What Critics Are Saying About Oppenheimer

It's 'a new film classic,' with standout performances from a few
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2023 10:40 AM CDT

You may know of J. Robert Oppenheimer as the father of the atomic bomb. But that's only one part of the theoretical physicist's story, told in an epic way in Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer, out Friday. Based on Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherman's 2005 biography American Prometheus and starring Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., and Florence Pugh, the film has a 94% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's what they're saying:

  • Nolan has created "a new film classic"—"a monumental achievement on the march into screen history," writes Peter Travers at ABC News. A "terrifying, transfixing epic" with "unforgettable" sound design "in which silence alternates with waves of reverberation to bring the unthinkable to devastating life," the film boasts standout performances from Murphy—"flawless in every detail"—and Downey. Portraying Lewis Strauss, the latter reminds us that he's "one of the best actors on the planet," Travers writes. "Prepare to be wowed."
  • Despite its three-hour running time, the film is "utterly enthralling"—"one of the few standout works of cinema released this decade," writes Kyle Smith at the Wall Street Journal. "It crackles, hurtles and whooshes, generating more suspense and excitement than anything found in the alleged climaxes of the recent superhero pictures." In particular, the 1945 Trinity test of the Manhattan Project "generates a level of awe, based in historical pre-eminence rather than fantasy, that we rarely experience at the movies anymore."

  • "Told in dots and dashes, demanding that you keep up with its shifts in time and space," the film "can leave your brain a little scrambled. But Nolan never loses sight of Oppenheimer the man," writes Stephanie Zacharek at Time. And Murphy is "wonderful" in the role. "There are moments when you feel you can almost see his nerve endings quivering beneath [the skin]," Zacharek notes. "That's acting for the big screen. And it's what a great actor can do when a filmmaker hands him a very big story, played out on a canvas designed for great leaps of imagination."
  • "No question, the close-ups on Murphy's face as Oppenheimer thinks through the 20th century's thorniest problems are as compelling as the film's atomic explosions, and as deserving of the biggest screen possible," writes Christian Holub at Entertainment Weekly. But there is "a galaxy of top-notch actors" here, including Blunt, who is "a great partner for Murphy ... bringing him down to Earth when he's off in the clouds." As for Downey, watching him "give such a meaty big-screen performance again is not an opportunity to be squandered."
(More movie review stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.