he has obtained the greatest success which has made him a national hero and given him credit for his great contribution to ending World War 11, he then faces the terrible realisation of seeing what his invention has resulted in.

From being a hero to being accused of having communist leadings Nolan (who also wrote the screenplay) shows clearly how Oppenheimer’s early support of some communist activities comes back to haunt him later. He appears before a Senate committee who accuse him of being a communist. From being a hero to accusations of treason against the state is extremely hard for Oppenheimer to bear.

Nolan gives us a film that is clear in presentation throughout, even though the time periods move around. We know and understand what we are seeing. This is achieved not just visually but also though background sound – albeit rather too loud at times – and outstanding acting from all.

 Emily Blunt plays a small but important role as Oppenheimer’s wife. She has a particularly important and telling scene as a witness at the Senate Hearings. Another important cameo is provided by Tom Conti who gives us a good look-a-like as Einstein. Robert Downey Jnr and Matt Damon both give unshowy, sensitive portrayals of Lewis Strauss, (Downey) and General Leslie Groves (Damon.)

To call the film epic is less than it deserves. Go see – in Imax if possible.