Christopher Nolan’s biopic about the father of the atomic bomb J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist who led the ‘Manhattan Project’ during World War 2 is ambitious, bold and richly dense.
This is dialogue and editing that waits for nobody, Nolan is the master at jumping around in time and if you can’t keep up then too bad but this is a definite second or third watch movie to grasp the enormity of it.
‘Oppenheimer’ is adapted from the book ‘American Prometheus’; it’s a story of hubris and torment of a man thrust into an arms race with Nazi scientists looking to produce the mother of all bombs. It’s a seemingly winnable hand as the ‘Third Reich’ collapses but anguish at what’s created lurks beyond satisfaction.
Cillian Murphy is brilliant as ‘Oppenheimer’, playing him as a living dead presence through sunken eyes. “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” Oppenheimer would say years later about his destructive creation.
Essentially the movie has three acts; the first is the young idealistic genius flirting with Communist leanings, jousting with other scientists, creating magic on university blackboards and a touch of womanizing.
The second act takes us to Los Alamos, New Mexico, this is where the gruff no nonsense Lt. General Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) shines and brings some of the best lines of the movie. The man who built the Pentagon isn’t enamored with the geniuses; he just wants the ultimate weapon to win this war, “this is the most important thing that’s ever happened in the history of the world,” he would bellow.
The third act drifts into white-collar government shenanigans through senate confirmation hearings interspersed with Oppenheimer’s own kangaroo court back room takedown. Robert Downey Jr. plays Lewis Strauss, the head of the US Atomic Energy Commission, it’s a role made for Downey, who plays it with the required smirky manipulation. The Academy could come knocking.
The heart of the movie is the fifteen minutes of the ‘Trinity’ test scene culminating with blinding light, expanding mushroom clouds, spiraling columns of fire and the use of sound, it’s all so mind blowing it could be the most memorable movie moment of the last 20 years, it’s Christopher Nolan at his cinematic finest.
In fact this could be Nolan’s best movie, ‘Memento’ was a masterpiece, the ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy legendary and I’ve got a soft spot for ‘Interstellar’ due to my science fiction fascination, but ‘Oppenheimer’ on first viewing I feel will age very nicely like a fine oak laden red on multiple viewings.
On a $100 million budget its nearing half a billion in box office takings, which shows the talking blockbuster is back.
hallymustang rating : 4.5/5