Ten Things I Think After Watching Oppenheimer
Ten spoiler free things Andrew Donaldson thought on watching the latest Christopher Nolan film, Oppenheimer.
 Oppenheimer is a profound film.
I use profound on purpose as opposed to good or bad. It is a film I’m going to take time and think about. One person I was with thought it was the greatest film they had ever seen; another I was with was bored with it. There is a lot here, not just in run time, but in density, with Nolan’s time-jumping and the weight of the subject matter not just adding layers but creating compressive force to the proceedings. I really liked it, loved it really, and Oppenheimer is going to be on the short list of movies I watch multiple times because I want to dig through the layers here. Even the folks I saw it with that found it boring and long knew they were watching something very different. Christopher Nolan has really accomplished something special with this film.
 Oppenheimer is perfectly cast.
There are going to be award nominations galore here. Everyone is good. Robert Downey, Jr. will finally be able to remind folks he’s far more than just Tony Stark but everyone on the screen looks like they belong, no small feat with this many named actors sometimes only getting passing roles that pop up for moments of significance. Matt Damon is right on the fame precipice of playing “Matt Damon” in whatever role he is in, but balances enough Leslie Groves — a man who deserves his own biopic treatment one of these days — in here to make it work. Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman are so good they are almost unrecognizable, and it is nice to see Josh Hartnett and others getting key roles. The cast is so good you forget the great Rami Malek is in this movie at all until Nolan calls him out of the bullpen to close the narrative towards the end. Florence Pugh especially stands out, having to balance being the most emotionally interesting of the non-J. Robert characters while also being undressed nearly as much as she is dressed. Folks will debate this point, but to me not only is the exposure of her character not gratuitous, but it is one of the Nolan-esque tricks of storytelling that has the most visceral impact on the viewer, even more so than when Trinity really does change the world. Blunt and Pugh cut through a heavily male movie to great effect, and Nolan not only showcased what the actresses can do but used their characters like landmines to blow up any chance of hagiography in the complicated Oppenheimer story.
 Oppenheimer is visually amazing.
Nolan has his “dream” sequences and effects scenes galore, including the perfectly done “big bang” that is at the heart of the matter, but with just the right amount of accentuation without becoming overbearing or distracting as he sometimes has a habit of doing. For all the praise of Nolan pushing boundaries with films like Tenet, the use of landscapes in Oppenheimer shows the director’s total mastery of cinematography. New Mexico’s windy deserts, crowded government meetings, the halls of academia, and the period design of the film are all characters as much as the actors. Nolan eschewed CGI here for mostly practical shooting and it benefits the film. Historical films have to get the “feel” of the period right to tell the story, and the production here is lush and full and brilliantly executed.
 For all Oppenheimer‘s greatness, there are flaws.
Oppenheimer goes all in on being epic, and mostly gets there. The film is so good in most areas, the flaws stand out. There is one line of dialogue juxtaposed to a rather intimate moment between Murphy and Pugh’s characters centered around the first utterance of Oppenheimer’s famous quote foreshadowing when the bomb does go off, that brought an audible groan from the audience and eye rolling from me. The underlying relationship between Murphy’s Oppenheimer and Downey’s Strauss needed more on the front end to really lay in the delivery of the latter part of the film. Using black and white for some of the time jumping, but color for others, then not using it, while no doubt intended as emphasis seemed heavy handed and confusing.
 The music in Oppenheimer, however, is overbearing.
The score just doesn’t work. A three-hour movie with two and a half hours’ worth of music, most of the score is bothersome thudding noise, which is remarkable since there is almost no percussion used in composer Ludwig Göransson’s score outside of foot stomps and some explosions. Somehow the string-heavy score does more droning than soaring. Anecdotal, but one of my children was at the Barbie movie with friends and reported you could not only hear but feel the Oppenheimer score coming through the walls. It’s that insistent, and it hurts rather than helps this film.
 Got to be honest, Oppenheimer is too long.
As much as I enjoyed Oppenheimer, it was just too long. Nolan could easily get 15-20 minutes out of this film without changing much of the plot. Nolan is at the point of his career where he can do what he wants, but some extra guardrails and editing would have helped here.
 Despite the visuals and cast, some of the characters don’t connect.
The acting is good, the visuals are good, the writing is coherent, but something with the character development outside of Oppenheimer himself is just ever so slightly off. It took me a bit, but the time jumps are part of the problem here. Instead of weaving the story together as they can do, and as Nolan has done in other films, with this subject matter it felt more like smash cuts for emphasis than a flowing story with layers to it.
 Oppenheimer stays on the right side of the “challenge morals without moralizing” line.
Using two atomic bombs on Japan is something that humanity will not only always debate but should always debate and wrestle with. The film did a good job covering all the bases and arguments that went into the decision and not only the morals and strategy involved, but how personalities and fears both known and unknown played into it. Lending as much gravity as possible to something so momentous that resulted in so many deaths without getting preachy about is not easy, but Oppenheimer managed it.
 Cillian Murphy deserves all the praise he’ll be getting.
As mentioned, Downey might have stolen the whole movie, Blunt as Oppenheimer’s longsuffering wife smolders until she sizzles towards the end of the film, Pugh seers through the screen as a troubled lover, and the cast is stacked top to bottom. But it all revolves around Cillian Murphy’s embodiment of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Playing a troubled, complicated, highly flawed, but legendary figure like Oppenheimer is usually an actor’s ticket to awards season, and Murphy will be a contender for all the best acting awards. Justly so. It is easy to suspend disbelief in places that you strain towards the screen in your seat just a little really wondering what being present while Einstein and Oppenheimer shooting the breeze overlooking a pond would be like. Are they trying to save the world or just talking about the weather? Mostly, the task of “carrying the weight of the world” might be the most overused plot device in human history, but Oppenheimer is one of the humans in history who really did it. The fame and suffering, notoriety and infamy that comes with it comes across in Murphy’s performance.
 Oppenheimer is the kind of movie that needs to be praised, even with some issues.
In a time when folks are begging Hollywood to make something, anything, original and interesting, the bold decisions that made Oppenheimer should be lauded, even when some of those decisions didn’t work out fully. Oppenheimer is a movie that folks will have opinions on because it is A LOT to digest even with a three-hour runtime. I’m going to really pay attention to a few things when I watch it again and see if, and how, any of my opinion changes. Again, Oppenheimer is a profound movie, and beyond whether it was good or bad – and I think it was very good – it made me think more than any other film has in a long, long time. I don’t like the movie theater, and one of my older children who was with me actually reached over a few times to make sure I was still good with the environment of Oppenheimer‘s bombast and might. But I was. There are only so many directors like Nolan that can get the leash to do something ambitious like this film, so saying all movies should be like this is ridiculous. But it cuts through the onslaught of sequels, remakes, CGI sensory assaults, and just plain bad movies that are foisted upon the viewing public at ever increasing prices just to get the rare movie that is worth it. It can be done, if there is a will to get it done, and leadership to herd the proper cats into proper places to get it done. Nolan did that here, and for that Oppenheimer will be a movie talked about for a long, long time.