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SYFY WIRE Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan says his 'Oppenheimer’ film is 'both dream and nightmare'

"He made the world we live in, for better or for worse," Nolan says of atomic bomb creator, J. Robert Oppenheimer.

By Gina Salamone
Oppenheimer Trailer

Christopher Nolan showed off bits of his upcoming Oppenheimer film at CinemaCon this week — and it sounds explosive. The biographical flick — based on the 2005 book American Prometheus — deals with theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who helped bring about the atomic bomb. Nolan set the bar high when he told the gathering of movie theater owners in Las Vegas on Wednesday, “I know of no more dramatic tale with higher stakes,” according to Variety.

RELATED: Is 'Oppenheimer' delayed? The latest on Christopher Nolan's ambitious biopic about the atomic bomb

Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Inception, A Quiet Place Part II) stars as the title character in Oppenheimer, which arrives this summer. The cast also includes Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Rami Malek, Florence Pugh, and more. 

“Like it or not, J. Robert Oppenheimer is the most important person who ever lived," Nolan said at CinemaCon, according to Deadline. "He made the world we live in, for better or for worse. His story has to be seen to be believed. This is a cinematic tale; this is an experience of this extraordinary individual. The story poses the most unsettling questions, it’s both dream and nightmare. There are no easy answers but the most fascinating paradoxes.”

The film follows the Manhattan Project's race to build the first nuclear weapons during World War II. The footage shown Wednesday showed Oppenheimer and his crew working to build the bomb, as well scenes set further in the future when Russia had successfully created one as well, according to Variety, which described the film as "nail-biting."

Realizing the immense damage that an atomic bomb can do, and the prospect that Germany could have gotten its hands on the weapon first, Murphy-as-Oppenheimer says in the film, “I don’t know if we can be trusted with such a weapon. But I know the Nazis can’t,” Variety reported. 

Nolan — the filmmaker behind The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk and Tenet — promised a tale packed with "twists and turns and ethical dilemmas." Oppenheimer, from Universal Pictures, arrives in theaters July 21, 2023.

Want to try another movie based on real-life events? Try A Friend of the Family, now streaming on Peacock.