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It’s Not That Easy With “Oppenheimer”

James Francisco

I know the deal with movies like Oppenheimer, with names like Christopher Nolan, Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh and Robert Downey Jr. You put all these names together, and everyone starts to expect excellence, a film to be decorated by the Academy and lauded for years, a title befitting a spot on everyone’s “Favorite Movie” list.

Does it deserve all the attention? Yes—but not with ease.

Oppenheimer is a study of a man so consumed by science and all its possibilities that history remembers him by a name that strikes fear: The Father Of The Atomic Bomb. Because of him, hundreds of thousands suffered following the actual detonation. The United States gave him millions to explore his possibilities, he delivered, and he survived. Just imagine that life put into film for a new generation—most of whom weren’t alive at the onset—and you get Nolan’s latest.

The film opens within no time at all—leading you from one scene to the next, introducing one man after another—leaving the audience with barely any time to grasp what’s happening. Even in the quieter moments of Oppenheimer, the weight of what’s unfolding is almost tangible. It sucks the energy out of you.

But that’s the sacrifice that we, as an audience, have to bear for a film like this.

The cast is impeccable. Cillian Murphy is equal parts mad scientist and naïve man-child. Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh, the women in Oppenheimer’s life, are raw yet powerful. Robert Downey Jr. commands the courtroom in the few scenes that he has. The score is, quite literally, a paid character in the film, proving just how powerful silence is compared to earth-shattering sounds. 

Christopher Nolan is all over this film, from the demented subject to the its incredibly long runtime (look, I know films are long, but at least The Way Of The Water gave us some restroom breaks). And while there is no denying that the man has talent, Oppenheimer seriously could have been two movies. It goes between one narrative and another in as much time as it takes for you to rearrange yourself in your seat, and you’re left wondering: What am I watching now? 

I’ve seen it everywhere: Christopher Nolan has not lost his touch, but this biopic is far from his best work—and that’s just the truth. It has the makings of a great film—a story that questions humanity, characters brought alive by talented actors, millions of dollars spent on production and marketing—and it is a great film. But is it the best release of the month? Not by a long shot.

Oppenheimer is showing in theaters now.

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