My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on a new movie I saw in the theater yesterday.



Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars


Before I share my thoughts on Nolan’s latest, let me preface this review: with every increasing year I feel completely out of touch with the cinema zeitgeist, not sharing much in common with critics or audiences to the point where I feel I must be seeing completely different films than they are. So for that reason, it is probably best not to listen to my thoughts on any modern movie, for by present day standards I have bad taste.

I’ve never been a Nolan devotee. He’s made some of the best films of the last thirty years and some highly-praised ones that I thought were not good. The ones that worked best focused on character over information (MEMENTO, THE PRESTIGE) and many of those that fell apart relied all too often on the latter (INCEPTION, TENET). Nolan has a tendency to use long passages of exposition to explain his complex stories. In OPPENHEIMER, the entire film is exposition; it is one non-stop dialog telling us rather than showing us (with a few brief respites of visual poetry) for three hours. For some reason, Nolan decided to shoot 99% of these endless conversations in shot/reverse shot. There are few two shots or wides. The camera doesn’t swing to the other person and back. It’s just cut to person talking, cut back to other person talking, and repeat for three tedious hours. The editing is bizarrely amateurish and programmed as well, cutting to the dialog instead of showing the listener more often. I found the cinematography and editing to be the weakest in Nolan’s career.

There are some highlights in the film, specifically a couple performances. Cillian Murphy is incredible. I can’t imagine in a world that made sense how he wouldn’t win the Oscar. Robert Downey Jr. is the best he’s been in a long while, only weak when he starts to get showy near the end. But some of Nolan’s other casting decisions don’t work. I have no idea what Matt Damon is doing in this film and I didn’t believe a single word he said. He has never been a character actor and shouldn’t be cast in character roles. There’s no subtext to his performance; it’s flat and dull recalling TEAM AMERICA’s representation of him. Emily Blunt, who everyone adores but me, is one note and yet wildly uneven throughout the film. The rest of the star-studded ensemble benefits the movie at times (it’s great to see Matthew Modine at it again in a big picture) but the others, like Gary Oldman and and Casey Affleck, are flashy distractions that hurt the work rather than help it. Nolan has always benefited from casting recognizable actors in his leads and filling the rest with unknowns. Also, I don’t really care about the precious push to cast actors by nationality but why cast Kenneth Brannagh and Benny Safdie as a Dane and a Hungarian when there are so many great central European actors?

OPPENHEIMER is a mystery, mostly in its execution, but not the kind that Nolan made his career on. It’s a bloated, laborious work that leads to a good final scene but does it really say anything that we didn’t already know when we walked in the theater? Some are calling it the best of the year, the best of our time. For this viewer, OPPENHEIMER is nothing but an interesting film.

Watched at Cinema City Westend in Budapest.