Pop Culture

Christopher Nolan Goes Black and White for the First Time in 24 Years in the Oppenheimer Teaser

Nolan’s opus on the physicist behind the atomic bomb is due next year.

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer.

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer.Courtesy of Universal

The first teaser for Christopher Nolan’s next opus, Oppenheimer, is finally here, giving viewers their first glimpse of Cillian Murphy as the titular physicist who was instrumental in the creation of the atomic bomb.

In 2017’s Dunkirk, Nolan strung together three distinct timelines into a dizzying story of survival and heroism during the Battle of France, and this peek at Oppenheimer similarly revolves around a countdown to an infamous moment in history. The time until the bomb’s detonation is listed on the screen in one of the opening frames, and revisited in a poignant final shot of Oppenheimer hounded by press, captioned, “The world forever changes.” (Presumably this clock is ticking down to the July 1945 Trinity test, and not to when the bombs were dropped on Japan, one month later.)


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Oppenheimer played a crucial role in leading the Manhattan Project’s development of the atomic bomb during World War II, and oversaw the weapon’s successful testing in 1945. Later in his life and career, Oppenheimer famously opposed nuclear proliferation.

Though we don’t see them in the trailer, Nolan’s film boasts a formidable roster of talent supporting Murphy, including: Emily Blunt as Oppenheimer’s wife and fellow scientist Kitty; Matt Damon as Leslie Groves, the military leader in charge of the Manhattan Project; and Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, and Robert Downey, Jr. in other roles.

Based on the trailer, the film may largely be black-and-white, which would mark a return to the minimalist style Nolan hasn’t used since his first indie feature, 1998’s Following. Interspered shots of explosions and embers in the trailer, however, are rendered in vivid color, which (if pulled from the film) could be Nolan’s way to evoke the fiery, then-unprecedented, world-changing power of the atomic bomb.

The trailer doesn’t highlight any dialogue scenes. The only words come in unidentified, cryptic voiceovers. “How can this man who sees so much be so blind?” a male voice asks. Over the film’s title, another voice refers to Oppenheimer as “the man who moved the earth.”

The primary source material for Oppenheimer is Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography that took the authors a quarter century to write. The book delves into the scientist’s personal life, his controversial association with Communist politics and groups, and his anxiety over his own legacy. Oppenheimer is due out a year from now, on July 21, 2023.

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