By – Nick Adrian
For fans of WWII history, Oliver Stone’s political conspiracy films, and of course – Christopher Nolan
It seems like movie theaters are being taken my storm by this summer’s biggest craze: “Barbenheimer,” the double feature of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. The latter, the much-anticipated biopic from one of the most successful auteurs working today, is the focus here and it’s not only the most mature work of his to date – it might be his finest film.
The film follows the Father of the Atomic Bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) from his beginnings as a physics student at Cambridge, to being assigned the invention and development of nuclear weapons, and the emotional and moral toll it took on him after his work was used in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Behind the scientist was a struggle not just with his political background but with the relationships in his life, including his wife Kitty (Emily Blunt) and his mistress Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh). Told in a nonlinear narrative, the film jumps back and forth between Oppenheimer’s journey toward the Manhattan Project and the two security and confirmation hearings he went through later in life, prompted from the contention of chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis Strauss (an impeccable Robert Downey, Jr.).
While the typical mainstream Hollywood biopic tends to keep things uplifting and positive, Nolan’s examination of Oppenheimer is critical, cold, and frank. It judges its subject harshly, employing surreal and even horror elements to his filmmaking to emphasize the character’s moral crisis after developing the world-altering bomb. Rather than praise him as an American hero – which a similar biopic made years ago likely would have done – it grapples with his mistake and holds heavy, to the point where even the audience can’t escape the weight of his actions. Nolan, who has dabbled in hero storytelling many times, takes a more sinister turn in what is arguably a much more mature artistic achievement. The three-hour runtime never fails to be gripping, the supporting cast is one of the strongest in years (highlights include Matt Damon, Jason Clarke, David Krumholtz and a plethora of familiar faces), and the ever-improving directorial work by Nolan is indicative of a great new phase of his career.
Oppenheimer is a powerful depiction of the man behind one of the world’s greatest tragedies that will stay in your mind long after the credits roll.
Oppenheimer is now playing in theaters
Written by: Nick Adrian
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