One staple in biography films is the end title sequence. That’s where as the movie comes to a close some text appears that gives a little more detail on the subjects life and perhaps the impact they had on others or the world at large. Here is a very small spoiler for Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer”, no such extra explanation on the man’s life is given. That is because after this three hour masterpiece there is nothing left to explain. Writer/director Nolan leaves no stone unturned.

The film follows J. Robert Oppenheimer from his college graduate years, to him getting tapped to lead the Manhattan Project that oversaw the development of the atomic bomb and the Trinity test (where the first bomb was exploded) and finally to his controversial security hearing years later. The story does not happen in chronological order. It time jumps frequently, sometimes being shot in color and other times in black & white. Years are never shown and it can get very confusing to the point of frustration. However, it all ties together and makes sense by the end.

“Oppenheimer” is far from your typical summer movie. Usually at this time of year we are looking for films that can be described as “A fun ride” or “Non-stop excitement.” Basically, a picture that you can sit back and enjoy where you don’t have to think too much. This is not that! Sometimes it makes you feel you need to be smart just to follow it. The screenplay must have been incredibly layered.

Christopher Nolan gathered an impressive ensemble of talent. Cillian Murphy, who has worked with the director on multiple projects is Robert Oppenheimer. Emily Blunt is Kitty Oppenheimer. Matt Damon is Leslie Groves, the Lieutenant who recruited Oppenheimer and Robert Downey Jr. is Lewis Strauss in arguably the best role of his career. It may be July, but Downey must be considered the heavy favorite to take all the best supporting acting awards. Despite the subject matter, “Oppenheimer” is a exceptionally character driven picture that is filled with fantastic one on one scenes between actors.

“Oppenheimer” is a technical achievement too. Nolan is known for shooting on IMAX film cameras, but before this was made there was no such thing as black & white film stock for the format, so it was especially made for the project. Naturally the visuals are stunning along with the cinematography. A real stand out is the sound design. The scene where the A-bomb goes off is expertly pulled off. Then there are moments like when Oppenheimer receives a thunderous standing ovation that is devoid of sound. The music often helps to intensify many scenes throughout the story.

A movie like “Oppenheimer” will not be for everyone. It’s the kind of film that audiences collectively watch in silence. The run-time may be a deterrent to some, but it is necessarily long. It would not surprise me that one day a film school devotes an entire semester to the making of this picture.

3 Swords