Like Oliver Stone’s JFK more than three decades ago, Christopher Nolan’s epic of the so-called “father of the atomic bomb” Oppenheimer (A) examines the public life and significant trials of a misunderstood man from history buoyed by clever cross-cutting and prestigious panache. It’s perhaps Nolan’s most conventional movie to date, and yet every beat of the film is wholly original and affecting. As the title character, Cillian Murphy is mesmerizing: he’s an iconoclast, to be sure, who is equally ill at ease contemplating the morality of inventing a volatile creation and negotiating fraught relationships with the men and women in his professional and private circles. Murphy’s murky portrayal is absorbing and sometimes a little funny for a character under the gun to apply his scientific know-how to a morally dubious cause. The shades of gray factor quite literally into the director’s use of shadows and film stock as the period detail of early 20th century colors transitions to monochrome from sequence to sequence. Nolan masterfully fills in the contours and mysteries of his antihero’s dilemma and wastes few shots in advancing the story forward while zig-zagging through time. The film is packed with strong supporting performances including brittle and boisterous characters played by Robert Downey Jr. and Emily Blunt, who each get to chew considerable scenery in the final act. The film examines the toll of nuclear and psychological annihilation on the individuals bearing an unmistakable and historic burden. For a film as talky as it is, it moves briskly with deepening impact through its ample running time. It’s a blistering portrait and tough subject with high-stakes dramatic choices made throughout. It’s that rare biopic that sucks viewers in from the first frame and transports its audience into the many layers of its story. The score by Ludwig Göransson is also a stunner. This is a modern classic showcasing Nolan and his team at the top of their game. See this impressive, immersive and entertaining work on the biggest screen possible.
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