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Wick's Review

Created Aug 08, 2023 08:48AM PST • Edited Sep 27, 2023 07:44PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    J. Robert Oppenheimer is an American hero, flawed like most, resolute when it mattered. The Father of the Atomic Bomb saved countless US Marines, sailors and airmen when his work forced Imperial Japan to surrender short of an amphibious attack on Tokyo. (That would have made Iwo Jima look like a tea party.) His epochal military accomplishment makes Oppenheimer a key figure in world history, with a gigantic life story that includes Einstein, Truman, LBJ and more famous physicists than you can count on five hands.

    Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer is largely up to the freighted task of vivifying this complex and epochal story. The movie’s one-sided presentation of the ethics of the Bomb somewhat lessens the power of Nolan’s latest magnum opus. Yet, Oppenheimer is an important movie when those had long since seemed extinct.

    Through three well-paced hours, Oppenheimer casts a knowing eye on Lefty politics, a fraternity of geniuses, nuclear physics, sexy promiscuity, and national security during World War II and the early Cold War. Plus there’s more, including alcoholism and anti-Semitism. This is compelling history turned up to 11.

    Spanning the 1930s, 40s, 50s and even a flash of the 60s, Nolan weaves his story sinuously back and forth in time, while also introducing dozens of characters, many in little more than cameos. That often makes it hard to follow, even when familiar with this period of American history and its roster of Great Physicists.

    Speaking of which, the Great Physicists comprise over two dozen of those characters. Starting with Oppenheimer himself, the movie features Edward Teller, Ernest Lawrence of Lawrence Livermore Lab fame, Niels Bohr, Vannevar Bush, Richard Feynman, Enrico Fermi, Werner Heisenberg and Kurt Gödel, not to mention the godfather of them all, the OG’s OG – Albert Einstein. The immortal Einstein has a significant role in the movie, a depiction that made me love him all the more. (More than infinity?)

    The movie’s notable leftward slant fetishizes Japanese casualties of the Bomb while essentially ignoring American casualties of the cataclysmic Pacific War. Indeed, concurrent with the Manhattan Project, the Marines fought the most horrific warfare in the history of warfare on Okinawa, Iwo Jima and more, while the U.S. Navy waged monumental warfare at the battles of Midway, Guadalcanal and more. And yet, the Bomb’s life-saving benefit for those fellow Americans is only elliptically mentioned in Nolan’s movie.

    Harry Truman said it best, as he often did. “Don’t let that crybaby back in here”, this after Oppenheimer visited with him and the Secretary of War in the Oval Office. Oppy took the opportunity to opine that we should share The Bomb with Stalin, still our putative ally immediately following the Allies’ WWII victory.

    “Don’t let that crybaby back in here”, said the President as Oppenheimer was led out. Truman was right and yet this neurotic New Yorker came through for America when only he could. He deserves his great acclaim.

  3. Great 4.0

    The huge cast of big-name actors play almost 50 roles of real-life people who have Wikipedia pages dedicated to them, many Nobel Prize winners included. The performances are great across the board, with leading-man Cillian Murphy killing it as Oppenheimer.

    Phamous Physicists

    1. Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer: Tremendous performance by a Nolan favorite.
    2. Josh Hartnett as Ernest Lawrence
    3. Rami Malek as David L. Hill
    4. Kenneth Branagh as Niels Bohr
    5. Benny Safdie as Edward Teller
    6. Dylan Arnold as Frank Oppenheimer
    7. Tom Conti as Albert Einstein
    8. David Krumholtz as Isidor Isaac Rabi
    9. Matthew Modine as Vannevar Bush
    10. Gustaf Skarsgård as Hans Bethe
    11. Michael Angarano as Robert Serber
    12. Jack Quaid as Richard Feynman
    13. Christopher Denham as Klaus Fuchs
    14. Danny Deferrari as Enrico Fermi
    15. Máté Haumann as Leo Szilard
    16. Matthias Schweighöfer as Werner Heisenberg
    17. James Urbaniak as Kurt Gödel
    18. James D’Arcy as Patrick Blackett
    19. David Dastmalchian as William L. Borden
    20. Josh Peck as Kenneth Bainbridge
    21. Olivia Thirlby as Lilli Hornig
    22. David Rysdahl as Donald Hornig
    23. Harrison Gilbertson as Philip Morrison
    24. Trond Fausa Aurvåg as George Kistiakowsky
    25. Olli Haaskivi as Edward Condon
    26. Devon Bostick as Seth Neddermeyer
    27. Rory Keane as Hartland Snyder

    Friends, Family & Lovers

    • Emily Blunt as Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer
    • Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock: She plays the unstable girlfriend very well.
    • Kurt Koehler as Thomas A. Morgan
    • Josh Zuckerman as Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz
    • Alex Wolff as Luis Walter Alvarez
    • Guy Burnet as George Eltenton
    • Emma Dumont as Jackie Oppenheimer
    • Jefferson Hall as Haakon Chevalier
    • Louise Lombard as Ruth Tolman

    Military-Industrial Complex

    • Matt Damon as Gen. Leslie Groves: The estimable Damon underwhelms as the general who ran the Manhattan Project.
    • Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss: The great Downey is also somewhat underwhelming as the Establishment figure who was integral to Oppenheimer’s post Manhattan Project career.
    • Casey Affleck as Boris Pash
    • Jason Clarke as Roger Robb
    • Alden Ehrenreich as a Senate aide to Lewis Strauss
    • Tony Goldwyn as Gordon Gray
    • Dane DeHaan as Maj Gen. Kenneth Nichols
    • Macon Blair as Lloyd K. Garrison
    • Gary Oldman as Harry S. Truman
    • Hap Lawrence as Lyndon B. Johnson
    • Harry Groener as Sen. Gale W. McGee
    • Gregory Jbara as Chairman Warren Magnuson
    • Tim DeKay as Sen. John Pastore
    • James Remar as Secretary of War Henry Stimson
  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Very Good 3.5
  6. Female Costars Very Good 3.5
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Oppenheimer is a monumentally accomplished film by the great auteur Christopher Nolan: every line freighted, with scenes routinely recalled and then redounding in surprising and often confounding ways.

    Not great is that the film is morally manipulative, even ethically infantile. It pities only the civilian victims of the Bomb, not the much greater number of Japanese civilians killed by non-nuclear bombing, nor, especially, the vast number of Americans and Allies fighting and dying in the Pacific War.

    That said, where does it rank in the Nolan oeuvre? Just below Inception.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5
  10. Play Great 4.0
  11. Music Really Great 4.5
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.5
  15. Sex Erotic 2.8
  16. Violence Brutal 2.6
  17. Rudeness Salty 2.0
  18. Glib 1.2

    So much reality to comment on, just not now.

    However, here is a relevant observation from my review of Hacksaw Ridge: Okinawa made the atomic bomb a reasonable alternative to invasion. Why? Because the Americans incurred unfathomable losses taking this outlying island: 12,520 killed in action, 55,162 wounded and 26,000 psychiatric casualties. But the Japanese took it much worse, with over 100,000 killed. Invading the home islands would have been an order of magnitude more bloody, so why do it when there was an alternative.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.5

    History vs. Hollywood on the movie’s reality liberties

  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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