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  • Writer's pictureSabrina Roman

Oppenheimer: Everything We Know About Christopher Nolan's Latest Masterpiece

“There’s the idea of how we get in somebody’s head and see how they were visualising this radical reinvention of physics” Christopher Nolan decisively illustrated to Empire. “One of the things that cinema has struggled with historically is the representation of intelligence or genius. It very often fails to engage people.”

Albeit facetiously, it’s precisely the applauded British filmmaker's adroitness to envelop the audience into the consciousnesses of the characters he introduces them to, both protagonist and antagonist — think The Dark Knight and Inception, which sets his films apart as ones to watch once, twice, a hundred times over. This contemporary one centred on the “father of the atomic bomb” and anticipated to be introduced to cinemas on the July 21, is no different.

Whilst we’re counting down to its release, here’s everything you need to know.

The Man, The Myth, The Legend and The Focus: Who was J. Robert Oppenheimer?

Written entirely in first person, from the viewpoint of Oppenheimer, the production takes its cue from a biography of the American theoretical physicist by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin which follows his contribution to the Manhattan Project. A US-led research and development programme which was formed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, undertaken in the shadow of WW2 and concentrated on producing the world’s first nuclear weapons in response to a perceived threat from Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

In response to the catastrophic attack on Pearl Harbour in the December of 1941 at the hands of the Japanese, and America’s entry into the war on the sides of Great Britain and the United States, the project evolved into a militarised effort overseen by Lieutenant Leslie Grover of the Army Corps Of Engineers.

Two years after, Oppenheimer was chosen as the Los Alamos Laboratory’s director in New Mexico, where the bombs were physically assembled. The complex, under the pseudonym of Project Y, was also where the first Manhattan Project bombs were constructed and tested.

In 1945, the Manhattan Project closed in the aftermath of the first successful detonation of a nuclear weapon at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico as part of the Trinity test. Conceived as a solution to end WW2, the weapons were later used to deracinate Hiroshima and Nagasaki between the 6th and 9th of August, wreaking havoc on both cities and killing over 100,000 inhabitants.

Who's playing who?

After a professional relationship stretched out over nearly 20 years, which has seen Cillian Murphy step into the shoes of Jonathan Crane in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Robert Fischer in Inception, Oppenheimer marks the actor’s first foray into a leading role. “{I prepped by doing} an awful lot of reading,” Murphy explained in an interview with The Guardian. “In interested in the man and what {inventing the atomic bomb} does to the individual. The mechanics of it, that’s not really for me — I don't have the intellectual ability to understand them, but these contradictory characters are fascinating.”

Joining him is a host of well-known Hollywood figures, from Emily Blunt as Katherine Oppenheimer to Matt Damon as Manhattan Project director Gen, Leslie Groves Jr and Robert Downey Jr, as Lewis Strauss, a founding commissioner of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Also set to feature are Florence Pugh, Benny Safdie, Michael Angarano, Josh Hartnett, Rami Malek, and Dane DeHaan alongside a number of other names.

What can we expect?

Nolan himself, has openly illustrated the visceral reception that the production has pulled from its premiere audience, citing their inability to speak and devastation at the course of events it unflinchingly brings to life. “I am, at the moment, stunned and emotionally recovering from having seen it,” Bird said during a recent conversation. “I think it’s going to be a stunning artistic achievement, and I have hopes it will actually stimulate a national, even global conversation about the issues that Oppenheimer was desperate to speak out about — about how we live in the atomic age, how to live with the bomb and about McCarthyism — what it means to be a patriot, and what is the role for a scientist in a society drenched with technology and science, to speak out about public issues.”

Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer is out in cinemas from July 20.


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