Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” is, among other things, one of the greatest visual achievements of 2023, combining film formats to create the riveting story of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), the father of the atomic bomb, and the beautiful, horrible contours of his life. And this new featurette about the movie’s cinematography, by frequent Nolan collaborator Hoyte van Hoytema, will appreciate the photography both the epic and intimate of “Oppenheimer.” Watch it above.
As Van Hoytema says early on in the featurette, “’Oppenheimer’ is very rich in many ways. As a biography, it’s very unconventional. As a political thriller, it’s very emotional.” To capture the story of Oppenheimer, they used 65mm and 65mm IMAX, including 65mm black-and-white, a format that van Hoytema admits didn’t exist before they started making “Oppenheimer.” They had to call up Kodak and see if it was possible. Kodak’s response? “Maybe,” according to von Hoytema.
And the extraordinary attention to detail and craftsmanship wasn’t lost on the film’s cast, with Emily Blunt making note of the process in the featurette. Her costar also had some choice words for the production. “Hoyte and Chris and this IMAX road rally that they’ve been doing. You want to talk about the highest possible degree of difficulty,” Robert Downey, Jr., who plays Lewis Strauss, a member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission who later sought to bring down Oppenheimer. “There was something so pure about it.”
Hopefully you have a free three hours to spend after watching this featurette because it really does make you want to re-watch “Oppenheimer,” which it was just announced would be returning to 70mm for a limited theatrical engagement. (You can also try to get the sold-out 4K Ultra HD disc of the movie.) And now the next time you watch it, you can appreciate the craft a little bit more.