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Review: Oppenheimer – How I learned to start worrying and hate the bomb …

The Oppenheimer film is here to remind us that the human race is its own worst enemy.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

As you open your door and walk outside today, you may experience what feels like the blast of an atomic bomb. Don’t worry! It’s not a promotional stunt for the new film, Oppenheimer. It’s just the extreme heat rays from our sun magnified through our careless carbon emissions that you are feeling. (On second thought, maybe you should be concerned.)

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about in this world, the new Oppenheimer film is here to remind us that the human race is its own worst enemy, and that nuclear annihilation, dangerous, petty politics and moronic politicians have been haunting us and destroying our world and peace of mind since the 1940s. Smile!

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer tells the story of the “father of the atomic bomb”, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and his weird and wacky life before, during and after the bomb’s creation.

On the plus side, this film showcases an incredible performance by Cillian Murphy as the titular character who is haunted by what he has wrought. The ensemble cast that includes Emily Blunt, Kenneth Branagh, Matt Damon and Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic, even though some of these actors are only on screen for a few short moments.


The bomb construction and testing section of the film is the best part and it is intense and unnerving, though not as climactic as you might expect. I anticipated feeling as if I was in the middle of the horrific blast, but it wasn’t all that – even on an IMAX screen.

The first and last acts are a rather convoluted mix of characters and happenings that I found tiresome and hard to keep track of. The final act, that has Oppenheimer being railroaded by his government, was particularly hard to follow. It’s well produced and well acted, so I would watch it again to try to understand better, but it was disappointing upon first viewing.

The book the film is based on, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, has many of the same problems as the film in that there are so many redundant characters they are difficult to follow, let alone care about. I’d like to read and see a more focused story.

There is one film sequence in particular that was very strange, where an Oppenheimer girlfriend is having R-rated sex with him when she pulls out a Sanskrit book and has him read his most famously quoted quote about becoming death. Huh? What? (I definitely did not remember this from the book.) This seemed like some odd artistic license.

As this is Nolan’s first non-sci-fi, character driven film, it makes me wonder if he is better suited to the high-end action flicks he’s best known for, like the Dark Knight (Batman) trilogy. I had high expectations for this movie and was more than a little disappointed. It’s not the great masterpiece some are proclaiming, but it is definitely not a bomb.

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.