August 9, 2023

Oppenheimer review: Three-hour long biopic nothing short of mind-blowing

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Anatolii Mishustin in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Rating: filled star filled star filled star filled star filled star

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Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer

Picture by: Universal Pictures

Cillian Murphy stuns as the ‘father of the atomic bomb’

Cristopher Nolan, the exalted British filmmaker, has always been obsessed with stories that explore the in-and-outs of time and space and the story of a man who was torn between the world that exists beyond our reality was always a perfect fit.

‘Oppenheimer’, a three-hour long life story of one of the most important figures of the 20th century is an achievement in filmmaking and what can be only described as monumental.

The story of J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy), a theoretical physicist, whose determination brought to life the modern-day horror of an atomic bomb spans across three different timelines of his life.

In unity with cinematography, sound design, and soundtrack Nolan creates a horrifically immersive experience which controls every atom in the viewer’s body.

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It is not a white male tired genius glorification but a study of man’s psyche in motion. And with Nolan’s approach it could be questioned whether Oppenheimer was an all-round genius or just a good theorist and a curator for the Manhattan Project.

Cinematography of the film might be considered the strongest part, and rightfully so. The absence of CGI in favour of practical effects shines best in parts of visualizing the quantum realm and “The Trinity test”.

“I think computer graphics, they’re very versatile, they can do all kinds of things, but they tend to feel a bit safe. That’s why they’re difficult to use in horror movies. Animation tends to feel a little safe for the audience. The Trinity Test, ultimately, but also these early imaginings of Oppenheimer visualizing the Quantum Realm, they had to be threatening in some way. They had to have the bite of real-world imagery”, said Nolan, who was quoted in the Collider.

Such an approach creates something that is simultaneously breathtakingly beautiful and terrifying. What is brought to viewers’ eyes deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible and I believe completely justifies the push for the true 70mm IMAX film.

Accompanying the visuals is the beautiful sound design. I believe the sound is as crucial as the visuals for the immersion in the story, and ‘Oppenheimer’s’ sound design executes its function top class.

Every sound can be heard, and especially shockingly loud as explosions feel like they happened before your eyes. But outside of the sound technicality lies the soundtrack created by the prominent Swedish composer and record producer Ludwig Göransson, who previously collaborated with Nolan on the science fiction action-thriller ‘Tenet’.

Göransson’s achievement in music for the film can be summed up by his quote

“I saw some of the visuals that he had been working on with (VFX supervisor) Andrew Jackson, and you see the spinning of the atoms. That visual to me was just so spellbinding, and I’ve never seen anything like it. And I was like, That’s how I want the music to sound like.”

And with that we assure you, that orchestrated violin driven pieces like ‘Can You Hear The Music’ truly feel like something never heard before.

Last but not least, the performances from Cilian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr, and Rami Malek are the backbone of the film’s appeal.

Each actor puts on an Oscar-worthy performance and skims through a palette of emotions. Whether it be the existential dread, or the weight of your actions which sits on your conscience, or simply a burning envy – the star-studded ‘Oppenheimer’ cast does it all.

The film deserves your attention and an Oscar. Two of Harbinger’s contributors walked out of the cinema speechless and with trembling hands.

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Anatolii Mishustin

Film critic

Kyiv, Ukraine | Amsterdam, Netherlands

Hailing from Ukraine, Anatolii was born in 2006 and now resides in Amsterdam while getting his diploma. Moving to the Netherlands was a decision first and foremost motivated by the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Anatolii keeps his hand on the pulse of modern media and underground culture, that’s what grows his interests and ambitions each day. He joined Harbingers’ Magazine in 2023 to challenge himself in this area to explore cultural journalism, and quickly established himself as the lead film critic for the magazine.

His work also secured him an invitation to the first edition of the Harbinger Fellow programme with the Oxford School for the Future of Journalism.

In his free time, he enjoys basketball, watching films, and playing video games.

Anatolii speaks Ukrainian, Russian, English, and is learning Dutch.

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