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SYFY WIRE Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer Is His Longest Movie Yet

Get ready for a long stay in the theater for Nolan's Oppenheimer.

By Matthew Jackson
Oppenheimer Trailer

Christopher Nolan makes big movies. Thanks to the box office and cultural cache he built up through films like his Dark Knight trilogy and his sci-fi thriller Inception, Nolan has spent the last decade or so of his career going about as big as anyone in the blockbuster space, delivering war epics (Dunkirk), sci-fi spectacles (Interstellar), and spy thrillers (Tenet) with the same sense of vision and ambition. 

But even by Nolan's standards, Oppenheimer is particularly huge. Speaking to Total Film about the new historical drama about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy) and his role in the creation of the atomic bomb, Nolan confirmed that it will be his longest movie yet, and will keep us in the theater for about the same time as Avatar: The Way of Water did just a few months ago.

RELATED: Jordan Peele says Oppenheimer is his must-see film of 2023

"It's slightly longer than the longest we've done," Nolan said. "It's kissing three hours." 

It makes sense that Oppenheimer is a sprawling film, because there's a lot of ground to cover in Oppenheimer's life and work. Even if the film just focuses on the bomb, and the secretive process surrounding its creation, testing, and deployment, there's a ton to cover, and that's before you even get to Oppenheimer's own feelings on the role he played in crafting something so destructive. There are so many things to mine that it could easily be a miniseries, so in some ways Nolan will always be giving us an abbreviated version, even at three hours.

Nolan also teased the character of Oppenheimer himself, played by Murphy as a man caught in the middle of a storm of progress that he can't contain, grappling with the implications of a world-changing creation that could be humanity's undoing. According to the filmmaker, who wrote the script based on Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin's Pulitzer-winning biography American Prometheus, we can be prepared for a typically Nolan protagonist in that Oppenheimer has the "ambiguity" that the director loves in his characters. But again, even by Nolan's standards, things went a little bigger this time out.

"I think of any character I've dealt with, Oppenheimer is by far the most ambiguous and paradoxical. Which, given that I've made three Batman films, is saying a lot."

We'll learn more about exactly what the famously secretive Nolan means when Oppenheimer hits theaters July 21.

In the meantime, if you're looking for more from Cillian Murphy, check out Watching the Detectives, now streaming on Peacock!