I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating: The fact that an R-rated, three-hour biopic with very little action has made more money than seemingly far safer commercial bets like “Dunkirk,” “Interstellar,” and “Inception” is nothing shy of staggering. There are virtually no other filmmakers working at this scale today capable of delivering global audiences this large time and time again. The fact that Nolan has done it repeatedly with almost no misses since leaving the “Batman” franchise behind is truly impressive.
The only real blemish is “Tenet,” which was released at the height of the pandemic and, as a result, topped out at $360.2 million worldwide. In hindsight, even that seems impressive given what the theatrical landscape has looked like in the aftermath of the pandemic. Cillian Murphy, who stars as J. Robert Oppenheimer in the film, certainly appears to be Nolan’s good luck charm, as he’s appeared in nearly all of the filmmaker’s biggest hits (save for “Interstellar”).
No matter how you want to slice it, it’s crystal clear that Nolan has built up a rapport with audiences that can cut through the noise in a meaningful way. As it stands, “Oppenheimer” is probably going to finish its theatrical run closer to $800 million worldwide than $700 million. It is already one of the biggest R-rated movies ever, and may end up second only to “Joker” ($1 billion) when all’s said and done. Coupled with the assured awards season love that is coming, this is a victory lap for one of our most respected living filmmakers.
“Oppenheimer” is in theaters now.