'Oppenheimer' (2023) Review: A Triumph of Terror
As a young man with visions of a hidden universe, J Robert Oppenheimer lays in his Cambridge university dorm, beset by an inability to rest. He’s instantly portrayed as brilliant, yet carries with him a darkness. His mind may be unmatched, but his humanity screams louder than any theory he could present. At times he is cruel, other times cold and unfeeling, and then overwhelmingly ridden with guilt. The most important man who ever lived, creating a weapon without an equal.
‘Oppenheimer’ takes such a complicated figure and fastens you in to his unique perspective. As you watch the development of the atomic bomb, you’re infinitely intrigued by its herald. Cillian Murphy’s performance of the legendary scientist is multifaceted, seeming vulnerable and exposed in one frame, yet operatic and enigmatic in the next.
The invention itself has a devastating effect, but the film’s warning goes beyond the terror of dropped of the bomb. The sequence in which the bomb is first tested is nothing short of an audio-visual marvel, but the true danger of the film lies in the protagonist’s presence. As he corrals the world’s scientists to follow behind him Robert Oppenheimer is magnetic, more akin to a cult leader than a lowly whitecoat. His followers express their qualms, but with one impassioned speech he rallys the troops towards a terrible victory.
Despite this statement on statesmen, ‘Oppenheimer’ is non committal in its portrayal of its subject. As much as it delves into the psyche of its titular character, it makes very little stride in a definitive conclusion on his character. ‘Oppenheimer’ will leave you with more information than you may have had about the father of the atomic bomb, but undoubtedly create several questions as well. The film leaves you to pass your judgement on the man himself, his actions, and his feelings towards them when all is said and done.
At 3 hours, ‘Oppenheimer’ is a formidable epic, that has a chilling effect. It’s a character driven piece that moves at a brisk pace with some of the best performances of the year. It’s ability to maintain focus despite drifting between timelines and colour palettes is a technical miracle. The weight of the world created in the wake of nuclear war is demonstrated heavily. Seeing it in the cinema is imperative. Leaving it without a severe sense of dread is nigh impossible.
Rating: Big Screen Watch
Note: While I appreciate you reading this review, movies are still incredibly subjective. If you think you might enjoy yourself, I encourage everyone to support the cinema industry as much as they can. Stay safe, and remember, life’s too short for bad movies.