film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Oppenheimer 2023 * * 1/2 Stars


With his numerous films, Christopher Nolan never makes it easy for you the viewer, to gravitate to a smooth landing. I mean he's just not the most focused of storytellers, juggling tons of personas and narratives that enter and leave the screen faster than a speeding bullet. Such is the case with his latest titled Oppenheimer, a three hour biographical flick about J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by a disciplined Cillian Murphy) and his involvement with the Manhattan project (aka the development of the atomic incendiary). 

Haunting at times, lumbering at others, and secretly showing Nolan channeling his inner Terrence Malick, Oppenheimer is talky and physicist speak from the get-go. It also adds numerous cut away-s courtesy of Nolan, who numbs the audience member with imagery of all things fission. Yup, the best way to embrace Oppenheimer is to hark back to Christopher Nolan's earlier stuff a la Memento and 2002's Insomnia. You just have to think of those pics as longer and much more drawn-out. 

Historically, Oppenheimer has a solid sense of time and place (circa 1926-1954) and the musical score by Ludwig Goransson is eerie, glacial beauty. Continuity-wise, the movie sadly wears you out, presenting so many characters (played by known actors) that perform amicably but fade in and out like "slay" insertions. Look there's Emily Blunt as J. Robert's wife. Look there's Casey Affleck as military intelligence officer Boris Pash. Look there's Rami Malek as nuclear expert David L. Hill. And look there's Gary Oldman as president Harry S. Truman. Watching Oppenheimer, you concentrate less on the overall yarn here and more on the spot-the-unrecognizable-celebrity ogle. I mean it almost becomes a drinking game (not that I condone such actions). 

Edited lightning-quick but still in need of a cutdown via 30 minutes of runtime, Oppenheimer is the type of vehicle you see once and then proceed to decompress. Based on the huge box office take however, it's safe to say that it could never be a "bomb". Natch. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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