‘Oppenheimer’ Review: A Man for Our Time (2024)



You have a preview view of this article while we are checking your access. When we have confirmed access, the full article content will load.

Supported by


Critic’s Pick

Christopher Nolan’s complex, vivid portrait of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” is a brilliant achievement in formal and conceptual terms.









‘Oppenheimer’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The writer and director Christopher Nolan narrates the opening sequence from the film, starring Cillian Murphy.

Hi, I’m Christopher Nolan director, writer, and co-producer of “Oppenheimer.” Opening with the raindrops on the water came late to myself and Jen Lane in the edit suite. But ultimately, it became a motif that runs the whole way through the film. Became very important. These opening images of the detonation at Trinity are based on the real footage. Andrew Jackson, our visual effects supervisor, put them together using analog methods to try and reproduce the incredible frame rates that their technology allowed at the time, superior to what we have today. Adapting Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s book “American Prometheus,” I fully embraced the Prometheun theme, but ultimately chose to change the title to “Oppenheimer” to give a more direct idea of what the film was going to be about and whose point of view we’re seeing. And here we have Cillian Murphy with an IMAX camera inches from his nose. Hoyte van Hoytema was incredible. IMAX camera revealing everything. And I think, to some degree, applying the pressure to Cillian as Oppenheimer that this hearing was applying. “Yes, your honor.” “We’re not judges, Doctor.” “Oh.” And behind him, out of focus, the great Emily Blunt who’s going to become so important to the film as Kitty Oppenheimer, who gradually comes more into focus over the course of the first reel. We divided the two timelines into fission and fusion, the two different approaches to releasing nuclear energy in this devastating form to try and suggest to the audience the two different timelines. And then embraced black-and-white shooting here. Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss being shot on IMAX black-and-white film. The first time anyone’s ever shot that film. Made especially for us. And he’s here talking to Alden Ehrenreich who is absolutely indicative of the incredible ensemble that our casting director John Papsidera put together. Robert Downey Jr. utterly transformed, I think, not just in terms of appearance, but also in terms of approach to character, stripping away years of very well-developed charisma to just try and inhabit the skin of a somewhat awkward, sometimes venal, but also charismatic individual, and losing himself in this utterly. And then as we come up to this door, we go into the Senate hearing rooms. And we try to give that as much visibility, grandeur, and glamour to contrast with the security hearing that’s so claustrophobic. And takes Oppenheimer completely out of the limelight. [CROWD SHOUTING]

‘Oppenheimer’ Review: A Man for Our Time (1)

By Manohla Dargis


NYT Critic’s Pick
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Biography, Drama, History
3 hours

“Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan’s staggering film about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man known as “the father of the atomic bomb,” condenses a titanic shift in consciousness into three haunted hours. A drama about genius, hubris and error, both individual and collective, it brilliantly charts the turbulent life of the American theoretical physicist who helped research and develop the two atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II — cataclysms that helped usher in our human-dominated age.

The movie is based on “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” the authoritative 2005 biography by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. Written and directed by Nolan, the film borrows liberally from the book as it surveys Oppenheimer’s life, including his role in the Manhattan Engineer District, better known as the Manhattan Project. He served as director of a clandestine weapons lab built in a near-desolate stretch of Los Alamos, in New Mexico, where he and many other of the era’s most dazzling scientific minds puzzled through how to harness nuclear reactions for the weapons that killed tens of thousands instantly, ending the war in the Pacific.

The atomic bomb and what it wrought define Oppenheimer’s legacy and also shape this film. Nolan goes deep and long on the building of the bomb, a fascinating and appalling process, but he doesn’t restage the attacks; there are no documentary images of the dead or panoramas of cities in ashes, decisions that read as his ethical absolutes. The horror of the bombings, the magnitude of the suffering they caused and the arms race that followed suffuse the film. “Oppenheimer” is a great achievement in formal and conceptual terms, and fully absorbing, but Nolan’s filmmaking is, crucially, in service to the history that it relates.

The story tracks Oppenheimer — played with feverish intensity by Cillian Murphy — across decades, starting in the 1920s with him as a young adult and continuing until his hair grays. The film touches on personal and professional milestones, including his work on the bomb, the controversies that dogged him, the anti-Communist attacks that nearly ruined him, as well as the friendships and romances that helped sustain yet also troubled him. He has an affair with a political firebrand named Jean Tatlock (a vibrant Florence Pugh), and later weds a seductive boozer, Kitty Harrison (Emily Blunt, in a slow-building turn), who accompanies him to Los Alamos, where she gives birth to their second child.


‘Oppenheimer’ Review: A Man for Our Time (2)

Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit andlog intoyour Times account, orsubscribefor all of The Times.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access.

Already a subscriber?Log in.

Want all of The Times?Subscribe.



‘Oppenheimer’ Review: A Man for Our Time (2024)


What did Oppenheimer actually say? ›

J. Robert Oppenheimer once declared himself — or, possibly, the power of the atom bomb he had unleashed — "Death, the destroyer of worlds." The title is bleak but fitting. "Uh, yeah. That's right," Alan Robock, a climatologist who is a leading expert on nuclear winter, told Business Insider.

