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Cillian Murphy ponders man-made horrors in the trailer for Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer

Cillian Murphy stars in Oppenheimer alongside Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, Emily Blunt, and more

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Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer
Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer
Screenshot: Universal Pictures/Youtube

In the first trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, Manhattan Project leader J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) grapples with the horrifying imagination of man as the pieces of the atomic bomb fall into place.

“They won’t fear it until they understand it, and they won’t understand it until they’ve used it,” says Oppenheimer in the trailer. “Theory will only take you so far.”


Oppenheimer was written and directed by Nolan, and created with what’s considered a small budget for the big-budget auteur: $100 million. The central visual effect was not created in a digital graphics lab, but instead uses practical effects to recreate the first nuclear detonation.

“I think recreating the Trinity test [the first nuclear weapon detonation ever] without the use of computer graphics was a huge challenge to take on,” Nolan recently said. “Andrew Jackson—my visual effects supervisor, I got him on board early on—was looking at how we could do a lot of the visual elements of the film practically, from representing quantum dynamics and quantum physics to the Trinity test itself, to recreating, 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.”


In addition to Murphy, Oppenheimer stars Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, Benny Safdie, Emily Blunt, Kenneth Branagh, Rami Malek, Casey Affleck, Gary Oldman, Josh Peck, James Remar, Josh Hartnett, and Alden Ehrenreich.

Oppenheimer | Official Trailer

For the real-life J. Robert Oppenheimer, The Secretary of Energy recently nullified the 1954 decision which revoked the late scientist’s security clearance. The atomic bomb creator was accused of spying on behalf of the Soviets, undergoing a “kangaroo court” trial which ended in him losing access to his atomic bomb research and effectively ending his career.

“History matters and what was done to Oppenheimer in 1954 was a travesty, a black mark on the honor of the nation,” says Kai Bird, co-author of American Prometheus (on which Oppenheimer is based). “Students of American history will now be able to read the last chapter and see that what was done to Oppenheimer in that kangaroo court proceeding was not the last word.”

“I’m sure it doesn’t go as far as Oppenheimer and his family would have wanted,” adds science historian Alex Wellerstein. “But it goes pretty far. The injustice done to Oppenheimer doesn’t get undone by this. But it’s nice to see some response and reconciliation even if it’s decades too late.”


Oppenheimer premieres in theaters on July 21, 2023.