Oppenheimer reviews: what do the critics say about Christopher Nolan’s drama?

Does the character study of the father of the atomic bomb deliver?

Cillian Murphy as J Robert Oppenheimer. Photograph: Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures

Christopher Nolan is probably best known for his blockbuster films; Inception, Interstellar and the Batman Trilogy starring Christian Bale.

His latest offering, Oppenheimer (starring Cillian Murphy in the titular role), is a dramatic retelling of J Robert Oppenheimer’s journey to making the atomic bomb that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and in the aftermath.

So no pressure, then.

What do the critics think?

Christopher Nolan’s 12th feature is deeply flawed but brilliant, writes Tara Brady in The Irish Times. Cillian Murphy is charming and commanding in his portrayal of the American theoretical physicist.


However, the film’s representation of science is “bafflingly facile” even if the drawings on the blackboard “are undoubtedly (knowing Nolan’s fastidiousness) accurate”.

The Guardian says the movie, “for all its audacity and ambition, never quite solves the problem of its own obtuseness”.

Nolan creates a “hypnotic, multitiered storytelling device that is accurate and gripping despite the “let-down” of the atomic explosion, says Variety.

The New York Times is enthusiastic in its review of Nolan’s epic drama, calling it “a brilliant achievement in formal and conceptual terms”.

The Hollywood Reporter described Oppenheimer as a 'brainy, brawny thriller' Photograph: Universal Pictures

Empire gives it five stars, describing it as “a masterfully constructed character study from a great director operating on a whole new level”.

“Despite being deeply stamped with Nolan’s hallmarks ... Oppenheimer feels like something new from the writer-director,” writes Dan Jolin.

David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter calls Oppenheimer a “brainy, brawny thriller” as well as a “serious-minded cinematic event of a type now virtually extinct from the studios”.

However, the film can seem “like a talky thicket of scenes in which men in midcentury business attire stand around in offices and labs having animated discussions about quantum mechanics”.

In a write up in Independent.co.uk, Clarisse Loughrey says Murphy “creates his own devastating fission: brilliance torn apart by arrogance. Scene by scene, the light behind his eyes starts to dim”.

“In Oppenheimer a man’s private, internal and political lives are strung together, each a component of the great equation that defines a man’s soul.”

Jennifer Cosgrove

Jennifer Cosgrove

Jennifer Cosgrove is an Irish Times journalist