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Release Date: July 21st, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2023

Oppenheimer - Film Review

Overview -

Christopher Nolan used to make movies that were interesting, riveting, and fun. Somewhere along the way, the Dark Knight director became so abstract as a visual artist, that he forgot what making movies was all about. The same could be said for Wes Anderson who has flipped his side of the coin to only represent colorful visuals rather than telling a fantastic story like he used to. But for Nolan, a once exquisite visionary in the cinematic world who could not only explore the best picturesque cinematic experience but could also write and tell an epic and brilliant story with amazing development of its characters is completely lost on his latest film Oppenheimer - the true story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who developed the Atomic bomb. 

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Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Release Date:
July 21st, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


What could have been perhaps a great mix of ingredients that combined high-level story arcs, stellar characters who are given time to earn their spotlight, with a bit of that famous Nolan action of bombs detonating, turns out to be a burned-up error of follies that only is interested in showcasing what Oppenheimer went through over the course of a few years both in his professional and personal life without those much-needed beats of action and entertainment. Instead, it's 180 minutes of characters spatting off nuclear jargon and playing "Who's the Communist" in the room. In the end, though, this film could have been Nolan's opus, ripe for earning its cinematic degrees in every area but it would rather showcase how many A-List actors it has on its roster rather than tell the important story that Oppenheimer had. 

Like with most of Nolan's movies, these are not simply films everybody watches. They are cinematic experiences in visual form. These movies are viewed multiple times for various reasons with tons of emotional depth, great character arcs, and some of the best visual effects of this modern world. None of this is used in Oppenheimer. With a bold film like Inception, Nolan allowed a character to act as an audience conduit to tell this complex story, which worked perfectly. In Tenet, Nolan went at his own pace and swept that conduit under the rug to tell a confusing and ultimately pretentious sci-fi action film that had amazing action sequences, but that's about it. In Oppenheimer, there are no action beats. There are only subtle character arcs, and there is zero beautiful imagery, which begs the question - why was this filmed in IMAX and 70mm if the goal was to only film people talking in small rooms for three hours? 

In most films, especially Nolan's movies, there are melodic beats that act almost like music keeping the story going forward. With Oppenheimer, it's full of chaotic, misused jazz with frenetic editing that only goes from one scene of nonsensical dialogue to the next where people are discussing the many factors of creating a weapon and keeping it from other countries. Nolan is a master of suspense though and can crank up the tension if he so desires, which he only does for a few minutes of this three-hour slog of an endeavor that is about as boring as watching paint dry. Not even the most seasoned and recognizable actors could save this movie with their performances by either not having enough screen time or by the ridiculous and less-than-thrilling screenplay. Matt Damon and Josh Hartnett are perhaps the most memorable, simply due to their comedic delivery. Everyone else here doesn't seem humanized enough to care about really. 

But there are just a couple of moments in the film where Nolan utilizes that iconic suspense, one being the first time the bomb is to be detonated. It's clever how he tells this small narrative in the film, but it's washed away by how he filmed it and how it was ultimately edited, which leaves out most of the actual explosion which it's not great to say, but Michael Bay could have done a better job here. That's not said lightly either. Additionally, after this climactic moment, which would seem like it would be close to the end of the film, Nolan takes the audience on another hour-long gloomy journey of a fake tribunal where people question Oppenheimer's American loyalty. It's a soggy, dull trench of mud with no thrilling or memorable moments with the exception of a super-short Gary Oldman cameo as President Truman that perhaps has the film's biggest laugh. 

Nolan was more interested in introducing 80 characters who are played by Hollywood's biggest actors and directors that only get a few minutes of screen time with no proper introduction or arc. He's going at his own speed again without properly telling who anyone really is or what's happening on screen. Sure it's evident what everyone on screen is trying to do in the basic sense, but that doesn't make it cinematic or good storytelling. Instead, it feels like the audience is picking out what actors they know and from what other movies they're in. And as far as the visuals go - this was supposed to be an amazingly beautiful film for IMAX and 70mm presentations. But if it's 98% shot in closely tight rooms with people talking, not allowing for that wide sense of space, what is the point really? Even the few sequences outside with the bomb are ugly and almost colorless, just how Nolan shot half this movie - in black and white. It's not a pretty film whatsoever, unlike every other movie he's done, which is downright gorgeous. 

Video Review


Audio Review


Special Features


For those looking for those epic action sequences that Nolan is known for, those elements are non-existent here. Instead, it's 180 minutes of people talking in various timelines either about making a weapon or accusing someone of being a communist. There's no real rhyme or reason for it, let alone a real narrative here. Oppenheimer is a complete letdown and it's unfortunate because Cillian Murphy is so amazing in every role he performs in, including this one, but it's all thrown away at the whim of a director who has lost his way in himself.