REVIEW: “Oppenheimer” – Nolan at his best

Jake Ramsey

Cillian Murphy holds a pipe in this scene from “Oppenheimer” (Universal Studios via AP).

Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” released this weekend dazzling audiences with its brilliant story-telling, fantastic performances, and breathtaking cinematography.

Nolan’s latest directorial adventure has proven successful, this time adapting the life and story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man responsible for the atomic bomb. Given the subject matter, many were concerned with Nolan’s approach to telling this story and he handles the heavy topic with grace and care.

The film stars Cillian Murphy playing the titular character J. Robert Oppenheimer, as well as other A-listers such as Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss, Matt Damon as Leslie Groves and Emily Blunt as Kitty Oppenheimer.

With such a star-studded cast and a director that has never delivered a bad product it was almost a given that “Oppenheimer” would be one of the greatest movies of the year. However, it was not just one of the greatest movies of the year, it was one of the greatest movies of all time.

Sadly, any new Nolan project is going to have the same criticisms of any new DC project. That criticism being an unfair comparison to the 2008 summer blockbuster “The Dark Knight.” While being phenomenal films, Nolan’s latest releases “Dunkirk” and “Tenet” have come nowhere close to reaching the heights of his previous stories, but “Oppenheimer” doesn’t just match films such as “The Dark Knight” and “Interstellar,” it excels in every category that those films succeeded in.

“Oppenheimer” is Nolan firing on all cylinders. Nolan isn’t the only person on the project that delivers though. Every single actor in this film comes through. Even the smallest of roles such as Jack Quaid’s Richard Feynman or Rami Malek’s David Hill are some of the best performances those actors have given. However, the real stand-out of this movie is Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock. Pugh has been an up-and-coming actor for the past several years, starting out in hits like “Midsommar” and “Fighting With My Family,” she’s now found her way onto bigger projects, and continues to give her all in every performance. Whether it’s playing the stand-out role of Yelena in Marvel’s “Black Widow,” or her recent starring role in 2022’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” Pugh is one of the best young actors performing right now.

Another standout in the film is Robert Downey Jr. Post Iron Man many people couldn’t see Downey as anyone other than Tony Stark, causing a bit of a career pause for the actor, but he reinvents himself for this movie. Downey shows that he still has the acting range from early in his career and hasn’t yet given up on doing career-defining roles. While he’ll always be remembered as Iron Man, Downey’s best performance certainly comes from this movie.

The film itself is also something to marvel at. While the director and actors all did a phenomenal job, many others worked hard to make such a beautiful project. This film truly is something special, and there’s such a breathtaking silence when performing the Trinity Test. The Trinity Test was an important moment in history that redefined our world as we know it, and this film does not take that moment lightly. In fact, it’s highlighted throughout every scene and its impacts are felt throughout the entirety of the movie, reflecting the real world impacts of the test.

Seeing the screen engulfed in flames as our titular character looks on in fear of what he has created is a cinematic experience that can only be achieved by a creative as brilliant as Nolan. There was no better director to choose to make this movie, and there was no better actor to perform that moment than Cillian Murphy.

In the end, while “Oppenheimer” may have just been a movie, the story and its characters were not. Versions of the events depicted in the film happened, and they should not be taken lightly. Luckily Nolan took things very seriously and delivered a project that will not be forgotten quickly. 

“Oppenheimer” is Nolan at his best, and it solidifies him once again as one of the greatest directors cinema has ever seen.

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