Interstellar surprised me. I walked into the theater expecting to see a bombastic space exploration flick. I did not expect the film to bring me to tears, but it did. The plot is centered on the final frontier, but Christopher Nolan’s latest is more than that. There’s a soul beneath the science-fiction spectacle. Love, mortality and the tragedy of lost time coalesce into an intricate, emotionally resonant narrative.
Nolan’s storytelling motivations are rooted more deeply in pathos than politics this time around. Gone are the heavy undertones prevalent throughout The Dark Knight trilogy. The reality of environmental destruction merely serves as the baseline for a more intimate narrative.
At the film’s core is the story of a father willing to cross the universe to see his daughter again. As Cooper, McConaughey embodies that deep yearning. Every one of Cooper’s decisions is based on that goal of returning to her. The actor anchors the story’s loftier science with the gravity of a father’s love. When Cooper realizes the distance that has come between them, it’s heartbreaking.
The entire cast delivers an affecting effort. Alongside McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine elevate the film beyond its broader conflicts. They break down the mission to save the human species into an interpersonal struggle. Each character naturally evokes empathy. I have enjoyed most of Christopher Nolan’s films, but I’ve never cared so much about his characters. With Interstellar, the director finally reached me on a human level.
Nolan’s grand vision made me feel small again. I was captivated by the film’s sheer audacity, misty-eyed in pure childlike wonder. Movies have the power to transport audiences to other realities. They offer, in essence, a momentary escape. Nolan completely convinced me that I’d left this world.
Interstellar is an odyssey into the unknown, but it’s also a tale about the transcendent power of human connection. The film confronts the inevitability of death with an inspired and hopeful eye, and its genuineness carries the weight of its sound and fury. For Christopher Nolan, the secret to touching the viewer’s heart was somewhere in the stars.
Movie Verdict: Win
Interstellar begins with dust and a mystery. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema takes us to an old home in Quiet Southern Town, U.S.A., complete with corn crops and a beater of a pick-up truck. It’s unclear what year it is but dust is everywhere. Perhaps a snapshot of The Great Depression?
Not likely. We hear from elderly men and women in interviews as they talk about “the Dust Bowl,” but these moments are cut with everyman Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) using a laptop and talking about the moon landing. Interstellar, it seems, is near-future science fiction.
The film is rife with gorgeous imagery. Apparently Nolan and his crew used real space photography and sets where possible to sidestep the CGI used in films like Gravity. The result is gorgeous. I don’t know that Hoytema – the brilliant director of photography for the more grounded films Her, Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – is put to great use in space. Still, some clear, subtle homages to reflections and space travel in 2001: A Space Odyssey reveal his fingerprints.
Plenty of folks have already set out to tear the film apart. And that’s not unwarranted; there are issues with the film. Consider that relativity matters on some planets, but not on others. Think about the wisdom of launching a mission to colonize another planet with only one woman and three men. Certainly logic doesn’t always apply in Nolan’s world. And the writing, though mostly competent, can veer into cringeworthy attempts at melodrama (“I’m saying that you’ve been trying to finish it with one arm – no, with both arms – tied behind your back!”).
But despite my history criticizing Christopher Nolan, I can’t deny that Interstellar truly captured my imagination. The film builds from what we know to then guesstimate something we don’t. What does humanity do in the face of impending famine? What happens inside a black hole? This is what science fiction should be: pushing the bounds knowledge into a realm that, for now, only exists on the silver screen.
Somewhere midway into the film, there’s an incredible shot of a space shuttle surfing down a titanic wave. I realized then that Nolan is finally having fun again. As Cooper and Brand (Anne Hathaway) explore the far reaches of outer space, I realized it is with Interstellar, and not Inception, that Nolan has dared to dream.
Movie Verdict: Win
The following podcast is an in-depth discussion of Interstellar. Naturally, this includes spoilers about the film’s plot, score, characters, cinematography, etc. You can listen to the podcast via the player below, download it here or subscribe via iTunes. Enjoy!
Final Verdict: Win
We mention one of Christopher Nolan’s original short films entitled Doodlebug, which can be found on Youtube along with the Bane before/after comparison from The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan’s comments on the IMAX sound mix can be found here.
How did you feel about Interstellar? Were the lapses in logic too much for you? Was Nolan really describing love as the force that transcends space and time, or is that just how Cooper romanticizes gravity? Let us know in the comments!