The story of American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in the development of the atomic bomb.
THE GOOD STUFF
Cillian Murphy- Perhaps this movie was released too early in the year to merit the kind of Oscar buzz that it should get. The Oscars are not completely ignorant of the summer season, though, and if that’s the case when it comes to this film, then Murphy, at this point, is a lock for a nomination.
Anybody familiar with Murphy’s work, whether on PEAKY BLINDERS or in any of the many great performances he’s given over the past 20 years or so, knows that this kind of spotlight is not too big for him. He’s been deserving to be in this kind of a showcase for a really long time now, and boy, does he deliver. He, of course, is in damn near every single scene in this movie and carries the film effortlessly.
RDJ- It’s actually kind of nice if there’s an entire generation of film doors that only know Robert Downey JR as a superhero and are kind of foreign to him, a being great character actor. Character actor RDJ peaks his head out from time to time (Zodiac, The Soloist, The Judge), but some of us remember when character pieces were the norm for RDJ, and boy, does this performance seem like a throwback to those days.
Would I go as far as calling this a career highlight? Honestly…possibly. As much of an Oscar possibility as Murphy is for his performance, I would go as far as say that RDJ might be an outright lock for a supporting actor nom.
THE TRINITY TEST- When it comes to the “shot in IMAX” stuff that is the lynchpin of Christopher Nolan’s films, Oppenheimer, for sure, is the least impressive in juxtaposition to Nolan flicks that we’ve seen before. A lot has been said about the 65 mm black and white IMAX photographic film used for a good chunk of the movie, and it’s fine enough. But this is not an action film. This is an out-and-out historical drama with not many IMAX-y things to be flashy with.
However, the whole sequence of the Trinity Test is truly magnificent and one of the most impressive sequences he’s ever done using the format. Like a psycho, I sat in the 4th row of the CityWalk true IMAX theater, one of the 30 theaters in the world that can view this movie on 70mm IMAX film. Given how many Nolan movies I’ve seen at this movie theater before, and given how film nope came out last year and looked so spectacular using the format digitally, I kind of wondered what the difference would be, and I kind of knew that this would be the sequence that would show me what the difference was….and…well…
All I will say is that the entire sequence is probably the absolute Apex of what IMAX experiences can be. It simply cannot get any better than that. There’s no way.
THE BAD STUFF
THE ENDING- Of course, there’s only so much I can say about the ending of this movie. But what I will tell you is that it’s a very….gentle kind of landing. It is satisfying in a couple of ways. I don’t know if you could have ended any other way, given that we’re actually talking about an important historical figure that you can go and Google. But the ending could have gone a number of ways, and I chose the ONE way I didn’t want it to end. So maybe this is just something that bothers me.
THE UGLY STUFF
THE 1ST ACT- What sucks about this first act is that it’s all the necessary stuff to say to explain the motivations of Oppenheimer and the other characters in the story. About 20 minutes into this, I wondered if this would be the one movie I truly hated by Christopher Nolan. The pacing is all over the place, the timeline moves really fast, and I honestly think this is the section of the movie where you could have either begun at a different spot or just cut 15 minutes off of the superfluous stuff they were trying to explain. There’s a lot of detail about Oppenheimer’s womanizing that simply doesn’t need to be there.
Matt Damon shows up about 25 to 30 minutes in, and business begins to pick up from here. But boy, this first act is quite a bit of a mess.
I can’t think of too many films with worse release dates than this one. I can’t help asking what would boost business more… the financial push it would get via Oscar buzz and award season nominations that have helped the worldwide box office of so many other historical biopics that we’ve had over the past umpteen years? Guess we will never know.
OPPENHEIMER is in theaters now