There is no violence or gory imagery in Oppenheimer, despite the MPAA assigning it an R rating. The nuclear bomb drama about theoretical scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, played onscreen by longtime Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy, gets an R rating for “some sexuality, nudity, and language.”

Despite being a war film, Oppenheimer doesn’t transport us to the Pacific or European front lines. More significantly, it doesn’t depict the horrific fallout from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks.

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“I think really, as a filmmaker, you can’t be overly conscious about why you choose to do things. You have to run on instinct to a degree,” the filmmaker said at a New York City event before the movie’s release. “But the feeling for me as a filmmaker was very strongly that to depart from Oppenheimer’s experience would betray the terms of the storytelling.”

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“He learned about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the radio — the same as the rest of the world,” Nolan added, referring to the new information he got through the pages of American Prometheus, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography on which the movie is based. “That, to me, was a shock … Everything is his experience, or my interpretation of his experience. Because as I keep reminding everyone, it’s not a documentary. It is an interpretation. That’s my job.”

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That’s why Nolan decided to write the screenplay in first-person and why he’s wary to discuss “spoilers,” even though the history is common knowledge at this point. “That’s why it’s not a documentary or docudrama,” he said. “Because it’s the way in which you receive the story that hopefully creates suspense, hopefully creates surprise.”