New ‘Oppenheimer’ Trailer Suggests Christopher Nolan May Have Another WWII-Based Classic On His Hands

Cillian Murphy stars as J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan's upcoming blockbuster Oppenheimer.

Cillian Murphy stars as J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming blockbuster Oppenheimer.Courtesy of Universal Pictures
 The new, extended trailer for his summer 2023 blockbuster promises a historical epic on par with Nolan’s science-fiction films.

In Dunkirk, one of the best films of his career, director Christopher Nolan turned the real-world stakes of World War II into a pulse-pounding, every-second-counts thriller – and the result was just as exciting as one of the mind-benders on which he built his reputation. Judging by the new trailer for his latest film, it looks as if that more traditional approach (for him) is about to pay dividends again in Oppenheimer, Nolan’s film about the titular scientist, J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) and the creation of the atomic bomb. Something about WWII just seems to inspire Nolan to play it straight (well, straighter).

Whereas previous teasers focused on Murphy’s portrayal of the infamous scientist, this trailer, offers an extended look at Matt Damon’s Manhattan Project director Leslie Groves, emphasizing the film’s race-against-the-clock, heist-film quality. It also showcases the rapid construction of the top secret towns where scientists and their families lived and worked on this covert project and the myriad of tests and experiments done at the Los Alamos Laboratory. As in Dunkirk, this time around, the real-world stakes are baked-in. In case you failed to grasp them, Damon’s Groves shouts, in a classic trailer line, “This is the most important thing to ever happen in the history of the world!”

The latest trailer also offers more extensive looks at the film’s stacked ensemble, featuring Emily Blunt, Kenneth Branagh, Florence Pugh, and, in one especially portentous reveal, Tom Conti as Albert Einstein.

“Our work here will ensure a peace mankind has never seen,” Oppenheimer says.

The last third of the trailer calls that into question, with Benny Safie’s Edward Teller warning him that someone will always come along to create a larger, more devastating weapon. The trailer concludes with several poignant black-and-white shots of what appear to be a post-war hearing, potentially the 1954 investigation into Oppenheimer himself, poking into the scientist’s history with various communist and communist-sympathizing organizations.

Oppenheimer will be released in IMAX and the new trailer is intercut with some truly haunting shots of the atomic explosion. In an interview with Total Film Nolan called Oppnehimer, largely based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American Promethus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, “one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever taken on in terms of the scale of it, and in terms of encountering the breadth of Oppenheimer’s story.”

In particular, the piece highlights Nolan’s recreation of the famed Trinity nuclear test of 1945.. That scene (the events of which took place in New Mexico) was done without the use of computer graphics, and proved to be a herculean task for Nolan and his visual effects lead, Andrew Jackson, who also worked with the director on Tenet and Dunkirk. (Nolan has historically leaned on practical effects more than many directors working at his scale, including a famed scene in Tenet where the crew crashed an actual airplane.)

Nolan, long a vocal advocate for the theatrical experience–including Tenet’s controversial mid-pandemic rollout–debuted the trailer footage at April’s CinemaCon. “Like it or not, J. Robert Oppenheimer is the most important person who ever lived. He made the world we live in — for better or for worse. And his story has to be seen to be believed, and I am certainly hopeful audiences will come to your theaters to see it on the biggest screens possible,” he said.

Oppenheimer will be released on July 21, opposite another star-studded summer blockbuster about one of the most important, albeit inanimate objects: Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.

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