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Updated: Feb 22

A prophet isn't allowed to be wrong. Not once.

OPPENHEIMER explodes onto the screen for three riveting hours, leaving you in awe, both of the man and Writer/Director Christopher Nolan's talent.

Don't let the three hour running time scare you. Nolan's challenging story structure and nimble use of different time frames propels the historical story past you at a breakneck pace. That's especially impressive when you realize that a good 80% of the film depicts characters in conversation.

But what conversation.

We meet J. Robert Oppenheimer as a young man, brilliant, cocky and pushing himself to new scientific discoveries.

You barely get your footing before Nolan grabs the timeline forward to a hearing, after the worlds first atomic bombs have exploded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then we're pulled back to Oppenheimer as a new professor where he's recruited by lifelong military man Leslie Groves (a hilarious Matt Damon, perfectly cast) to begin developing the first weapon of mass destruction.

These timelines intersect like so many colliding atoms, informing each other, interacting and exposing motivations, relationships and changing attitudes. Nolan and his editor Jennifer Lame (Hereditary, Tenet) craft a puzzle so clever that it will take me multiple viewings to truly understand its complexity.

Unlike "Tenet" or "Inception" where Nolan is establishing new worlds or new rules for his tale, this is a part of history we all know at least at a surface level. But how little I actually knew. I haven't felt this brilliantly fed full of new knowledge and perspective since my first viewing of Oliver Stone's superb "JFK".

All the story lines are captivating and the cast that Nolan has assembled is immense.

Robert Downey Jr. delivers his all-time best performance in his searing portrayal of Lewis Strauss, a career politician whose life is woven together with Oppenheimer's for decades. Downey nearly steals the film, disappearing into the role. His face during the final scenes of the hearing and his final dialogue with his Senate Aide (Alden Ehrenreich leaving "Solo" far behind in all the right ways) is fantastic. I see a Best Supporting Actor trophy in Downey's hands next Spring.

His performance isn't the only jaw dropping one.

Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, A Quiet Place) stuns as Oppenheimer's wife Kitty. A former communist now facing McCarthy style inquiries, she spends most of the film drinking quietly in anger. Her emotion explodes when she's finally given a chance to express her thoughts at the hearing, unloading on the very slimy Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby) as nefarious lawyer Roger Robb. It's one of those scenes that makes people clap in the movie theater. Well earned.

Kenneth Branagh and the legendary Tom Conti (The Duellists) shine as Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, as does Macon Blair as Attorney Jim Garrison. How about that for a JFK connection. Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor) makes a welcome big screen return as Ernest Lawrence, one of Oppenheimer's most trusted scientists.

At the center of the excellent cast and onscreen for nearly every scene, Cillian Murphy (Inception, 28 Days Later) brings incredible depth to his performance as Oppenheimer. Insecure, yet arrogant, naive yet bold, his Oppenheimer is a very complicated, brilliant man. Torn between his commitment to protect the USA against the Nazis as they work to develop the same bomb and his unrelenting nightmares of what the atomic bomb will do to the population around it, Murphy conveys every bit of that anguish. Nolan injects moments of his nightmares into reality, giving you a tangible perspective of Oppenheimer's struggle.

I wasn't surprised but was truly appreciative that this is a smart, adult film, not pandering to any middle ground. Oppenheimer is fiercely sexual and his relationship with Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh in another strong performance) in the face of her instability and political leanings shows a loyalty that's bound to cost him. Pugh (Midsommar, Don't Worry Darling) continues her incredible screen run, teeing herself up against sure bet nominee Emily Blunt in next year's Best Supporting Actress category.

Nolan delivers one of the most compelling history lessons in film history.

It never lags and certainly never stops. Ludwig Goransson's music score is overwhelming, LOUD, intrusive and one of the stars of the film. There are times when in combination with the sound effects, it's almost too much, bombarding your ears in a crescendo that seems to arc for nearly the entire film.

I sense that was Nolan and Goransson's intent, as one of the best scenes in the movie is the silence after the Los Alamos test of the a-bomb. Between the flash of light and the shock wave quite some time later, Nolan pulls us through reaction shots of Oppenheimer and his team in deafening silence.

As the crowd celebrates, Oppenheimer seems to balance the joy of success with the realization of what he's done.

Nolan brilliantly expands on that moral wrestling match in the last hour of the film.

It's a white hot verbal and visual assault on politics and power that leaves you gutted as the film's final images wrap around the screen.

Nolan has a lot to say about Oppenheimer, politics, war and the men who yield it.

He says it all brilliantly.

One of the best films of the year, OPPENHEIMER exceeds high expectations and burns an A+, standing as one of Nolan's greatest film achievements. It's his best film in over a decade since "The Dark Knight Rises" and may just prove to be his masterpiece.

See it on the biggest, best screen and sound system you can find.

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

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