Updated: Nov 8
Oppenheimer directed by Christopher Nolan was one of the most anticipated films of 2023. While also being marketed at the same time as Barbie, Oppenheimer was all everyone could talk about. To my surprise, when the movie was released, it was as if no one really had anything to say. The loud buzz surrounding the film's release simmered to a mere whisper and the media's focus was solely on Barbie. The existential meaning behind the film silenced viewers into self-reflection of our country, or maybe people simply did not understand it…
When I watched the film, I was taken back by the heaviness it had brought. For days after the film, I could not stop depicting the way Christopher Nolan decided to film the movie. What I found most unsettling was the director's choice to have the black and white scenes not portraying something that had happened in the past but rather the other way around. This was a conscious choice for sure, but I do not think it was the right one. While the film's purpose was to clearly represent J. Robert Oppenheimer and his life story, I felt it strayed from telling his story in an impactful way. Some scenes and long drawn interactions were placed inappropriately due to the director's choice, in my opinion, to “show off”. It makes me wonder if the studio had any say in the final cut at all, or if Chrisopher Nolan had the final say.
As for specifics I know we can all remember the awkward unnecessary scene which includes actress Florence Pugh who plays Jean Tatlock, a former lover of J. Robert Oppenheimer. If you planned to bring your family to see Oppenheimer, good luck to you. The scene in which I reference consists of actors Florence Pugh and Cillian Murphy engaging in sexual actions in a conference room full of people who are interrogating Cillian Murphy's character, J. Robert Oppenheimer. While the scene represented the imagination of the character J. Robert Oppenheimer, it was an unnecessary flair for the dramatic and added no extra substance to the film.
As for the entertaining parts of the film, there seemed to be a lack thereof. While yes, the film was to portray a man's life and not tell us a made-up tale, the job of keeping the full engagement of the viewers did not seem to happen. The mere 25 minutes of the film where the characters were testing the atomic bomb was probably the only part in which I saw my whole theater engaged at the same time. As for the entertainment industry, it was kind of sad.
The best part about the way this movie was filmed was how powerful the conversation between J. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein was, and how the scene was brought full circle. To those I have spoken to about this film, they have all agreed. Highlighting the struggles J. Robert Oppenheimer had to deal with internally, knowing what he had created was very impactful. Placing clips of this interaction at the beginning of the film only to make the viewer wait until the end to find out what the characters had said was highly intelligent. Perhaps this was to display how important and impactful their conversation was, or maybe it was just a tactic to make us viewers endure the whole film.
Isabelle Babcock regularly reviews movies and television shows on her own site. For more of her work, visit https://ibabcock.wixsite.com/the-reel-review.