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Author Topic: Oppenheimer Movie Review  (Read 10990 times)

Offline Jericoke

Oppenheimer Movie Review
« on: July 23, 2023, 07:13:08 PM »
Movie Review:  Oppenheimer

Iím finding it very difficult to properly discuss this movie.  It is literally unlike anything else I have ever experienced, in the best possible way.  In some ways it must feel like watching Star Wars or Jaws for the very first time, understanding that moviemaking/story telling has taken a leap forward, and that the medium has been changed forever.

Almost everything about this movie is perfect.  It is absolutely packed, to the point that the movie feels relentless, that there is too much story, too many characters, not enough time for anything to breathe.  Itís a three hour movie, but in the hands of a less skilled story teller, it would have been 7 or 8 hours, and still feel cramped.  Even though itís jam packed, it feels like there is a lot of Ďfatí in the story telling.  And then, all of a sudden, itís not Ďfatí.  Itís a well marbled story, layers upon layers swirling together to form something that is perfect in a way that you simply cannot imagine.

Discussing the movie, describing what makes it so special, but without Ďspoilingí it is difficult.  The movie is a drama, but to even say what it is aboutÖ that doesnít do the movie justice at all.  I expected a story about the Manhattan Project; personalities conflicting as the most important human endeavour in history unfolds.  It is that, but itís not what the movie is about.  Itís a biopic, learning that a man who has a place in history isnít perfect, that perhaps his imperfections are what makes him so great, but also a man that should be pitied, maybe shunned.  It is that, but itís not what the movie is about.  The rise of McCarthyism.  Americaís shameful antisemitism.  Intellectual theory vs pragmatic reality.  Generational passing the torch.  Political intrigue.  Love.  Cheating.  Loss. Responsibility.  A place in history.  Controlling oneís destiny.  The movie is all of that.  All of it.  And all if it done well.  But thatís not what the movie is about.  At all.

Itís not even about subverting expectations.  Itís not about a twist ending.  Itís more than that.  Itís a story told with a thousand threads, each thread as intricate and interesting as the others, and yet when theyíre pulled together, they create something new and beautiful.  Itís not unexpected.  Itís not unearned.  But itís there, on full display, and youíve never ever seen it before.

From a technical point of view, this movie is a drama.  Itís all about the acting, the writing and the editing.  There are special effects (it is a movie about atomic bombs), but theyíre not the centerpiece of the movie.  The effects are good, but mostly irrelevant.  The acting is absolutely top notch.  Even though the movie is full of famous faces, weíre not watching Matt Damon, or Cillian Murphy or Robert Downey Jr.  We are watching their characters (and it took me several scenes to even realize that Downey was in fact who I was looking at!  If he isnít given an Academy Award for this, then there is another absolutely amazing performance waiting in the wings somewhere).  They always feel on character, even as we learn more and more about them as the story moves along.  The writing helps tremendously.  Everything is earned, every decision, every quip, every smirk.  Nothing is on screen by accident, and all of it is the perfect synthesis of acting/writing/editing.  Iíve discussed before how movie making is collaborative, but this is beyond collaboration.  This is Christopher Nolanís force of will; a director using all of their power to turn their imagination into reality.

There isnít even a point in singling out a performance as leading the movie.  Obviously Cillian Murphyís Oppenheimer is the central character, driving everything, and he does it as he should.  Every single other actor/character is note perfect, giving Murphy a world to exist in.  Without that, his performance would easily fall flat or fly over the top. 

The core of the movie, the core of any good story, is the philosophy.  What is the message of the movie?  What is it youíre supposed to think about?  Thatís where ĎOppenheimerí truly shines.  There is no central message.  It really is all over the place.  Usually when a movie isnít telling a single story, it feels incoherent, stuffed, meandering.  Instead we have it all taking centre stage.  A three ring circus where the elephants, jugglers, lions, bikes in a cage, wheel of death are all going on at once, in the same ring, perfectly interwoven.  We arenít even led to any conclusions.  There is no message.  There is nothing youíll come out of the movie thinking Ďaha, NOW I understand the universeí.  And yet, you still come out fulfilled.  Every angle, every thought, every question remains with you, but not unobserved, not unanswered, not un noted.

I wish I could discuss why things that sound like criticism of the movie are actually its strength.  I wish I could discuss how story telling has changed forever, that post ĎOppenheimerí a lot of movies are going to take big swings and fail hard because no one can understand how Nolan made it work.  Like Star Wars, it can only be done once, anything else is imitation.  Some will be good, most will be bad, but nothing will change.

In terms of genuine criticism, if I had to pick a weak point of the movie, it would be the music.  The music wasnít bad.  Itís like saying a particular bite of chocolate cake isnít as good as another bite of the same cake.  Maybe the one bite has a little less frosting if you have to pick a problem.  The music certainly fits the movie well enough.  I just felt that it was a little distracting at times, that it wasnít as propulsive or atmospheric as it could have been.  On the other hand, that may be part of the experience.  So much of the movie is discordant without tearing itself apart, maybe thatís what the music is supposed to do too.  That sense of conflict and unease.  I donít know, maybe Iíll reserve judgement on the music until I see the movie again (and I will see the movie again!)

On a parental note:  the movie is rated ĎRí.  There are some nudity and sex scenes.  No violence (though there are dream like sequences of people being bombed).  The ĎRí rating really relates to the subject matter.  Weighing the fate of humanity is very heavy and deep.  Seeing this movie when youíre not ready for it, without emotional maturity and some life experience, you simply will not be able to comprehend theÖ Iím running out of superlatives hereÖ majesty that Christopher Nolan has gifted the world.

ĎOppenheimerí does require complete attention to enjoy.  However Nolan is a skilled enough filmmaker that he grabs your attention.  The pacing is relentless, a choice to parallel the type of human being that Oppenheimer was.  It can feel overwhelming at times, but it really is worth it.  It really does come together in a way that no other movie has.

We did not see the movie in IMAX, there is no IMAX theatre in London.  A lot has been made about the movie being shot in IMAX for IMAX.  I donít know about that.  Maybe the difficulties of shooting/projecting in IMAX helped shape the movie for the good.  I donít feel like seeing it on the small screen will take anything away, but weíll see when I do.

But in no uncertain terms, this movie must be seen, and seen before what makes it so special enters the general discussion, and you lose the opportunity to experience it Ďfreshí.

Offline cosworth151

Re: Oppenheimer Movie Review
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2023, 04:28:45 PM »
Thanks for the review, Jeri! I've been waiting for this one since I first heard about it.
ďYou can search the world over for the finer things, but you won't find a match for the American road and the creatures that live on it.Ē
― Bob Dylan


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