Daily Archives: December 29, 2023


I finally got around to watching Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. If you’d like to read a traditional review of the film, there are 484 of them on Rotten Tomatoes, and 442 on IMDB (probably some overlap between the two sites).

I’m not going to do a traditional review. Instead, here are some of my thoughts about the film:




Nolan’s biopic is ostensibly the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the enigmatic, scientific genius dubbed the “Father of the Atom Bomb.” But with apologies to Jordan Peele, I think Oppenheimer might have more accurately been titled Us. It’s about much more than a single man.

I was born long after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so I’ve lived my entire life under the shadow of potential nuclear war, the specter of global annihilation. I presume that you have, too. It makes me wonder if the Japanese bombings fundamentally changed the psychology of the human race.

Did people born pre-1945 have a completely different outlook than those of us born later? If so, how does that manifest itself today? According to the movie, Oppenheimer himself was haunted by his creation. Shouldn’t we be, too?



I’m no scientist nor a historian, so I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy of this movie. But as a dramatization, it is gripping and, for such a lengthy (three hours) production, moves at lightning speed.

It’s very talky. In that respect, it reminded me a bit of The West Wing. As in Aaron Sorkin’s TV series, I got lost trying to keep up with the incessant talk about subjects with which I was unfamiliar. In West Wing, that was often government policy; in Oppenheimer, it’s fission, fusion, isotopes — and the political climate of the 1940s- ‘50s. But there’s something mesmerizing about watching smart people discuss difficult subjects, whether we are well-versed in those subjects, or not.



There’s been a lot of praise for Robert Downey Jr., who as politician Lewis Strauss returns to “serious cinema.” From some Web-site articles, you might suspect that Downey had been kidnapped and held hostage in South America for the past ten years or so.

Uh, not really. He very happily grabbed lots of cash and turned his career into a series of comic-book movies.


Downey doing comic books




Oppenheimer makes me an even bigger fan of Cillian Murphy.

With his baby-face, I did not expect Murphy to completely own the role of a tough mobster in the TV show Peaky Blinders. But he excelled as Tommy Shelby. Ditto for Oppenheimer, in which Murphy nails the titular character. Baby face or not.


Baby-faced Tommy Shelby




I have never been a huge Nolan fan. I was underwhelmed by Inception and haven’t bothered to see his comic-book movies (about Batman). But this movie is clearly a triumph for him.

Nolan’s been criticized for making films that are “too much brain, too little heart.” I’m afraid that holds true in the final hour of this film, in which Oppenheimer comes under attack in the aftermath of the war and finds supporters in short supply. The last third of the movie should have been more powerful, like the two hours that precede it.


Release: 2023  Grade: A-


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