‘Oppenheimer’ Review: A Man for Our Time (2024)



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Critic’s Pick

Christopher Nolan’s complex, vivid portrait of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” is a brilliant achievement in formal and conceptual terms.




‘Oppenheimer’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The writer and director Christopher Nolan narrates the opening sequence from the film, starring Cillian Murphy.

Hi, I’m Christopher Nolan director, writer, and co-producer of “Oppenheimer.” Opening with the raindrops on the water came late to myself and Jen Lane in the edit suite. But ultimately, it became a motif that runs the whole way through the film. Became very important. These opening images of the detonation at Trinity are based on the real footage. Andrew Jackson, our visual effects supervisor, put them together using analog methods to try and reproduce the incredible frame rates that their technology allowed at the time, superior to what we have today. Adapting Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s book “American Prometheus,” I fully embraced the Prometheun theme, but ultimately chose to change the title to “Oppenheimer” to give a more direct idea of what the film was going to be about and whose point of view we’re seeing. And here we have Cillian Murphy with an IMAX camera inches from his nose. Hoyte van Hoytema was incredible. IMAX camera revealing everything. And I think, to some degree, applying the pressure to Cillian as Oppenheimer that this hearing was applying. “Yes, your honor.” “We’re not judges, Doctor.” “Oh.” And behind him, out of focus, the great Emily Blunt who’s going to become so important to the film as Kitty Oppenheimer, who gradually comes more into focus over the course of the first reel. We divided the two timelines into fission and fusion, the two different approaches to releasing nuclear energy in this devastating form to try and suggest to the audience the two different timelines. And then embraced black-and-white shooting here. Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss being shot on IMAX black-and-white film. The first time anyone’s ever shot that film. Made especially for us. And he’s here talking to Alden Ehrenreich who is absolutely indicative of the incredible ensemble that our casting director John Papsidera put together. Robert Downey Jr. utterly transformed, I think, not just in terms of appearance, but also in terms of approach to character, stripping away years of very well-developed charisma to just try and inhabit the skin of a somewhat awkward, sometimes venal, but also charismatic individual, and losing himself in this utterly. And then as we come up to this door, we go into the Senate hearing rooms. And we try to give that as much visibility, grandeur, and glamour to contrast with the security hearing that’s so claustrophobic. And takes Oppenheimer completely out of the limelight. [CROWD SHOUTING]

‘Oppenheimer’ Review: A Man for Our Time (1)

By Manohla Dargis


NYT Critic’s Pick
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Biography, Drama, History
3 hours

“Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan’s staggering film about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man known as “the father of the atomic bomb,” condenses a titanic shift in consciousness into three haunted hours. A drama about genius, hubris and error, both individual and collective, it brilliantly charts the turbulent life of the American theoretical physicist who helped research and develop the two atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II — cataclysms that helped usher in our human-dominated age.

The movie is based on “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” the authoritative 2005 biography by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. Written and directed by Nolan, the film borrows liberally from the book as it surveys Oppenheimer’s life, including his role in the Manhattan Engineer District, better known as the Manhattan Project. He served as director of a clandestine weapons lab built in a near-desolate stretch of Los Alamos, in New Mexico, where he and many other of the era’s most dazzling scientific minds puzzled through how to harness nuclear reactions for the weapons that killed tens of thousands instantly, ending the war in the Pacific.

The atomic bomb and what it wrought define Oppenheimer’s legacy and also shape this film. Nolan goes deep and long on the building of the bomb, a fascinating and appalling process, but he doesn’t restage the attacks; there are no documentary images of the dead or panoramas of cities in ashes, decisions that read as his ethical absolutes. The horror of the bombings, the magnitude of the suffering they caused and the arms race that followed suffuse the film. “Oppenheimer” is a great achievement in formal and conceptual terms, and fully absorbing, but Nolan’s filmmaking is, crucially, in service to the history that it relates.

The story tracks Oppenheimer — played with feverish intensity by Cillian Murphy — across decades, starting in the 1920s with him as a young adult and continuing until his hair grays. The film touches on personal and professional milestones, including his work on the bomb, the controversies that dogged him, the anti-Communist attacks that nearly ruined him, as well as the friendships and romances that helped sustain yet also troubled him. He has an affair with a political firebrand named Jean Tatlock (a vibrant Florence Pugh), and later weds a seductive boozer, Kitty Harrison (Emily Blunt, in a slow-building turn), who accompanies him to Los Alamos, where she gives birth to their second child.


‘Oppenheimer’ Review: A Man for Our Time (2)

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‘Oppenheimer’ Review: A Man for Our Time (2024)


What did Oppenheimer actually say? ›

J. Robert Oppenheimer once declared himself — or, possibly, the power of the atom bomb he had unleashed — "Death, the destroyer of worlds." The title is bleak but fitting. "Uh, yeah. That's right," Alan Robock, a climatologist who is a leading expert on nuclear winter, told Business Insider.

