Oppenheimer Reviews: Critics Share Strong First Reactions

By Klein Felt Posted:
Oppenheimer Cillian Murphy

Sparks are flying as critics shared their first reviews for Christopher Nolan's latest film, Oppenheimer

Nolan, who has made a career working on awe-inspiring films like The Dark Knight, Memento, and Inception, is set to tackle something a little different with his next film. This time around, the British director takes on the life of one of the most famous scientists to ever live, J. Robert Oppenheimer (aka the grandfather of the nuclear bomb). 

The film boasts a stacked cast including the likes of Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, and Robert Downey Jr

While fans got a potential taste of what to expect when one of the film's stars dropped their reaction to the film a little early, the question remains of just how good Oppenheimer truly is. 

First Oppenheimer Reviews Dropped


Coming out of the Paris premiere for Oppenheimer, critics offered up their first reactions to the film online.

Initial impressions are largely positive with a number of media members calling the wartime epic Christopher Nolan's best.

Matt Maytum from Total Film remarked that the movie "left [him] stunned," complimenting a "sublime central performance by Cillian Murphy:"

"'Oppenheimer' left me stunned: a character study on the grandest scale, with a sublime central performance by Cillian Murphy. An epic historical drama but with a distinctly Nolan sensibility: the tension, structure, sense of scale, startling sound design, remarkable visuals. Wow."

French journalist Romain Cheyron was similarly positive, using descriptors like "striking, dense, [and] intense" while noting the movie "doesn't let go of you, from the first to the last second:"

"'Oppenheimer' is, for me, the best Nolan. Striking, dense, intense. The film, via the main character, doesn't let go of you, from the first to the last second. A powerful rise and an incredible last hour. Cillian Murphy is absolutely stunning."

He added in a follow-up tweet, "The sound, the music, the dialogues, the emotions never stop:"

"The sound, the music, the dialogues, the emotions never stop. There is (almost) no moment of respite, we are totally transported in the spirit of Oppenheimer during the three hours that we do not see pass."

Associated Press film writer Lindsey Bahr dubbed the film "truly a spectacular achievement," highlighting the stellar ensemble at the heart of the film:

"Christopher Nolan’s 'Oppenheimer' is truly a spectacular achievement, in its truthful, concise adaptation, inventive storytelling and nuanced performances from Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon and the many, many others involved —- some just for a scene."

She joked that it is "hard to talk about something as dense as this in something as silly as a tweet," but Oppenheimer is "awe-inspiring:"

"It’s hard to talk about something as dense as this in something as silly as a tweet or thread but 'Oppenheimer' really is a serious, philosophical, adult drama that’s as tense and exciting as 'Dunkirk.' And the big moment – THAT MOMENT – is awe inspiring."

Behr closed by calling the film a "once in a lifetime experience" for moviegoers:

"So many years after seeing that opening shot of 'The Dark Knight' in IMAX at CityWalk and not understanding what I was seeing on a technical level but feeling it, I feel very lucky to have seen 'Oppenheimer' in 70mm IMAX. A once in a lifetime experience."

The Sunday Times' Jonathan Dean referred to Nolan's latest as a "dense, talkie, tense film" that will "rattle its audience:"

"Totally absorbed in 'OPPENHEIMER,' a dense, talkie, tense film partly about the bomb, mostly about how doomed we are. Happy summer! Murphy is good, but the support essential: Damon, Downey Jr & Ehrenreich even bring gags. An audacious, inventive, complex film to rattle its audience."

He continued, offering some critiques about the film's lack of female representation:

"The downside? The women are badly served - Emily Blunt only once gets out of her stressed mother role. But it’s straight into my Nolan top three, alongside 'Memento' & 'The Prestige'"

Writer Bilge Ebiri opined that the "word that keeps coming to mind [when thinking about the film] is 'fearsome':"

"'OPPENHEIMER' is...incredible. The word that keeps coming to mind is 'fearsome.' A relentlessly paced, insanely detailed, intricate historical drama that builds and builds and builds until Nolan brings the hammer down in the most astonishing, shattering way."

And freelance journalist Simon Thompson wrote of Cillian Murphy's "flawless awards-worthy performance" amongst other things:

"'Oppenheimer' is powerful stuff. Cillian Murphy’s flawless awards worthy performance is next level. Every player in this rich ensemble cast is at the top of their game. Christopher Nolan’s haunting opus is remarkable and Hoyte van Hoytema‘s execution of his vision is breathtaking."

Thompson carried on, commenting that there is "no fat on Oppenheimer" despite its lengthy runtime:

"There’s no fat on 'Oppenheimer' at all. It’s a long one but the pace of the rich narrative is perfect. It’s hard to single people out but Downey Jr. and Ehrenreich are insanely good and pure alchemy together. The sound and production design, as well as the score, are impeccable."

What To Expect From Oppenheimer?

While the scale of Oppenheimer was never in question, as Christopher Nolan has turned massive eye-popping feats of cinema into a bit of a calling card, some were worried the director would not be able to translate that same level of on-screen energy into the smaller moments that make up much of a traditional biopic. 

Well, it seems those doubts may have been for naught. 

Prior to release, there was talk of Oppenheimer being potentially one of Nolan's greatest movies to date, and it looks to be hitting - at least near - that mark. 

It will be a tall task if the nuclear drama wants to dethrone the director's current best-reviewed film of all time, The Dark Knight. The fan-favorite DC blockbuster currently sits at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.

But given the heaps of praise the film is currently getting, it would not be all that surprising if it were to surpass that Dark Knight mark. 

Oppenheimer is set to debut in theaters around the world on Friday, July 21.  

- In This Article: Oppenheimer
Release Date
July 21, 2023
Cillian Murphy
Matt Damon
- About The Author: Klein Felt
Klein Felt is a Senior Editor at The Direct. Joining the website back in 2020, he helped jumpstart video game content on The Direct. Klein plays a vital role as a part of the site's content team, demonstrating expertise in all things PlayStation, Marvel, and the greater entertainment industry.