Oppenheimer (2023)

Oppenheimer (2023) Cover

Christopher Nolan's passion for the big screen is on full display in the force of nature that is Oppenheimer, an intensely visual and powerfully loud experience designed to be seen in the theater. Both deafening and oppressive even as it is beautiful, the film surrounds you even in its moments of silence. Fans of Nolan's work will be very happy to see a return to form with a story that exceeds Dunkirk and leaves you with a sense of discomfort with the world as you leave the theater.

Oppenheimer couldn't possibly be better timed as we sit in the face of regular threats to renew nuclear escalation and conflict. It plays directly on the unsteady nature of the world we currently occupy even as it visits the most uncertain moments in world history. In Oppenheimer, Nolan tells the story of the father of the atomic bomb and his complicated relationship with nuclear weapons as a whole after having done so. It follows his life from a young student abroad as he learns about the new theories of quantum mechanics all the way up to the end of his career told through the lens testimony as his loyalty to the United States is questioned during the era of McCarthyism by the enemies he cultivated across his life. Nolan avoids the trap of reducing the story to a checklist of facts about Robert Oppenheimer as a person by trying to capture the vast majority of his life, though this comes at the expense of a highly compressed story.

Despite being 3 hours long, Oppenheimer moves at a near breakneck pace as it jumps from scene to scene. It could almost be described as a 3 hour long montage given how quickly it jumps from moment to moment with only a few seconds to breathe in what is happening. The editing on display is downright excellent as it manages to balance the need for squeezing an unbelievable amount of information against an almost impossible runtime with vicegrip-like tightness. The tightrope walk is tenuous however and there are moments that fall on one side or the other... dragging too much from exposition or skipping around too quickly for anything to be able to stick, but overall the results are astounding.

And I'll admit that it's hard to even notice the points where the pacing fails with such a striking cast. I could literally spend an entire paragraph listing the career highlight performances on display here. Often films get praised for one or possibly two completely tranformative character portrayals, but Oppenheimer wins whatever prize there is for just the sheer volume. Cillian Murphy dominates the screen with the pure force of explosive charisma that ties it all together, but he's surrounded by Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, Kenneth Branagh, Robert Downey Jr. in the performance of his career, Jason Clarke, David Dastmalchian, and the list just goes on.

I can say a lot about Oppenheimer. It's made by some of the most talented artists alive today doing some of the best work of their entire lives and it shows. More importantly, it's a meaningful work. Oppenheimer is unsettling to watch, it's scathing as it shows the very real moments when we arguably gambled all life on earth for progress even as it cheers the work of our greatest scientific minds it holds a mirror to the audience and shows how all of us cheer as we race uncertain and terrifying futures.

This is a chilling work of art and a thrilling tale of human achievement that is a must watch. A must watch that I recommend seeing in theater given the sights and sounds and how they move you. And to answer the question... yes you can hear the dialog.


Final Verdict:Christopher Nolan has delivered a force of nature.