Christopher Nolan is going nuclear. No, he’s not (still) upset about Tenet’s pandemic-era release (though he did permanently abandon ex-BFF Warner Bros., which he believes bungled the palindrome movie’s release). His next film, Oppenheimer, follows the titular J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the theoretical physicists credited with being the “father of the atomic bomb,” and his role in the Manhattan Project — ya know, the top-secret nuclear research and development program ran by the U.S. government to develop the apocalyptic weapons. The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize–winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, by Kai Bird and the late Martin J. Sherwin.
Nolan partnered with Universal Pictures to finance and distribute the film, which he also wrote and directed, after ditching Warner Bros. — with whom he made the Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Dunkirk, and Tenet — over the latter film’s aforementioned release. But that doesn’t mean he’s ditching his Nolan-y aesthetics. Like his previous flicks, it’s an event film. Think fiery explosions and pensive landscape long shots and Cillian Murphy voice-over and an obsession with the mysteries of space-time, all captured on Imax large-format film by previous collaborator Hoyte Van Hoytema. Plus, music by Tenet’s (and Black Panther’s) Ludwig Göransson. Below, the mind-blowing trailer, cast, plot, and release-date details for Oppenheimer.
Has the trailer dropped?
A movie about nuclear research and armament’s gotta have a trailer befitting the topic. The latest shows a man more assured that the destruction power of the bomb is a necessary evil. “We’re in a race against Nazis, and I know what it means if the Nazis have a bomb,” he says. “We have one hope.” Oppenheimer sits at a postwar congressional hearing at the end of the trailer, realizing the gravity of what they created. In the first full look from December 2022, we saw an Oppenheimer who, despite creating the incredibly destructive weapon, seems a little concerned about its deployment. The very first shot is the blaze of a detonated nuke, followed by a close-up of the embattled scientist’s eyes and falling rain. “We imagine a future, and our imaginings horrify us,” he says in voice-over as researchers assemble the bomb. “They won’t fear it until they understand it. And they won’t understand it until they’ve used it.” He doesn’t know if we can be trusted with such a weapon. “But we have no choice,” he contends.
Who else is in the cast?
An all-star cast. Cillian Murphy, longtime Nolan collaborator (Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Dunkirk) and Peaky Blinders star, plays Oppenheimer. Plus, there’s Emily Blunt, best known (by me) for The Devil Wears Prada, and, more recently, for her turn in The Quiet Place. She plays Oppenheimer’s wife, Katherine. The most unbothered star of this year’s Venice Film Festival (Florence Pugh, duh) — remember when she strutted the carpet in a purple matching set clutching an Aperol spritz during a worrying press tour? — appears in the film as Jean Tatlock, a psychiatrist and physician who has a complicated relationship with the titular character.
Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. is Lewis Strauss, a businessman and philanthropist who became a major figure in the development of the bomb.
Academy Award–winning actors Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) and Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) star as well, with the former playing Manhattan Project director Leslie Groves. Uncut Gems’ Benny Safdie is Edward Teller, a Hungarian physicist. Shakespeare enthusiast Kenneth Branagh appears as well, alongside Josh Hartnett, Dane DeHaan, Jack Quaid, Matthew Modine, Alden Ehrenreich, David Krumholtz, and Michael Angarano.
If half of Hollywood took a role in Barbie, then the other half got a job in Nolan’s Oppenheimer.
How is Christopher Nolan going to pull off a nuclear explosion?
Not CGI. The film re-creates the first-ever nuclear-weapon detonation without the use of computer graphics for filming purposes. Visual-effects supervisor Andrew Jackson had to rack his brain on how to film the effects “practically, from representing quantum dynamics and quantum physics to the Trinity test itself, to re-creating, with my team, Los Alamos up on a mesa in New Mexico in extraordinary weather, a lot of which was needed for the film, in terms of the very harsh conditions out there — there were huge practical challenges,” he told Total Film. We still don’t know how exactly he created the look-alike bomb, but we will soon.
When will Oppenheimer be released?
The film blasts into theaters July 21, 2023.
This post has been updated.