Film review: Oppenheimer

Posted: August 12, 2023

Nolan combines technical brilliance with riveting storytelling

While the “Barbenheimer” craze – a moniker given to the pair of box office powerhouses Barbie and Oppenheimer – is dominating popular culture, Oppenheimer is much more than just a social media sensation.

Nolan’s twelfth feature film follows the life of the “Father of the Atomic Bomb,” J. Robert Oppenheimer, and his endeavors as a theoretical physicist. Nolan tops all of his other works with this film – a certainly difficult feat given his renowned career. Oppenheimer battles the atomic bomb’s ethical conflicts  and evaluates its long-term impact on society, all while showcasing a repertoire of filmmaking expertise, making it a both thought-provoking and technically unprecedented work of art. 

Watching this 70 millimeter film on screen was a visceral experience as a first-time viewer; its booming sound and piercing visuals held me captive to the screen. Everyone in the sold out theater on release night was enchanted — an atmosphere that can be difficult to capture at a local cinema.

The vivid imagery and color make this film a frame by frame masterwork. The use of black and white to convey the transition between timelines was an example of Nolan’s keen color manipulation. 

Nolan, adept in camerawork, was accompanied by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema. Hoytema’s talents have been featured in many of Nolan’s past films, including Interstellar and Dunkirk. The two pieced together a barrage of striking shots, keeping the viewer on their toes through all three hours of runtime.

Veteran actor Cillian Murphy stars as J. Robert Oppenheimer. Though he had never been a leading actor in any major blockbuster, he is a familiar face to many viewers. Murphy depicted Oppenheimer’s real-life internal conflicts surrounding his creation of the atomic bomb in a way that felt authentic. Murphy’s calm, but intimidating demeanor sets the tone for the film. His brilliant performance is already sparking Oscar buzz across the nation, and rightfully so.

This ensemble also boasts other big names in actors Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and Robert Downey Jr., all of whom are valuable contributors to Nolan’s masterpiece.

Oppenheimer, grand in scale and grand in achievement, has cemented itself as one of the most profound films of the modern filmmaking era.

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