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Oppenheimer (12)

Cast: Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Robert Downey Jr, Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon
Genre: Drama
Author(s): Christopher Nolan
Director: Christopher Nolan
Release Date: 21/07/2023
Running Time: 180mins
Country: UK/US
Year: 2023

General Leslie Groves Jr assembles brilliant minds including J Robert Oppenheimer as part of the Manhattan Project to develop a devastating weapon before Hitler and end the Second World War. Oppenheimer and his colleagues risk destroying humanity to create a bomb at a secret site in Los Alamos, where Oppenheimer's biologist and botanist wife Kitty joins other families to witness the dawn of an atomic age.

LondonNet Film Review

Oppenheimer (15) Film Review from LondonNet

Inspired by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, writer-director Christopher Nolan’s sweeping biographical drama commemorates the complex and brilliant mind credited with nurturing mankind’s relationship with atomic weaponry. An ambitious but dramatically necessary three-hour running time, which dwarfs The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar, feels considerably shorter in the mesmerised moment and shouldn’t dissuade audiences from luxuriating in Nolan’s grandiose vision, anchored by a showstopping lead performance from Cillian Murphy…

Oppenheimer continues Nolan’s love affair with the immersive IMAX format and his barnstorming picture makes history as the first film with sequences shot on black and white IMAX film. Different palettes elegantly navigate two timelines and juxtapose the theorical physicist’s rise and fall during the dark days of the McCarthy witch-hunts.

Lustrous colour sequences captured by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, dubbed Fission, concentrate on Oppenheimer’s journey from the hallowed halls of Cambridge University in 1924 to the politically motivated humiliation of a secret 1954 hearing to determine his security clearance via a 1947 appointment to the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey under director Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr).

Black and white vignettes, dubbed Fusion, fixate on Strauss’s appearance before combative members of the Senate to secure the votes to confirm his nomination as President Eisenhower’s Secretary of Commerce following a divisive tenure as chair of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. The connective tissue between colour and monochrome is the Manhattan Project led by General Leslie Groves Jr (Matt Damon) to research and develop a devastating weapon capable of ending the Second World War. Groves appoints Oppenheimer as scientific director despite his personal ties to Communist Party members including younger brother Frank (Dylan Arnold) and American physicist Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh).

Oppenheimer coolly rationalises his involvement – “I don’t know if we can be trusted with such a weapon but I know the Nazis can’t” – and dedicates every waking hour to perfecting an atomic device at a secret site south of Los Alamos. His biologist wife Kitty (Emily Blunt) joins other families in New Mexico to witness the dawn of a new age of self-destruction, culminating in the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Oppenheimer is a directorial tour-de-force matched by Murphy’s exquisitely layered portrayal of the son of German Jewish immigrants, who feels personally compelled to act (“It’s not your people they’re herding into camps, it’s mine”). Blunt and Downey Jr catalyse strong support and Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson, who worked on Nolan’s last picture Tenet, complements dazzling visuals with a bombastic score that seems to rattle every fixture and fitting of the cinema. The fuse of Nolan’s picture may be three hours long and winding but when the beautifully arranged atoms of Oppenheimer collide, tension builds and ultimately detonates with meticulously engineered and unstoppable force.

– Sarah Lee

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