Director: Christopher Nolan
It has been a very long time since a movie has left me quite as speechless. Before I get into the meat of this review, there are just a few things I want to disclose. First off, I got to experience this movie in a 70mm IMAX Theatre, which I believe enhances the experience. Not only was the movie crisp visually, the sound design was also immaculate. As such, my review will be from this point of view. Secondly, this movie will be covering major plot points when discussing the film. Spoilers will be present, so be aware if you want to be spoil-free. The final thing I want to mention is that the movie is rated R. As such, there are plenty of scenes that aren’t suitable for children. There is nudity and violence, and if that’s something you don’t want to expose your child to, don’t take them to this movie.
Oppenheimer was a wonderful experience. There was so much that happened in the movie that it sparked many conversations with others once the movie ended. It also leaves the viewers in a state of shock when the credits start rolling, as it really puts everything about life into perspective. This movie is 100% worth a watch if you enjoy historical war movies or movies with interesting ideas.
With all my warnings out of the way, let’s begin unpacking this movie. And trust me, there is so much to discuss.
To start, I want to discuss my experience with an IMAX Theater. If you have the opportunity to watch Oppenheimer in an IMAX Theater, I wholeheartedly recommend giving that a shot. First off, the movie is crisp. When it was a coloured scene, the colours were sharp and vibrant. I especially loved the close up shots on the actor’s faces. Especially Oppenheimer’s. His blues eyes were both piercing and mesmerizing.
Besides the visual, the audio was solid as well. Whenever there was an explosion, you could feel it in the air. I have to admit that certain scenes did give me a slight jump scare. It was that powerful of a feeling. You could really feel the body rumbling quakes from the explosions. It can only be described as awesome. I know it even left my ears ringing after the scenes ended. Now, I do have one complaint about the sound. There are moments in the movie where the dialogue seems to be drowned out by the music. Now, it isn’t as bad at Tenet, but it annoying when it happens.
Besides the IMAX experience, there is a lot to unpack within the story itself. To start, this movie is broken up into three main parts: the events leading up the creation and detonation of the atomic bombs, Oppenheimer’s appeal for his National Security Clearance, and Strauss’ hearing to be promoted to Cabinet member. When it comes to this style of storytelling, I do have to say that it wasn’t as confusing as I thought it would be.
The movie perfectly balances the three storylines together in an intricate, yet simple tale. Every time the movie flashed to the past, it was set up from one of the present events, which was either Oppenheimer’s appeal or Strauss’ hearing. I especially liked this system of storytelling because it links everything together. You get to see the consequences of actions in essentially real time.
So, with the general out of the way, let’s get into my thoughts on each individual plot line.
To start, the plot line where Oppenheimer created the atomic bomb. I think the best part of this plot thread was how it detailed all aspects of Oppenheimer’s life. Not only did it describe his scientific achievements, but it also showed his personal life. When we got to see Oppenheimer teaching, or going to meetings, or even his relationship with other women, it was interesting seeing his human side.
I especially liked how he stuck to his opinions when he was questioned. Obviously, his stances on certain topics would be condemned back then, but it made me like his character a lot more. Besides his personal issues, the selling point of this point of view is the building of the atomic bomb. Without a doubt, this was the highlight of the movie. I loved watching as each piece of the puzzle get solved was satisfying. When the bomb is eventually completed, my favourite part of the movie was when the test bomb went off. Just the beauty of the explosion, combined with the powerful blast, battered my sense in a good way. Oppenheimer and his team succeeded, and it was great to revel in that success with them.
After this moment, the movie does take some time to explore Oppenheimer’s guilt after his invention is used on Japan. Besides the bomb blowing up, my second favourite aspect of this movie was how Oppenheimer’s guilt was portrayed on the scene. The way the sound of footsteps ring louder, as the voices of others gets drowned out, it was an interesting way to demonstrate the effect the bomb had on him.
Along this note, I also liked how Oppenheimer snaps back to the present. The way that the footsteps and the bright light stop at once is jarring, yet powerful to display his guilt. It made me feel for the man, because at the end of everything, Oppenheimer was just a man who opened Pandora’s box. If he didn’t do it, someone else would’ve.
Now, for the plot line of Oppenheimer’s appeal, I have to say that that section wasn’t as entertaining as the build up to the bomb’s creation. However, this section of the movie does have its merits as well. Near the end of the appeal, my favourite moment in that whole section was when Kitty goes off on her tangent to fight against her opponents.
Watching her intelligently twist the prosecutions words against was quite satisfying. It was also great seeing her fight the way she keeps telling Oppenheimer to do, although Oppenheimer never fights back to that degree. Either way, this part of the movie was satisfactory, and I think the best part of this section of the movie was Kitty’s scene.
The final plot thread that gets covered is Strauss’ hearing. Now, I’m going to be honest, when I first watched his scenes, I wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing in that situation. However, after a quick bit of discussions after the movie, everything makes more sense. I really enjoyed the slow buildup to Strauss’ outburst. Once everything came crumbling down, I have to say that Robert Downey Jr. gave a stunning performance. Overall, another solid part that gives everything context.
Now, besides the actual movie, I think another strength of this movie has to be the ideas the movie leaves you with after the end. I know that after I finished the movie, I was speechless and lost in thought. Oppenheimer presents many ideas about guilt and the Pandora’s box of nuclear weapons. These ideas spurred many conversations after the movie.
All in all, this is an interesting moral dilemma. At the moment of the bomb’s creation, it almost feels necessary to build the bomb. But after the bomb was used, and its destructive powers revealed, I enjoyed how it feels morally grey. Yes, at the moment it seemed necessary, but now, it’s opened up so many options that we didn’t know possible. It’s hard to put all my thoughts into words on how this movie made me feel afterwards, but I think it’s a great conversation starter with some close friends, and an interesting topic for debate.
Overall, Oppenheimer was a masterpiece. Not only was the acting top notch, the visuals crisp, and the audio powerful, but it also covers some interesting topics for debates. If you are a fan of war or historical movies, this is a must watch, especially in an IMAX Theater if possible. It’s an amazing experience.