Alex Reviews "Oppenheimer"
Many people knew nothing of J. Robert Oppenheimer beyond what we read in textbooks. We knew him as the “Father of the Atom Bomb” who ended World War II, who seemingly rode off into the sunset after telling the government that the world should never build or use these weapons ever again. Unfortunately, that is the sanitized version that made it into the public eye.
Oppenheimer takes us behind that veil with an in-depth character study spanning from his early years abroad in Europe through the political fallout that followed the end of WWII. Showing a brilliant yet deeply flawed scientist as he navigates personal, scientific, and political minefields while remaining unapologetically true to his beliefs.
Pardon my complete lack of buildup, but it is impossible to not be in awe of this film. It is one of the best pictures I have ever seen and the best performance by an ensemble that I have ever witnessed. It will take a shocking performance for this picture not to win EVERY cast/ensemble award when eligible. (Note: eligibility being if any awards become delayed due to union strikes currently ongoing)
Within that ensemble, two performances shine even brighter than the rest: Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey, Jr. We have known both men as supreme talents for many years now, but their work in Oppenheimer is impressive to the point of staggering. It is incredibly rare for an actor in a picture to be considered among the best performances of all time, but how often has there been a film in which it happens twice? Maybe if you combine the first two movies of The Godfather, but it has never happened concurrently on the same screen.
Cillian Murphy has often excelled in singular-presentation roles where he fits a character and makes you believe every moment he exudes, but as the titular Oppenheimer he shows a full gamut of delivery from scene to scene in perfect step with what the picture calls for in each moment. This is even more impressive when considering that perspective shifts can alter any information based on viewpoint, however his delivery in every line or body movement presents the nuance of genuine human depth in every single beat.
Not to be outdone, Robert Downey Jr. disappears into Lewis Strauss and delivers the best performance of his storied career. Dynamic and impacting in every breath. His ability to portray a character with layers of motives being expressed even without dialogue was so natural that it is both awe-inspiring and somewhat haunting. It makes perfect sense why the picture focuses on him almost equally to Murphy.
If they don’t both end up with multiple awards for Oppenheimer, it would be a crime.
Great actors can’t be great without an awesome script and the guidance of a skilled director. Christopher Nolan shows again why he is among the best (if not the best) at both. His screenplay flows like an hourglass increasing speed with each grain. With it the tension of the story becomes increasingly taut despite minimal action. It is a clever trick on the audience that heightens the emotion and suspense. Combining that with the way the movie is uniquely shot with various types of film and scaling to fit narrative, it is an experience both bewildering and terrifying. I am not sure if a movie has ever scared me more, but not in a horror method. Nolan’s framing and presentation are so immersive that the (REAL?!?) bomb shook me to my core. The magnitude, delivery, and importance of this story had me jarred for hours after the film ended.
Even further elevating the movie, Ludwig Göransson can do no wrong when it comes to musical cues and emotional audio. His composition matches Nolan’s story seamlessly in tone and pace to make you feel every single one of the grains of sand firing through faster and more suspensefully. Add his name to the list of award winners I expect to come from this production. He is cementing himself as the next unquestionable great composer in the footsteps of John Williams and Hans Zimmer. Oppenheimer might have just set him a step ahead of that pack.
I sincerely mean it when I say that Oppenheimer may be the best movie I have ever seen. The story, the performances, the visuals, the sound, and the music are all perfect. It made three hours feel like minutes and was so captivating that I never even opened my water, let alone looked away from the screen. I’m even confident that I didn’t blink until the bomb went off. Make sure to see it in IMAX when it comes out July 21st because it deserves every dollar, audience member, and award it has coming…and more.