Interstellar Movie Review
Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR reminds me of a time when I was younger, watching every film on AFI’s top 100 list. The excitement and wonder of a new discovery, yet something still familiar. Every movie had limitations due to aging with time but something was still relevant and powerful as many films were the first of their kind and capture an essence of something creative and grand. INTERSTELLAR is an incredibly impressive and ambitious piece of work that builds from its predecessors but also has its limitations because of the familiarity. Nevertheless, the film captivated me for the entire 169 minute runtime and moved me emotionally.
While so many other science fiction films begin post apocalyptic, INTERSTELLAR picks up in the middle of the downfall. I’d like to think of it as a hybrid prequel to WALL-E if the world was destroyed by nature rather than trashy humans. Food is scarce on the earth and the world no longer needs technology, it needs farmers. Unfortunately, crops continue to fail due to massive dust bowls. Former astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) happens upon what appears to be a supernatural phenomenon occurring in his daughter’s room that leads him to a secret NASA hideout led by Professor Brand (Michael Cain). Learning that the earth will soon be uninhabitable, Cooper chooses to leave his children in hopes to save their future. Piloting his crew (Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, and David Gyasi) on a mission through a wormhole to another galaxy, Cooper and team hope to find an inhabitable planet for humanity to survive. However, due to the different time relativity on each atmosphere, the mission crew will age significantly slower than their loved ones back on earth, making time of the essence.
The amount of complicated detail and precision to make INTERSTELLAR work is an undertaking worth respect. Director Christopher Nolan allows the story to unfold with deliberate pace and control. With only a few key scenes, Nolan details the humanity and horror of life on earth. The relationship between Cooper and his two children (Timothee Chalamet and Mackenzie Foy) along with his father (John Lithgow) is immediate and natural. The characters are well-developed through actions that make them instantly relatable. When the disastrous dust bowl hits, the intricacies in the way in which people had to endure feels so alive and immersive. The same could be said when the action is taken to space. How everything works is perhaps explained to a fault but the attention to detail makes INTERSTELLAR easy to follow in its complexity. The scenes are beautiful and deliberate and at times blaring with over indulgent sound, but it is all done with purpose.
While INTERSTELLAR explores space and time in an interesting fashion, the strongest element is that of the human relationship. Specifically the parent/child bond. As a relatively new father, I found the decision for Cooper to abandon his children in order to save them extremely compelling. The debate to save humanity over the individual or saving the individual to keep humanity is a theme that permeates effectively throughout the film. The parallels of one father leaving his children and another sending his child away, are predicated on very different actions but ultimately with the same motive of sacrificing themselves to save their loved ones. There is a line that Cooper says to explain why he can’t simply tell his little girl that he’s leaving to save the world that changes an important perspective, “When you become a parent, one thing becomes really clear. And that’s that you want to make sure your children feel safe.”
Like Nolan’s brilliantly inventive and far more entertaining INCEPTION, INTERSTELLAR plays with the slowing of time but it takes it a step further by showing the emotional effects of a father staying the same age while his children get older. In what I think is his best performance to date, Matthew McConaughey loses himself completely in the role. He is the anchor of the film full of strong performances, reacting genuinely and effortlessly.
INTERSTELLAR celebrates the exploration and pursuit of more, but more than that it celebrates people, life and love. In a throwback epic style reminiscent of an obvious film like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY or even a less obvious film like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, INTERSTELLAR is a different branch from Christopher Nolan’s previous work. Where 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY feels like one giant leap, INTERSTELLAR is closer to one small step, but still a reflective and memorable step forward. The fact is, INTERSTELLAR is exhaustingly engaging and one I’m glad I was able to experience.