The life of New York-born Jewish theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer is explored in this breathtaking biopic from The Prestige and Inception director Christopher Nolan. The film is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin about the theoretical physicist who Time Magazine nicknamed the “father of the atom bomb”.
After being recruited to work on producing a new weapon against Hitler’s Nazi army at the tail end of WW2, J Robert Oppenheimer (played by Irish actor Cillian Murphy) finds himself caught in a whirlwind of doubt and guilt as he weighs up the consequences of his new invention. Caught between the love of two women - his wife Kitty is played by Emily Blunt, while his troubled communist lover Jean is gorgeously depicted by Florence Pugh - Robert is also seduced by extreme left-wing ideas without ever committing himself to be a member of the American Communist party.
Oppenheimer’s life starts to unravel after the war when two atom bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing and maiming thousands of innocent civilians. Now questioning the need for further research in weapons of mass destruction, Robert becomes persona non grata in Washington and is later questioned for his "unpatriotic" political views.
This is Nolan’s most ambitious and best film to date and, if I’m really being honest, I doubt very much that we are likely to see a better film being released in 2023. There is depth to Nolan’s direction and vision for this biopic that feels like a love letter to cinema in its purest form.
Bolstered by a suitably ominous score by Tenet and Black Panther composer Ludwig Göransson and by Hoyte Van Hoytema’s glorious cinematography, Oppenheimer marks a spectacular achievement for cinema. In it, Nolan pushes every single boundary there is, without the use of a single CGI rendered shot. It is simply stunning to look at and is likely to leave anyone in awe of its achievements.
With a cast made up of some of the brightest and most accomplished actors working in Hollywood right now, the film could have easily turned into a cameo-laden extravaganza. Instead, Nolan is able to justify each and every single casting, even the most surprising ones. Murphy is surely a shoo-in for a best actor nod at the Oscars next year, as is Robert Downey Jr whose depiction of former American politician Lewis Strauss is just beyond impeccable and is sure to translate into a best supporting actor nomination.
This is truly the best film of the year and Nolan’s best work to date. I cannot wait to see it again and again and again.
Directed by Christopher Nolan
(if I could have given it 6 stars, I would have)