I’m dreaming of Cillian Murphy and his 1930s curly moptop haircut and that same damn look he wears throughout Oppenheimer in every damn scene, and I just can’t watch it a third time, I tell you…I can’t go again! Isn’t it enough that I’ve sat through it twice? I awake at 3:30 am and my pillow is damp. It’s a dense and accomplished film but it doesn’t breathe and it feels like work. I struggled so hard the second time…please, not a third. I’ve paid my dues, leave me alone, etc.

My reservations aside, I think it’s really great that Oppenheimer has performed as well as it has. It’s one of the best things that has happened theatrically since the all-but-total devastation ushered in by the pandemic.

I’ve never derided Oppenheimer as any kind of bad or less than immaculate film. It’s clearly a top-tier smarthouse thing — brilliant, ultra-cerebral. It’s never less than “impressive.”

I just found it strenuous and chilly and rigid…an under-oxygenated forced march with a lot of overly wound-up, perturbed academics and a few upper-level bureaucrats.

Not to mention the arduous company of two very angry, brittle and neurotic women who constantly seethed and lashed out. When Florence Pugh’s subordinate character (Oppie’s Communist lover) committed suicide, I honestly felt relieved. I muttered to myself “one down, one to go.”

The world agrees that Nolan should henceforth steer clear of sex scenes. I didn’t believe that Murphy’s Oppie was even capable of sexual thoughts, much less arousal and much, much less actual coitus.

Thank God for Matt Damon’s brass-tacks “what are the basic dynamics?” scenes with Murphy.

It’s quite the vivid, you-are-there symphony and I felt genuine respect and even awe at times for Nolan’s herculean efforts, but at the same time I felt trapped. It started to wear me down, man, and you’ll never convince me that omitting the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the right way to go.

And I really didn’t care for Murphy’s company. I tolerated his frozen eyes and aloof, twerpy manner but I kept saying “what is it with this fucking guy? I’m stuck hanging out with a Martian.”

If you’re checking your watch at the one-hour mark (as I did during my initial 70mm IMAX viewing at AMC’s Lincoln Square) and going “dear God, there’s another two hours to go”…if you’re saying that to yourself there’s something wrong.

Yes, it improves during the second hour and I felt more and more sorry for the poor guy when the D.C. wolves did their level best to taunt and persecute him, but Oppie cooked his own goose by alienating Truman (I’ll never forget that look of rage and disgust on Gary Oldman’s face) and failing to understand that longstanding sympathies and allegiances with Communists would land him in trouble, especially given that he’s repeatedly warned about this throughout the first two-thirds.

I just found Oppie an extremely odd duck and quietly arrogant to boot. If I didn’t know the whole story backwards and forwards I would’ve felt no investment in his fate whatsoever. I felt much more rapport with Russell Crowe‘s John Nash in A Beautiful Mind (’01) or Eddie Redmayne‘s Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything (’14).

Posted on 7.22.23: Chris Nolan’s Oppenheimer has been, in fact, dishonestly sold and promoted. Because it’s basically a bait-and-switcher.

It’s not some kind of awesome, slam-bam-whammo atomic bomb film. It’s not a tale of acute scientific obsession or about a fine, fevered, steadily building madness. And it’s not a WWII horror film about the becoming of death and the destroying of worlds or even cities (Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Instead it’s a dialogue-driven saga of a blindingly brilliant but conflicted and finally self-crippling Jewish physicist who oversaw and guided the building of the world’s first atomic bombs (Fat Man and Little Boy) but was mainly out to punish Nazi Germany…his European kin will have vengeance!

But when that quest ended and Japan became the target the physicist didn’t feel the fire as much, and then, in the wake of the deaths of tens of thousands, he turned into a “crybaby” (Harry Truman’s term) and a kind of squishy, under-motivated turncoat in the matter of the H-bomb’s development, and as a result he wound up being persecuted and devoured by Robert Downey, Jr. and the D.C. wolves in 1954 and thereby lost his “security clearance.”

That’s it — that’s what the movie is. The saga of a slender, pipe-smoking, genius-level candy-ass with cold blue eyes. A guy who built the bomb but didn’t want to know or even think about it after the task was completed. Treated unfairly and with cruelty, for sure, but who would argue he didn’t make his own bed?

And who believes that Cillian Murphy’s Oppie was able to feel sexual desire, or was even capable of attaining stiffie-hood? I didn’t buy it for a second, especially in the company of the stocky, short-statured, moon-faced and rather morose Florence Pugh.

On top of which my trapped legs were killing me in that third-row-center seat.