The Ham-Handed Genius of 'Oppenheimer'

the moviegoing public remains open to films that wrestle openly with ideas

Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer, uncomfortably walking through a hallway lined with photographers all brandishing giant old-fashioned flashbulb cameras
image: Universal Pictures

I wasn’t especially diligent about seeing new movies last year, but I did somehow manage to see Oppenheimer twice, and I’m wishing it well at the Oscars. There may have been better films—Richard Brody was characteristically lucid and unsparing about Oppenheimer’s flaws in The New Yorker—but there’s something beguiling about this picture. 

Early on, Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) meets and beds Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh), his mercurial, well-read Communist paramour. Mid-intercourse, she dismounts him, walks over to his bookshelf, picks up the Bhagavad Gita, and asks him to translate a passage of it at random. He obliges as she straddles him again: “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds.” 

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