Oppenheimer (2023) Moview Review

A few phrases in Oppenheimer’s prologue shed some light on the myth of Prometheus, the legendary Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. Because of his actions, Prometheus was sentenced to chains on a mountain peak where a giant eagle ate his liver every day.

It’s only fitting that Nolan uses that phrase because he takes Oppenheimer’s story based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book ‘American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer’ by Martin Sherwin and Kai Bird.

This phrase also reminds mankind of the story of Prometheus which gives hope but can also cause tragedy.

On August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the hopes that all parties hoped for, namely to end World War II immediately.

The bombing of these two cities was the start of an extraordinary display of weapons power never before seen by mankind. This tragic event is one of the most important events in human history in the 20th century.

The atomic bomb ultimately ended the war and forced Japan to surrender to the Allies. It was created by J. Robert Oppenheimer and later earned the nickname ‘Father of the Atomic Bomb’.

Oppenheimer (2023) Synopsis

Following the story of a famous scientist in the 20th century, Dr. Julius Robert Oppenheimer, the figure behind the creation of the first nuclear weapons and his involvement in a secret and ambitious project that gathered many brilliant scientists in the Manhattan Project in order to create the ultimate weapon that could end World War II.


Oppenheimer (2023) Review

The narrative follows a non-linear time pattern

The film follows Oppenheimer’s life story and is told in a non-linear fashion, moving through different time periods.

Captures with grace and precision, key moments from Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, from his life when he was a Cambridge student in Europe, to his time teaching a new subject called quantum mechanics in California, United States.

A day where he meets his wife Kitty (Emily Blunt) until her involvement in Project Manhattan, the United States government’s secret program to develop an atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

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Nolan takes us into the sprawling story with straightforward jumps between timelines and introduces us to the many characters surrounding Oppenheimer’s life from those who support him to those who oppose him.

From there, Nolan brought us into the atmosphere of the world of science through physics, which at that time was just developing with the emergence of various new theories and discoveries that also gave rise to new figures in the world of physics.

Then some of those scientific thinkers got involved in history to make discoveries and advances that would change the world forever.

Nolan tells many stories in the context of the complicated and ultimately controversial relationship between Julius Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) and Admiral Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.), a politician who admired Oppenheimer’s intellect but later despised him.

The plot of the story uses three stages of narrative

Director Christopher Nolan uses three stages of narrative to chronicle the developments in the life of J. Robert ‘Oppie’ Oppenheimer. The initial narrative we will witness as a student Oppenheimer struggles a lot with laboratory work, upon his return from Europe.

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Oppenheimer, who taught at Berkeley, showed an interest in politics and even attended leftist meetings to organize a workers’ union for scientists.

The next narrative begins with the interest of the United States government for research proposals and innovative scientific work from Oppenheimer, which directs General Leslie R. Groves (Matt Damon) to recruit these scientists of Jewish descent to become the Director of the Manhattan Project.

In the 1940s, Oppenheimer built a city in the desert of Los Alamos, New Mexico for a place to accommodate him and a team of scientists and their families in their quest to create a weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb for the noble reason that the world’s first nuclear weapon could end war.

The bomb was originally used to fight the fascist government of the Nazis during World War II, but then historical facts spoke differently after Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin, Germany which automatically caused Germany to lose.

Finally Oppenheimer then gave technical directions so that the new weapon could be used against Japan.

During this process, we will see many struggles and questions when we do something that has never been done in the history of mankind. There will be risks, moral questions, unintended consequences and possible building horrors you can’t even imagine.

The film reaches a climax when the narrative tells of a security hearing or trial for Oppenheimer. The scientist close to Albert Einstein had come under suspicion because of his ties to the communist party ever since he taught theoretical physics at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1930s.

Although Oppenheimer never joined the leftist party, many close to him were involved in its activities including his wife and younger brother.

Because of this, the FBI, which was led by J. Edgar Hoover at that time, thought that this prominent scientist could endanger national security and was even accused of spying for the Soviet Union.

The accusation made his movements monitored, his phone tapped, even his trash bin was examined by the FBI.

The culmination of the event known as the ‘Red Scare’ was the security trial for Oppenheimer where for 40 days testimony was heard from both sides and the results stated that Oppenheimer was a loyal citizen but his security license had to be permanently revoked.

Along with that, there was also a Senate confirmation hearing for Lewis Strauss who became chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and became Oppenheimer’s nemesis.

The hearings for the post of Commerce Secretary under President Dwight Eisenhower should have been an easy walk for him, were it not for some disturbing facts about his years as chair of the AEC and dealings with Oppenheimer.

Representing two different perspectives

Nolan uses two different perspectives in this biopic, as seen at the beginning of the film, where two subtitles appear, the first is ‘Fission’ which describes the view of Oppenheimer himself and the second is ‘Fussion’ which expresses the view of a naval officer, Lewis Strauss.

oppenheimer movie review

To differentiate the two perspectives, Nolan cleverly uses a color format that represents a story based on Oppenheimer’s own eyes. A national hero whose voice is tragically silenced and becomes a victim of politics.

On the other hand, the perspective of Lewis Strauss, who initially admired Oppenheimer, then on the way turned against him using a black and white format.

Cillian Murphy impresses as the Father of the Atomic Bomb as a brilliant, restless and obsessive individual as well as a contemplative individual who is impossible for those around him to fully understand.

Likewise, the appearance of Robert Downey, Jr., who presents an ambitious figure and sacrifices his friendship with Oppenheimer for the sake of his personal ambition, is also quite impressive.

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But the most interesting part of Oppenheimer is his sound design which is composed by Oscar and Grammy winner, Ludwig Göransson which makes audiences mesmerize in every sense of the phrase.

His voice runs throughout the film providing a ‘pump’ of emotion as the visuals are sometimes beautiful and sometimes Nolan uses his voice to make the audience feel the devastation that is happening.

Oppenheimer (2023) Conclusion

Oppenheimer is a biopic film that depicts the life of Julius Robert Oppenheimer from a man who became a national hero famous for his extraordinary achievements but then his own country turned against him, humiliated him, silenced him and removed him.

Nolan epically uses slick visuals and sound design to explain important events in Oppenheimer’s life be they tragedies or triumphs.


Zephyrine is an experienced film critic who has worked for many magazines and websites specializing in cinema. She has a deep education in film history and theory, as well as a passion for classic and independent films. Writing style: Zephyrine always evaluates films objectively and honestly, not influenced by external factors such as the fame of actors or directors. She often focuses on the content, screenplay, technique, and personal feelings to provide insights and reviews of the film. Her writing style is easy to understand and familiar to readers, but also professional and profound. Notable articles: "Step Up" - Success comes from the perseverance and relentless effort of young people "The Social Network" - A fantastic documentary film about the birth of Facebook "Moonlight" - A touching story about love and the essence of humanity "Nomadland" - A poignant journey of a mature woman "Parasite" - A sensational film of Korean cinema with profound social messages.

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