Oppenheimer: “It grips your heart tighter than any action movie ever could”
In our day and age, it’s commendable how Christopher Nolan can create films of such magnitude, both financially and culturally, pushing for grandeur without a franchise to lean on. The (completely justified) hype around his latest work, Oppenheimer, is comparable – if not a challenge – to the excitement for the quintessential summer blockbuster Mission: Impossible or viral sensation Barbie. Nolan’s 12th picture is even slated to replace MI7 on IMAX screens.
As the title might give away, Oppenheimer tells the story of the American physicist known as the “father of the atomic bomb”. It was such a devastating weapon that it hasn’t been used on humans again since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and the film explores all the differing considerations and contradictions surrounding its development. There were the scientists who didn’t want to see “the culmination of physics become a weapon of mass destruction”; the military, who advocated for an even more powerful H-bomb; the politicians wanting all the credit for the immense damage caused; and the communists, eager to leak the technology to the Russians. And then, there’s J Robert Oppenheimer who, despite being a man on a mission, is profoundly conflicted, caught between all these different factions. He’s walking a tightrope that separates being among these people and the risk of being accused of merely acting like them.
Oppenheimer begins as a science film, then becomes a personal drama, before finally morphing into a spy movie. Fans of Nolan will be in awe of the three hours of beautiful shots and the ingenious, masterfully crafted script. On the flip side, his critics will relish dissecting the signature timeline trickery, the (arguably) over-the-top use of evocative music and the trademark culmination of the story. In a way, Oppenheimer is Dunkirk meets Interstellar.
Cillian Murphy delivers the performance of a lifetime, fronting a stellar ensemble cast that extends far beyond Matt Damon, Kenneth Branagh, Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr and Emily Blunt. The Irish actor exudes a sense of unease and eeriness, portraying a man grappling with something too immense and too wrong, yet necessary in its aim to develop a weapon of sufficient scale to end all wars – before the Nazis can do the same.
Just as the arrival of Hoyte van Hoytema proved that Nolan’s films did not rely on Wally Pfister to be visually striking, Ludwig Göransson’s phenomenal score ensures that Hans Zimmer isn’t missed. While his talents were already on full display in Tenet, this time the music is so eclectic and elegant, seamlessly shifting from synthesisers to powerful bass sounds, before transitioning to sublime, dramatic violin movements.
Shot with IMAX cameras, it would be a crime not to view it on a giant screen. However, the film does switch between different aspect ratios rather too frequently, which can be tiresome. Indeed, the only underwhelming aspect of Oppenheimer is the editing, particularly in the first hour. The narrative suffers from the relentless shifting between scenes, locations and visual effects, using a crescendo in the score that would be better suited to a finale rather than an introduction.
Oppenheimer dissects humanity’s darkest achievement in such a powerful and harrowing fashion that it results in a truly unforgettable cinematic experience. It grips your heart tighter than any action movie ever could, and the grandeur of 70mm film provides the ultimate spectacle. It’s heartrending, monumental, unmissable.
Oppenheimer is released nationwide on 21st July 2023.
Watch the trailer for Oppenheimer here: