Christopher Nolan has turned one of the most complicated scientists and his horrific creation into a blockbuster movie. The result is a beautifully shot film that pushes Nolan into exciting experimental territory, but an icky feeling of Hollywood tropes may take you out of the film.


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General Information

Director(s) Christopher Nolan
Screenplay By Christopher Nolan
Based On Book by Kai Bird and Martin Shirwin
Date Released (In Theaters) July 21, 2023
Genre(s) Drama, Biopic, Historical
Film Length 3 Hours 
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Characters and Cast
J. Robert Oppenheimer Cillian Murphy
Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer Emily Blunt
Leslie Groves Matt Damon
Lewis Strauss Robert Downey Jr.

What Is “Oppenheimer” Rated And Why?

“Oppenheimer” is Rated R due to profanity, nudity, sex, and depictions of the atomic bomb.

Film Summary

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“Oppenheimer” is the film you may have seen advertised as the essential IMAX experience, but you most likely know little about the historical figure. Filmmaker Christopher Nolan has turned one of the most complicated scientists and his horrific creation into a blockbuster movie. The result is a beautifully shot film with a terrifying story that pushes Nolan into exciting experimental territory, but an icky feeling of Hollywood tropes may take you out of the film.

Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) is a brilliant scientist who’s fascinated by the abilities of quantum physics. He’s driven by scientific theory and ideals of political revolution that often come at the cost of his personal relationships. While Oppenheimer is terrific at communicating his ideas to a crowd, he’s uncomfortable in intimate settings. While teaching in Berkeley, Oppenheimer finds himself in the middle of supporting communist friends and being watched by the U.S. government.

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One U.S. military official, Leslie Groves (Matt Damon), seeks Oppenheimer’s help on a project to work on the atomic bomb. Due to concern that the Nazis may create an atomic bomb first, Oppenheimer agrees to cut his communist ties and lead the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer assembles a crack team of scientists and travels to New Mexico to build a laboratory and a town to house the scientists and their families. As Oppenheimer feels trapped by the agenda and demands of the government, his relationship with his wife Kitty (Emily Blunt) becomes more strained as well.

Oppenheimer’s atomic bomb test, a.k.a. The Trinity Test, is successful. But Oppenheimer grows haunted by the implications of his own creation. Other scientists and political figures, like Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.), want Oppenheimer to take the weapons research and experiments further. Oppenheimer is torn by friends, colleagues, and his own beliefs when the U.S. drops the atomic bomb on Japan, and he risks his reputation and research by sharing his candid views about the atomic bomb.

“Oppenheimer” has been marketed as a must-see event in an IMAX theater. The creation of this film and its technical achievements have been buzzed about more than the film’s subject. “Oppenheimer” is an absolute achievement in filmmaking, yet it’s the behind-the-scenes story that can distract from the film.

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Other Noteworthy Information

  1. Christopher Nolan says there are no CGI shots in the film.
  2. Christopher Nolan’s first film not to be produced by Warner Bros, Warner Bros has “Barbie” released on the same day.
  3. For the Trinity Test explosion scene, the crew built and filmed an actual bomb explosion.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer is a charming and calculated scientist with a brilliant mind unmatched by his peers. Torn by his own morals and personal ambitions, Oppenheimer becomes haunted by his own creations when the U.S. government employs him to create an atomic bomb.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “28 Days Later,” their role in “Peaky Binders,” and their role in “Inception.”

Kitty Oppenheimer

Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer is a biologist and an ex-member of the Communist Party. While married to J. Robert, Katherine is stuck at home and feels trapped by domestic housewife life. She sees her husband’s genius but foresees how it could tear their family apart.

Leslie Grove

A gruff yet understanding military general, Leslie Grove hires Oppenheimer to lead the construction of the atomic bomb. While he’s blunt and quick to anger many, Grove respects Oppenheimer and ultimately trusts his decisions.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Good Will Hunting,” their role in “Bourne Identity,” and their role in “The Martian.”

Lewis Strauss

As a politician with ambitions to serve in the President’s cabinet, Strauss will do anything possible to further his own agenda. He’s often at odds with Oppenheimer and voices his wish that the government would work on a hydrogen bomb instead of the atom bomb Oppenheimer conducts.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Zodiac,” their role in “Tropic Thunder,” and their role in “Avengers: Endgame.”

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Review

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing) 

Notable Performances or Moments

Cillian Murphy has given powerful and cool performances in indie films and television for the past 20 years. The burden of Oppenheimer’s complex moral quandaries and emotions and the film’s resonance hangs on the shoulders of Murphy, and Murphy is fearless in the role. “Oppenheimer” is told through the eyes of the man, and in raw, gorgeous close-ups, Murphy allows the audience to see every torn thought in his eyes.

Highlights

A Masterful Achievement in Sound and Image

“Oppenheimer” shifts between awe-inspiring wide shots of New Mexico’s landscape and claustrophobic close-ups of characters. We understand the turmoil bubbling inside the scientist due to an unnerving score and spontaneous bursts of explosive sounds that keep us on edge. In one key scene, after the U.S. drops the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer must give a speech to a cheering public. The scene is a masterclass in making Oppenheimer’s internal torture a visceral experience. It shows that nuclear explosions are horrific, yet so is a patriotic mob.

Editing that Turns “Oppenheimer” into a Puzzle

In true Christopher Nolan fashion, the story told in “Oppenheimer” is non-linear, dense, and rewards multiple rewatches. Nolan trusts his audience to make connections in the quick split-seconds of a scene. Having a story that shows Oppenheimer’s “past, present, and future” while being split into multiple investigations and hearings signals to the viewer that Oppenheimer’s creation of weapons of mass destruction is just one facet of the story; how men in power see this weapon is even more crucial.

A Powerful Portrayal of Oppenheimer’s Moral Complexity 

Did Oppenheimer believe what he was doing was good? Was he remorseful for his actions, or did he enjoy the power? Would he do it all again? The questions posed in the film invite discussion from the audience after the film. The movie makes a case for all perspectives and captures Oppenheimer’s flawed genius and changing beliefs.

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On The Fence

The Atomic Bomb Gets the Hollywood Treatment

There is something silly yet disturbing about seeing this historical, renowned scientist against a backdrop of flames. Leave it to Nolan to turn a scientist into a superhero figure and sell out IMAX theaters so audiences can fully experience the beautiful horror of a bomb. But like many movies about genocide, something is unsettling about re-creating the drama of an atrocious act and marketing it as a theatrical experience. One can argue that it’s not about the bomb but about the person who created it. Oppenheimer may have been the most important figure of the last century. But the amount of celebrity cameos (Casey Affleck, Gary Oldman, Rami Malek) in the film, knowing people come to see how Nolan pulled off his own “atomic bomb,” and the media pointing out Nolan’s own daughter is in a particularly disturbing scene in the movie, all distract from the drama and historical weight of the story “Oppenheimer” is trying to tell.

The Density of Characters, Names, and Events Make Many 1-Dimensional Characters

From “Inception” to “Tenet,” most characters in Nolan’s films serve as exposition for ideas or events. That’s no different in “Oppenheimer.” One character asks a question, and the other has the answer. While there is drama and power battles within the core cast, everyone else’s role simply says how great Oppenheimer is or how terrible the bomb may be. One of the disappointing appearances is that of Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock, a communist and love interest of Oppenheimer. Her 10 minutes of screen time are either naked or sad, which feels at this point like an unfortunate cliche.

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Dunkirk
  2. The Bomb (documentary)
  3. The Wind that Shakes the Barley

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

oppenheimer
Oppenheimer (2023) – Review and Summary
Overall
"Oppenheimer" has been marketed as a must-see event in an IMAX theater. The creation of this film and its technical achievements have been buzzed about more than the film's subject. "Oppenheimer" is an absolute achievement in filmmaking, yet it's the behind-the-scenes story that can distract from the film.
Community Rating0 Votes
0
Highlights
A Masterful Achievement in Sound and Image
Editing that Turns "Oppenheimer" into a Puzzle
A Powerful Portrayal of Oppenheimer’s Moral Complexity 
Disputable
The Atomic Bomb Gets the Hollywood Treatment
The Density of Characters, Names, and Events Make Many 1-Dimensional Characters
83

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