A Tunnel in the Sky

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Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted December 26, 2023

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I won't say much about this film other than it is great, one of the best I've seen in many years. It is based on a true story of course, and the plot points can be verified through online searches. There are only a couple of fictional characters, particularly Alden Ehrenreich as a Senate aide to Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr), during preparation for his Congressional testimony for a cabinet post appointment. Almost everyone else is an historical figure, starting with J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), "Father of the Atomic Bomb." Emily Blunt plays his wife Kitty, while Florence Pugh is Jean Tadlock, a woman he had an affair with over several years. Kitty and Jean had been members of the Communist Party of the United States, an association that would plague Oppenheimer in his dealings with government and military organizations before, during, and after his work on the Manhattan Project.

The time lines shift throughout, from Oppenheimer's early studies in the UK and other places in Europe, to his personal life with Jean and later Kitty, his experiences at Berkeley, at Los Alamos, then the aftermath of his reluctance to embrace development of the hydrogen bomb. The movie is long, but didn't feel like three hours, or I suppose about 2:50 minus the credits. The cast is so big not many get that much screen time, but there are many recognizable faces. The acting is remarkable throughout, and if you are like me, not perusing the cast list beforehand, you might also be surprised a few times. For instance, until after viewing I had no idea it was Tom Conti playing Albert Einstein, or David Krumholz as Isidor Rabi. I first thought it was Chris Hemsworth in the role of Ernest Lawrence, inventor of the cyclotron. It was Josh Hartnett. Gary Oldman once again transformed his appearance, accent, and demeanor to play another world leader.

But make no mistake, this is Cillian Murphy's film. He is believable at every stage of Oppenheimer's life; the young scientific dreamer, the more mature implementer of theory, the beleagured director of the most important and dangerous research ever conducted, then the haggard man who realized what his research had unleashed. Not only the make up used, but Murphy's acting is believable at every age. I know I have not seen many films from this year, but I will still be surprised if this is not nominated for almost every award, and doubly surprised if it doesn't win most of them. The only thing it probably shouldn't win is sound design, which is off balance with very loud effects that are almost deafening. Not sure how it was in theaters, but I watched it on 4K disc with a 5.1 audio receiver. I had to raise and lower the volume too many times. Otherwise, near perfect. Even though it is a very somber, depressing subject, I know I will be watching it again, probably soon.


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Christopher Nolan

July 21, 2023

Cillian Murphy
Emily Blunt
Robert Downey Jr
Florence Pugh
Kenneth Branagh
David Krumholz
Tom Conti
Josh Hartnett
Jefferson Hall
Matt Damon
Dane DeHaan
Alden Ehrenreich
Benny Safdie
Christopher Denham
Rami Malik
Casey Affleck
Gary Oldman

Full Credits at IMDb

On DVD, Blu-ray & 4K from Amazon.

A purchase through our links may earn us a commission.