This is a solid, old-school biopic – but it’s more dutiful than dazzling, more admirable than awe-inspiring.
When Christopher Nolan announced a biopic, of all things, I was curious. It’s like Hitchcock making a Fred Astaire musical. It’s like Spielberg making Saw. It’s like Scorsese making a screwball comedy or a Western. There’s nothing to say that a filmmaker cannot change pace, and before he became Christropher Nolan™, we did get a superb psychological thriller in Insomnia. But now that he’s trademarked as one of the biggest filmmakers (who makes films as big as his reputation, with big IMAX cameras for big IMAX screens), what could have possibly interested him in the intricacies and intimacies of “normal life” – even if it is the life of J Robert Oppenheimer, “The Father of the Atomic Bomb”? The real subject of Oppenheimer, therefore, is not the life and times of its protagonist, but whether Nolan can enter the subatomic levels of the human psyche. In other words, do we know more about Oppenheimer coming out than we did going in?
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