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Oppenheimer and Barbie reviewed at The Light Cinema, Wisbech

Film reviews: Barbie (12A) and Oppenheimer (15) – both seen at The Light Cinema. Wisbech

Along with many other film lovers, I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for a long time, making sure I put time aside to watch the summer’s two biggest films, both released in the UK on Friday.

Which of Barbie and Oppenheimer gets the better reception has been the topic of much debate in recent weeks, with critics and audiences seeming to narrowly favour the latter at the moment.

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken

But comparing these two films is akin to measuring up milkshake with whisky.

One is pink, fluffy and enjoyable, albeit with an important message, whereas the other is harsher and more serious. But, nonetheless, I enjoyed both immensely.

My first watch was Barbie on Saturday - and it’s funny, warm and compelling… although it would probably go over the heads of many of the pre-teen audience members.

Set between a film representation of Barbieland that looks just like your child’s dream set-up, and the real world, the film uses multiple Kens and Barbies to play out a battle of the sexes, with an overriding feminist message.

The script is original, the acting wonderful and it genuinely seems like the cast is having a great time.

Narrated by Helen Mirren, it’s firmly tongue in cheek throughout, with Margot Robbie excellent as ‘stereotypical’ Barbie and Ryan Gosling superb as ‘beach’ Ken.

Will Ferrell is as funny as ever as CEO of Mattel, the company that manufactures Barbies, and Simu Liu puts in a great performance as another Ken, while America Ferreira and Ariana Greenblatt have great chemistry as mum and daughter Gloria and Sasha. Emma Mackey, Dua Lipa, Rhea Pearlman and Rob Brydon also star.

There are some real laugh-out-loud moments too, plus a decent soundtrack and a few hilarious dance sequences.

Just one gripe though. Did you know the Mattel toy company invented the whole Barbie franchise? You will by the end of this.

Matt Damon and Cillian Murphy as Leslie Groves and J Robert Oppenheimer
Matt Damon and Cillian Murphy as Leslie Groves and J Robert Oppenheimer

So to Oppenheimer on Sunday. We all know the name of ‘the father of the atomic bomb’, but this is his story before, during and after those fateful attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

With the title role played superbly by Cillian Murphy, the film follows the race to create the first A-bomb and the fallout afterwards. Whereas Barbie was an enjoyable romp, this is more of an intense watch, but nonetheless, the three hours go quickly.

Murphy is supported brilliantly by Robert Downey Junior as politician Lewis Strauss, with Matt Damon also in wonderful form as Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, who oversaw the bomb-making project.

Emily Blunt also impresses as Kitty Oppenheimer, and an all-star cast also includes Rami Malek, Tom Conti (as Albert Einstein), Josh Hartnett, Gary Oldman, Kenneth Branagh and Matthew Modine. Florence Pugh also stars as Oppenheimer’s mistress Jean Tatlock, although playing a smaller role than you might imagine.

So, one weekend, two very different but very good films… and a major boost for box offices all over the UK.


Barbie 8/10

Oppenheimer 8/10

By Jeremy Ransome

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