Ben Oliver

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Oppenheimer

They won’t fear it until they understand it. And they won’t understand it until they’ve used it.
14 January 2024

Cillian Murphy stars in this biopic about the director of the Los Alamos secret laboratory, part of the Manhattan Project which led to the invention and deployment of the atom bomb.

There’s always some excitement around a new Christopher Nolan film but I was surprised at the hype around this one, a film that was likely to be long, dry and dour simply due to the nature of its subject. Perhaps in part due to its pairing with Barbie it was a summer hit, but you have to wonder what audiences really made of it.

It’s hard not to be wowed by Nolan’s mastery of film as a pure technician. All of his recent work is extremely glossy and expensive, and combines every aspect of filmmaking to deliver something worthy of your cinema ticket. He’s got a knack for big bombastic scenes and here translates that skill into courtroom drama. Stuff that should be dry in his hands is as riveting as an action film.

But, much like action films, it’s easy to tire of them and Oppenheimer frankly wore me out. It’s a complex character study, and it’s fucking long, but it still never felt like everything was given its time in the spotlight. And yet in other parts it started to feel like the Wikipedia article recounted word for word.

That’s all I can complain about though. The biopic as a genre is laden with cliches and tends to lean on the same formula time and time again, but not so here and that has to be applauded.