Confront the horrifying reality of humanity’s darkest hour in our Oppenheimer review, the latest from ground-breaking director, Christopher Nolan.
Since bursting onto the cinematic scene in the early 2000s, Christopher Nolan has established himself as one of the most visionary directors of our time. With a distinct directorial style and an unparalleled ability to weave intricate narratives, Nolan has consistently delivered thought-provoking and visually stunning films that challenge both the mind and the heart.
Christopher Nolan on the set of Oppenheimer.
From the mind-bending trance of Inception to the DC fan-favourite The Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan has consistently pushed the boundaries of storytelling and left audiences in awe. His films are renowned for their complex structures, non-linear narratives, and philosophical themes that delve into the human psyche. And, of course, his latest creation is the perfect example of this distinct directorial style.
Exploring the mind behind the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer sees the master filmmaker tackle a pivotal moment in human history and explore its ethical and moral implications. With a cast of talented actors in their finest performances and an exploration of profound themes, Oppenheimer is both a harrowing depiction of history and a monumental addition to Christopher Nolan’s already impressive filmography. Find out why in our review ahead.
Oppenheimer Review – Story
J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), a brilliant physicist, and his team are at the forefront of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret government initiative during World War II aimed at developing the atomic bomb. Oppenheimer’s story unfolds against the backdrop of global conflict and scientific discovery, capturing the moral and ethical complexities surrounding the creation of such a powerful and destructive weapon.
As the project’s scientific director, Oppenheimer leads a diverse group of scientists and engineers who work tirelessly to unlock the secrets of nuclear fission. Their efforts result in the successful creation of the world’s first atomic bomb. However, Oppenheimer’s involvement in this ground-breaking endeavour leaves an eternal mark on his conscience at the exact moment his creation is unleashed upon mankind. In the famous words of the Hindu scripture, The Bhagavad Gita, Oppenheimer quotes,
“And now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
The film focuses less on the bomb itself, and more on the personal struggles and internal conflicts faced by Oppenheimer both before and after its advent. Witnessing the immense destructive potential of the weapon he helped bring to life, he grapples with the ethical implications of his work. Upon completion of the project, Oppenheimer becomes aware of the devastating consequences that the atomic bomb has on humanity, igniting the world both literally and figuratively.
The story also explores the tensions within the scientific community, as even Oppenheimer’s most trusted colleagues question the morality of their actions and the long-term implications of their work. These debates highlight the immense responsibility and moral dilemmas faced by those involved in the Manhattan Project and the relationships torn relationships between Oppenheimer’s colleagues and loved ones.
Against building pressure years after the bomb’s aftermath, the latter half of the film examines the political and military pressures that shaped the development of the atomic bomb and Oppenheimer’s involvement in the project. Every moment delves deeper into the complex inner world of J. Robert Oppenheimer, exploring his motivations, doubts, and the profound impact that his involvement in the atomic bomb’s creation has on his life, legacy, and vilification as the father of the bomb.
Oppenheimer Review – Acting and Direction
In the lead role as the project’s brilliant scientist, Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of J. Robert Oppenheimer stands out as a mesmerizing performance that brings depth, complexity, and emotional resonance to the lead character. Murphy, known for his versatility and ability to inhabit characters with nuanced intensity, delivers a tour de force performance as Oppenheimer.
He captures the brilliant physicist’s internal conflicts, intellectual curiosity, and moral dilemmas with remarkable precision. Murphy’s portrayal captures Oppenheimer’s inner turmoil as he grapples with the consequences of his ground-breaking work, giving the character a humanistic touch that resonates with the audience. But it’s so much more than Murphy that brings the film to life.
Supported by a stellar cast of actors including the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, and Rami Malek (just to name a few), Oppenheimer boasts an unmatched ensemble that elevates the film to new heights. The performances are characterized by a seamless blending of talent, where each actor brings their A-game to create a rich tapestry of characters and relationships across decades of history. Each actor imbues their role with authenticity, creating a palpable tension that drives the narrative forward and is heavily dramatised, yet wholly believable.
As expected, Nolan’s directing prowess is on full display in Oppenheimer. His signature visual style, meticulous attention to detail, and ability to create stunning set pieces are evident throughout the film. From the sprawling sets of Los Alamos to the confined and claustrophobic interrogation rooms, and scientific achievements to the harrowing moments of destruction, Nolan’s visual storytelling amplifies the impact of the narrative, drawing audiences deeper into history. Much of the film is presented in black-and-white analogue film, providing a historical lens through which viewers can easily peer.
As with his previous films, Nolan’s skilful direction allows the performances to shine, giving actors the space to fully embody their characters while maintaining a tight grip on the narrative’s pace and tension. Rather than relying on computer-generated visuals, Nolan’s emphasis is on practical effects, exceptional performances and thought-provoking story to create a cinematic experience that is best experienced on the big screen to truly immerse the viewer.
Oppenheimer Review – Audio and Soundtrack
Audio design plays arguably the most crucial role in enhancing the tension and drama of Oppenheimer. And like Nolan’s previous films, the audio in Oppenheimer is nothing short of exceptional.
Every auditory element, from the subtlest clinks of laboratory equipment or hushed communist conversations to the shattering explosion of the bomb, is masterfully balanced to create a rich and immersive soundscape that truly draws you in. While the sound is often thunderous, on multiple occasions it will have you on edge, anticipating the next sound to break through its painful silence.
But of course, no Nolan film would be complete without a soundtrack to match. And Ludwig Göransson’s (Black Panther, Creed) suspenseful soundtrack further elevates the film to a level only achievable through music. Known for his ability to craft evocative and memorable scores, Göransson delivers a composition that perfectly complements the tension and emotional depth of Oppenheimer.
Music weaves seamlessly in and out of the narrative, and is ever present, enhancing key moments and building suspense that will have your heart beating out of your chest. On multiple occasions, the soundtrack will have you entranced, engaged, and potentially even covered in goosebumps. And while the music is superb, this does occasionally dampen the dialogue, making certain conversations difficult to discern.
Overall, the marriage of sound and soundtrack create a synergy that intensifies the cinematic experience. The carefully crafted audio is designed to immerse the audience and wholeheartedly achieves this. Through sound, you’ll feel the weight of the decisions on Oppenheimer’s shoulders and experience the unfolding events with heightened intensity.
Through a powerful performance by Cillian Murphy and a stellar cast, Nolan delivers a stark reminder of the horrors that humanity has the potential to unleash. Confronting a key moment in history, Oppenheimer is a sombre and harrowing film that delves deep into the darker aspects of human nature and does not shy away from addressing the dark inspiration behind the film. Combining a thought-provoking narrative and masterful direction, this is a chilling reminder of the devastating consequences of our actions and humanity’s capacity for destruction.
So, why should you watch Oppenheimer?
- Powerful performance from Cillian Murphy and his supporting cast
- Style and direction among Christopher Nolan’s very best
- Superb audio and soundtrack that deserves to be heard in cinema
- Respectful yet haunting reminder of the horrors caused by humanity
- You appreciate films with an emphasis on practical effects over CGI
But why shouldn’t you watch Oppenheimer?
- Not fond of history or politics? Oppenheimer may be lost on you
- You find it difficult to sit through a long film
A preview screening was kindly provided by Universal Pictures Australia for the purpose of our Oppenheimer review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out more of our film reviews and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about upcoming movies.