What were the last words of Oppenheimer? ›

Oppenheimer" Last Words, "I believe we did" : r/OppenheimerMovie.

Is Oppenheimer 18+? ›

The R rating for Oppenheimer was earned through heavy themes, sex scenes, nudity, and mature language throughout the movie.

How accurate is Oppenheimer movie? ›

Heavily based on "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer" by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin, the movie stays pretty faithful to the man's eventful, unusual life. But that doesn't mean there aren't some exaggerations or inconsistencies.

What was Oppenheimer's IQ? ›

Summary. Oppenheimer's IQ of 135 places him in the 99th percentile of intelligence, while Einstein's estimated IQ is 160, in the genius category. The IQ test oversimplifies intelligence, missing out on factors like creativity and emotional intelligence pivotal for Oppenheimer and Einstein.

What did Einstein say about Oppenheimer? ›

At the Institute for advanced study, Einstein acquired profound respect for Oppenheimer on his administration skills, and described him as an “unusually capable man of many sided education”.

What happened to Oppenheimer's wife? ›

Following the death of her husband, Kitty decided to move-in with long-time family friend Robert Serber, and the two planned a round-the-world sailing trip in 1972. However, shortly after embarking in October of that year, Kitty became seriously ill and passed away in Panama City, Panama due to a pulmonary embolism.

What did Albert Einstein say before he died? ›

April 18, 1955—Albert Einstein dies soon after a blood vessel bursts near his heart. When asked if he wanted to undergo surgery, Einstein refused, saying, "I want to go when I want to go. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share; it is time to go.

Why was Oppenheimer so skinny? ›

He pointed out that the scientist had a slim frame due to his diet, which meant losing weight. "I had to lose quite a bit of weight, and we worked with the costume and tailoring," he said. "He was very slim, almost emaciated, existed on martinis and cigarettes."

How many children did Oppenheimer have? ›

Oppenheimer and Puening had two children: a son, Peter, and a daughter, Toni. Here's everything you need to know about Oppenheimer's two children and what has happened in the 56 years since their father's death.

How many F words are in Oppenheimer? ›

For the most part "Oppenheimer" has about as much language as many of Nolan's other films, like "Inception" or the "Dark Knight" saga. Where it differs is about eight to 10 F-words sprinkled throughout the movie. They do not come all at once, and they are not constant.

What religion is Oppenheimer? ›

The Oppenheimers were a non-observant Jewish family and sent young Oppenheimer to the Ethical Culture School founded on principles of rationalism and progressive secular humanism. As an adult, Oppenheimer said “my life as a child did not prepare me for the fact that the world is full of cruel and bitter things.”

Who was the traitor in Oppenheimer? ›

In Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer, a fair amount is made of Klaus Fuchs, the German theoretical physicist who passed secrets from Los Alamos to the Soviet Union. But nowhere in this substantive blockbuster do we hear about Theodore Hall.

Why was JFK mentioned in Oppenheimer? ›

JFK Played A Small Role In Lewis Strauss' Failed Senate Appointment. In Oppenheimer, Lewis Strauss' behavior towards the titular Manhattan Project scientist cost him the job of Secretary of Commerce. Rami Malek's David Hill knew about Strauss' betrayal of Dr.

What happened to Robert Oppenheimer's son Peter? ›

When his father died in 1967, Peter moved back to the Perro Caliente ranch in New Mexico that Robert owned, and still lives there at the age of 81. He's worked as a carpenter over the years, and has three children.

Did Oppenheimer actually quote the Bhagavad Gita? ›

Robert Oppenheimer while looking at the erupting fireball from the atomic bomb explosion in Los Alamos, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945: “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” These words are a a paraphrase of Bhagavad Gita 11:32 where Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu – whom many Hindus think of as the supreme ...

Did Truman really call Oppenheimer a crybaby? ›

Truman did call Oppenheimer a 'crybaby scientist' but not directly or during the depicted event. Events in Oppenheimer film differed slightly from historical reality, adding drama to the scene. Nolan clarified Truman's remark as a response to Oppenheimer expressing guilt post-atomic bombings.

What did Oppenheimer say to his brother? ›

"I am learning Sanskrit," the scientist wrote to his brother Frank, "enjoying it very much and enjoying again the sweet luxury of being taught". Many of his friends found his new obsession with an Indian language odd, Oppenheimer's biographers noted.

What is the best dialogue of Oppenheimer? ›

2 “Now I Am Become Death, The Destroyer Of Worlds.”

The most iconic line from Oppenheimer is a quotation from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Vita that Oppenheimer recites to allude to his role as essentially Death itself.

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