Monday, September 18, 2023

Oppenheimer: The Center Does Not Hold

Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer.

Christopher Nolan makes his bid for movie posterity with Oppenheimer. His three-hour biographical epic of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist known as the father of the atomic bomb, is culled from a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, American Prometheus, by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin, and transpires over more than three decades (from the mid-1920s through the late 1950s). Many of the roles, both major and ancillary, are taken by familiar, talented actors, and the film, shot by Hoyte Van Hoytema, who has lit all of Nolan’s films since Interstellar, is beautiful to look at. Oppenheimer is a serious effort but not, I have to say, a very good picture, though it contains one section, focusing on Trinity, the first detonation of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1945 – the culmination of the research conducted by the Manhattan Project under Oppenheimer’s direction – that belongs in a good picture: it’s taut, gripping and suspenseful.