18 August 2023

Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer: The most over-praised movie since Saving Private Ryan, and possibly of all-time. This film is piss-poor on every level. It’s edited seemingly to maximize confusion, and has a poorly drawn cast of supporting scientific eggheads whose political and personal loyalties are obscure, at best.

The movie‘s greatest sin, however, is the filmmaker’s bizarre and mistaken belief the great dramatic issue of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life is not the creation of the atomic bomb and his responsibility for the horrors it inflicted upon the Japanese people, and how that crime against humanity would affect a person’s conscience and psyche, but whether or not the egghead Oppenheimer is allowed to keep his precious security clearance years after he melted tens of thousands of Japanese and expressed some vague reservations about the development of the next generation of weapons of mass destruction, thereby provoking cold war
├╝berhawks into limiting his influence on the Atomic Energy Commission. At least 90 minutes of the tedious 3 hour script is devoted to this trivial professional concern.

In contrast, there is only one scene, which depicts Oppenheimer somewhat agitated as he watches a documentary on the effects his bomb had on the people of Japan, and which lasts no more than 30 seconds, that is devoted to what the viewer would reasonably consider to be the chief concern of Oppenheimer’s life.

Add some laughably bad sex scenes meant, one supposes, to suggest not only did egghead Oppenheimer have a big brain but a big cock also, and some preposterously conceived nude scenes meant, one supposes, to suggest Oppenheimer may have suffered some post-bomb juvenile psychoanalytic crisis, and you have a pitifully small film masquerading as an *important* work.

The acting is nearly uniformly atrocious, beginning with a lead actor named Cillian Murphy, who plays Oppenheimer so woodenly, so withdrawn and cold, you’re left to assume he and the filmmaker believed Oppenheimer was autistic. So lifeless is this Murphy person’s performance, the film’s brief attempts to portray Oppenheimer’s romantic life are cringe-inducing failures. It’s difficult to imagine any woman drawn to Murphy’s anemic Oppenheimer, let alone to the point of suicide, as the movie’s somnolent script suggests one woman was over the end of her relationship with the waxen egghead.

It seems unfair, given how poorly developed their characters are, to criticize the actresses who play the two women in Oppenheimer’s life, but ask the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki if life is fair?

Florence Pugh plays the first woman in Oppenheimer’s life, the one who will commit suicide. Her role consists of her sitting around naked in various rooms, annoyed that Oppenheimer brings her flowers she doesn’t want. Indeed, this Please Don’t Bring Me The Daisies scene is repeated so frequently, the viewer begins to believe he is in a movie not about the creation of the atomic bomb, but of a cosmic time loop.

The other unfortunate actress is Emily Blunt, who plays Oppenheimer’s wife. Whereas Oppenheimer is as cold as the farthest reaches of the universe, Oppenheimer’s wife is as hot as the first moments of the Big Bang. Emily Blunt plays Oppenheimers wife in a perpetual seethe, she seethes at everyone and everything around her, including the laundry drying on a clothesline (one of the quiet little humanizing moments in this big important film involves Oppenheimer and his wife discussing the fate of the universe as they hang their sheets to dry, or something like that, I can’t be exact in this detail, because at that point in the time and space of the film, my attention had been wandering like a stray photon in desperate need of an observer).

The supporting roles of scientific eggheads is played by a cast cursed with forgettable characters who are only differentiated by indeterminable accents and hairstyles.

Matt Damon is the only actor who brings a little light into this black hole of a movie. He plays General Groves, the military leader of the A-bomb project. Damon infuses his cartoon-character general with enough bombast and occasional humor to snap the viewer out of his otherwise inert state.

The movie villain, Lewis Strauss, the man the film’s script paints as monomaniacally obsessed with ruining Oppenheimer’s security clearance, is played by Robert Downey Jr. as if he had been transported via a wormhole from the Marvel Cimematic Universe into this *important* film.

Gary Oldman has a showy minute or two as Harry Truman, who dismisses the post-Nagasaki Oppenheimer, skittish of the nuclear arms race, as a *crybaby.*

And that’s about it. I cannot imagine why the overwhelming majority of film critics lavished so much praise on this pretentious, tedious, thematically misguided mess. It’s a mystery as great as the atom itself.