Christopher Nolan is one of the most recognizable names in Hollywood and has been at the helm of huge blockbuster titles like The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar, and Dunkirk. His accolades include 36 Oscar Nominations and 11 wins. He appeared in Time’s 100 most influential people in the world for their 2015 issue and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2019 for his services to the film industry. Needless to say, the man is paramount to the modern sci-fi and action genres, and his work thus far has been a gift to the world of cinema.
Giddy anticipation does not even start to describe the yearning for content that arises from his fanbase when the world’s on the precipice of a new Nolan release. His past films have been, by all metrics, huge successes. When it was announced in September 2021 that Nolan was directing a biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer set during World War IIfilm fanatics were ecstatic and overjoyed at the prospect of a biopic, a known passion and desire of Nolan’s.
The film has a release date of July, 21st 2023. And unlike the streaming release of his most recent filmTenet, Oppenheimer will be released exclusively in theaters in standard digital projection, IMAX, 35mm, and 70mm.
Who is J. Robert Oppenheimer?
J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and head of Alamos Laboratory during World War II. Oppenheimer was a part of the Manhattan Project, which was known for the development of nuclear weapons. As wartime ensued, the Alamos Laboratory swelled from a few hundred employees in 1943 to over 6,000 in 1945. As head of the laboratory, Oppenheimer was at first overwhelmed with the number of people under his control, but he quickly learned to navigate the organizational practices of large group productivity. Oppenheimer took up permanent residence at Alamos Laboratory and, even with the large number of personnel, refused to be confined to solely administrative tasks. Instead, he immersed himself into a participatory role and with his continuous presence he was astutely aware of each decisive step.
Oppenheimer was among those who observed the Trinity test, the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in human history. After witnessing the Trinity test, Oppenheimer has said that the words of the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture, came to mind; he quoted, “Now I am becoming Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Oppenheimer, a complex and thoughtful man, will be played by Cillian Murphyknown for his work in 28 Days Later, Inception, and Peaky Blinders. There does not seem to be a more apt performer to play Oppenheimer. The foreboding, bold, and solemn demeanor that Murphy has been able to bring to his past characters (even in Murphy’s moments as Scarecrow in Nolan’s Batman films) will fit perfectly with this enigmatic historical figure.
Christopher Nolan’s Passion Project
A director’s passion serves as their fuel for creativity. Being a biopic film, Oppenheimer differs greatly from Nolan’s previous work, and his venture into this genre is sure to be a refreshing and captivating experiment. Nolan has toyed with the idea of a biopic before, first writing a script for a movie about billionaire tycoon Howard Hughes. He remarked to the Daily Beast that it was the best screenplay he has ever written.
However, Scorsese’s similarly themed movie, The Aviator, beat Nolan to production. With respect to Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting as Howard Hughes, Nolan abandoned the project. Now almost 20 years later, Oppenheimer can be seen as Nolan’s long revived pursuit of producing a biographical drama.
When Science and Drama Meet
This film will undoubtedly be an atypical biopic. In typical Nolan fashion, we expect action, drama, and a splash of science fiction. Nolan has a tendency to gravitate towards the intangible in his films. Interstellar finds a way to marry the intricacies of the space-time continuum with the more concrete theme of space exploration with its intellectual sci-fi premise and script. Inception sees itself as an action movie while also tackling themes pertaining to metaphysics and the unconscious mind.
Upon first look, it may seem as though Nolan is limiting himself by telling a story through the grounded perspective of a historical figure. But further examination will recognize that nothing gets closer to science fiction than the existential power of the atomic bomb, a device quite literally capable of bringing an end to all living things.
There is no doubt that Nolan will bring a unique vantage point to this nearly sci-fi story. He very well may re-write the definition of biographical drama. Shooting started in February 2022, and as of now, many of the details are still under wraps, but it is assured that this 12th feature film by Nolan will be nothing short of a spectacle.
What to Expect
Other than a likely masterclass in historical storytelling, there is a lot to look forward to in this film. The cast so far seems to include a handful of talented individuals such as Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh, Josh Peck, Emily Blunt, Jason Clarke, Robert Downey Jr., David Dastmalchian, and Matt Damon. Nolan has selected an incredibly talented group, some of whom he has had working relationships with in the past. There is no doubt that these individuals will be able to accurately represent the people in which the film is based off of.
The source material for this film comes from Pulitzer Prize winning book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Nolan has adapted the book into a film script himself, but because it is based on a biography, it is safe to assume that this film will remain in the realm of nonfiction and a historically relevant narrative.
Through a teaser that has been released, we are able to get a glimpse at the look and feel of this film. Reminiscent of the cinematography in Dunkirk, the teaser shows an accurate reproduction of the era. The teaser clip shows faithful wardrobe and set design recreation and, also similar to Dunkirk, its authenticity is bolstered by capturing the period using film stock. The movie utilizes IMAX 65mm and 65mm large-format film for capture. It is also the first feature length film to shoot some portions in IMAX black and white analog photography. This movie is making itself out to be absolutely visually stunning. With such an incredibly talented cast and crew, it will undoubtedly be one of the most anticipated films of 2023.
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