Movie Review: Interstellar
Despite being a film set mostly within the vacuum of space, Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” proves to be a welcome breath of fresh air. Without aliens, time traveling robots, or even a guardian of the galaxy Nolan’s latest flick still excels at depicting space and its mysteries as wondrous, intimate and when necessary, terrifying.
Facing extinction, man is left no choice but to look towards the stars for a habitable planet in which it can reside on. The catch? This potential new piece of real estate does not exist within the confines of our measly galaxy and Interstellar travel must be accomplished so that we can explore a new galaxy with new planets.
Another film in the sci-fi canon that pits man against space was Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. Both films use space to tackle the themes of love and survival but it is amazing to see just how different of an approach the two films take. While Cuaron’s artful film was a very contained scenario, Interstellar does the opposite and takes advantage of the infinite depth of its canvas and creates a story that is literally out of this world, even when it starts out on earth.
Interstellar begins with Matthew McConaughey as Cooper, an ex nasa test pilot and widowed father who lives with his two young children and father in law in a dystopian future. Probably the most unsettling observation of this desolate future, which is surely intentional, is that it all looks very present and plausible. The earth has run out of food and is swiftly on its way to running out of oxygen as well. There are no zombies or nuclear explosions in this future; just dust, so much dust that the world is literally suffocating. It’s depictions like this that can make blood crawl just for the fact that the extinction level event could be something so torturously mundane as slowly running out of food while we choke on the air.
The film’s first act takes the time to explore familial life while still on Earth. It’s during this time we get to know our characters and the strong bonds that each of them share, particularly Cooper and his 10 yr old daughter Murphy. Through some plot devices that I will not reveal Cooper and Murphy soon stumble upon the remnants of NASA where another father/daughter team (Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway) work tirelessly planning a secret space exhibition that would see the human race migrating from Earth to somewhere more inviting. Where that somewhere might be is when everyone begins scratching their collective heads.
Soon enough the space adventure begins and it does not disappoint. Nolan takes advantage of almost every factual and theoretical aspect of science and space travel in order to relay his vision. From the claustrophobic loneliness to the haunting silence, movie goers will feel as if they themselves are in the cockpit of The Endurance sling-shotting pass Saturn into the vast unknown. The mission to find a habitable world is sold as a gamble to our film’s protagonists and the script does a fantastic job of building the suspense that goes along with it.
With every world visited by The Endurance we are exposed to vast environments that would make you both glad and envious that you were never an astronaut. From planets completely covered in water to frozen tundras, these grandiose landscapes are made to drive the point home that in the grand scheme; Earth, and the humans that reside on it are just a specs of dust in the galaxy and galaxies beyond.
The explanations of all the wonders witnessed by movie goers are offered as scientifically as possible, but don’t worry… As “heady” as the accompanying science is for everything we see on screen (black holes, worm holes a lot of time bending) it never feels condescending or overly complicated. No, your probably not going to walk out of the film an astro physicist but you’re not going to feel lost in translation either.
This is where the ideas of time and love come into play. Not one for creating a story without an organic message, Nolan chooses to use the principles of time and love as the anchors that humanize this science stuffed space adventure. Without giving away the film’s head twisting third act all I would say is pay close attention to how our characters become victims of time and how the idea of love manages to transcend space and time in the most unconventional and celestial ways possible. Some viewers ultimately may not be satisfied by such sappy solutions but regardless, you have to give Nolan his credit for presenting familiar themes and ideas like love in a way you would never see coming. The idea is that love is quantifiable and it is this mystery of the universe that will ultimately unlock its secrets. Between the technical wonders achieved by using practical sets and an IMAX camera, combined with the philosophical musings of what makes humans human Nolan once again manages to side step convention in order to deliver an original piece of cinema that will awe both visually and mentally.