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Oppenheimer Review

Infected by a terminally online mentality and the inability to do anything else other than meal prep and look at memes on Twitter, Oppenheimer is a blast of terrifying reality. He became death, destroyer of worlds while those watching became drunk, the drinker of booze. Such is life in the Barbenheimer double screening. You cannot stop people from taking in miniatures of vodka. Cillian Murphy always had a performance of this magnitude in him, of this integrity and level. When it would hit was unknowable, but it certainly was not as new build homeowner icon Tommy Shelby. It was to be as thin scientist and allegedly regretful atomic bomb creator J. Robert Oppenheimer where Murphy would receive his rightful acclaim, and all under the eye of Christopher Nolan, a man who has worked with the Peaky Blinders star enough to know the ins and outs of his capabilities as a leading man. 

From their earliest works in Batman Begins to the present, there is a sense of untapped potential. Oppenheimer feels like untapped potential at times too. It works an effective and stuffy narrative underscores the creation of chaos. In chaos comes creativity, though; for much of Oppenheimer, a fluttering of back-and-forth activity between the creation of the atomic bomb and the scrutiny of the eponymous man years later, is a rewarding spectacle. Nolan handles the many strands of this biopic with sincerity and concern for those who were at the heart of ideals driven by proving patriotism where it was not. Everyone had a cover, as thrown up by the likes of Florence Pugh and Benny Safdie. Hostility and uncomfortable lack of trust between those on the same side is a nice build toward a Cold War acknowledged, but never explored. It does not feel necessary. 

Turns of good form from Robert Downey Jr. and Emily Blunt add those extra strands of life Nolan desperately needs. His direction is, naturally, a real spectacle. Some of it feels superfluous or empty, but the bulk is as intense as it gets when detailing the creation of destruction. Scenes of speculation and raised voices are ten a penny but when led by Murphy and Matt Damon, they strike a new chord of dramatic interest which wanes as the scenes rush on. Brushes with the psychological damage that comes from building a bomb of blinding proportions are the real turn for Nolan here, who finds himself dimming the lights and blocking the background out, toying with the smarter yet simpler pieces of his direction. His second trundle through the backdrop of World War 2 is far more successful. 

Seeing the bright lights while blind in one eye and stuffed with flu is not the mesmerising experience it should be. But it is an important push in the right direction for biopics which matter, which care for their subject and the relative impact they had on the modern world. Much of Oppenheimer is a grand display of characteristic dedication from Murphy and Nolan. Do not confuse the deserved accolades for Murphy with the hyperinflation of love poured onto Oppenheimer. It is without question an important piece which hopefully marks a shift, as Blackberry and Tetris did, in how creativity can flow through stuffy ideas. Nolan obsessives will fall for the same colour palettes and provisions the man always provides, but when they wrap themselves around a dedicated, stacked cast, it is hard not to feel a few flickers of love for the dependable workings of a great craftsman. 

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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