What were the last words of Oppenheimer? ›

Oppenheimer" Last Words, "I believe we did" : r/OppenheimerMovie.

Is Oppenheimer 18+? ›

The R rating for Oppenheimer was earned through heavy themes, sex scenes, nudity, and mature language throughout the movie. Christopher Nolan ventured into new territory with Oppenheimer by delivering his most adult film, featuring graphic sex scenes and nudity.

How accurate is Oppenheimer movie? ›

Heavily based on "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer" by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin, the movie stays pretty faithful to the man's eventful, unusual life. But that doesn't mean there aren't some exaggerations or inconsistencies.

What did Einstein say about Oppenheimer? ›

At the Institute for advanced study, Einstein acquired profound respect for Oppenheimer on his administration skills, and described him as an “unusually capable man of many sided education”.

What did Oppenheimer say before he died? ›

Why Did Oppenheimer Say "Now I am Death, the Destroyer of Worlds" and What Did It Mean? It's a powerful quote that has, understandably, become a part of history — and a part of Christopher Nolan's film.

Why was Einstein mad at Oppenheimer? ›

"The trouble with Oppenheimer is that he loves a woman who doesn't love him — the United States government," Einstein once said, according to the book "American Prometheus," which the movie is based on. That's an "Einstein-level burn," Wellerstein said.

Why did Einstein walk away from Oppenheimer? ›

At the pond in 1947, he reminds Einstein of their previous meeting, then worries aloud that he "already did" start the neverending chain reaction that will end the world. It's this dark thought that sends Einstein skulking away, ignoring Strauss. RELATED: Could Oppenheimer's Atomic Bomb Really Have Destroyed the World?

What happened to Oppenheimer's wife? ›

Following the death of her husband, Kitty decided to move-in with long-time family friend Robert Serber, and the two planned a round-the-world sailing trip in 1972. However, shortly after embarking in October of that year, Kitty became seriously ill and passed away in Panama City, Panama due to a pulmonary embolism.

How many children did Oppenheimer have? ›

Oppenheimer's wife, children

He married Katherine “Kitty” Puening (played by Emily Blunt in the upcoming movie) in 1940 and had two children, Peter and Toni, according to the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

What happened to Oppenheimer's children? ›

Soon after his father died, Peter permanently moved to northern New Mexico to live at a residence his father had purchased years earlier, the Perro Caliente ranch, according to the AHF. According to the AHF, Peter still lives in New Mexico working as a carpenter and has three children: Dorothy, Charles and Ella.

What religion is Oppenheimer? ›

The Oppenheimers were a non-observant Jewish family and sent young Oppenheimer to the Ethical Culture School founded on principles of rationalism and progressive secular humanism. As an adult, Oppenheimer said “my life as a child did not prepare me for the fact that the world is full of cruel and bitter things.”

Who was smarter, Einstein or Oppenheimer? ›

Summary. Oppenheimer's IQ of 135 places him in the 99th percentile of intelligence, while Einstein's estimated IQ is 160, in the genius category.

Were Oppenheimer and Einstein friends? ›

While they occasionally had conflicting viewpoints, Einstein became friends with Oppenheimer during the last decade of his life.

Did Oppenheimer meet Einstein? ›

Yes, Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer met and interacted several times. They worked together at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, from 1947 until Einstein died in 1955. Oppenheimer was the director of the institute from 1947 to 1966.

What did Oppenheimer actually say about the atomic bomb? ›

I think it is for us to accept it as a very grave crisis, to realize that these atomic weapons which we have started to make are very terrible, that they involve a change, that they are not just a slight modification: to accept this, and to accept with it the necessity for those transformations in the world which will ...

What was Oppenheimer's most famous quote? ›

As he witnessed the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945, a piece of Hindu scripture ran through the mind of J. Robert Oppenheimer: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” It is, perhaps, the most well-known line from the Bhagavad Gita, but also the most misunderstood.

What did Oppenheimer say when they tested the atomic bomb? ›

Most famously, Oppenheimer later recalled that the explosion had reminded him of a line from the Hindu holy text, the Bhagavad-Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." The terrifying destructive power of atomic weapons and the uses to which they might be put were to haunt many of the Manhattan Project ...

Did Oppenheimer actually quote the Bhagavad Gita? ›

Robert Oppenheimer while looking at the erupting fireball from the atomic bomb explosion in Los Alamos, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945: “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” These words are a a paraphrase of Bhagavad Gita 11:32 where Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu – whom many Hindus think of as the supreme ...

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Edmund Hettinger DC

Last Updated:

Views: 5741

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (58 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Edmund Hettinger DC

Birthday: 1994-08-17

Address: 2033 Gerhold Pine, Port Jocelyn, VA 12101-5654

Phone: +8524399971620

Job: Central Manufacturing Supervisor

Hobby: Jogging, Metalworking, Tai chi, Shopping, Puzzles, Rock climbing, Crocheting

Introduction: My name is Edmund Hettinger DC, I am a adventurous, colorful, gifted, determined, precious, open, colorful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.