Written by J.T. Johnson
Director Christopher Nolan has made several original works out of typical genres. This includes the reverse narrative of the mystery thriller “Memento” and his own take on the heist film with the dream-inspired “Inception”. Therefore, when I found out Nolan was going to tackle the sci-fi genre head on including space and time travel, I could not wait to see what he had in store for audiences.
Thankfully, with “Interstellar”, Nolan not only meets but exceeds my wildest expectations. Nolan once again creates beautiful characters, but he also tackles such issues as deep space exploration, wormholes, black holes and even human evolution. It is also one of the most visually striking films of the year.
At some point in the future, a terrible blight is ravaging Earth’s crops and huge dust storms threaten what remains of humanity. A former engineer turned farmer named Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is eventually asked to leave planet earth in order to investigate three potential new worlds for humans to inhabit. The way to do this is by going through a wormhole that has mysteriously appeared around Saturn.
The crew of the Endurance consists of Cooper, Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi) and two robots named TARS (Bill Irwin) and CASE (Josh Stewart). They have to decide which of the three planets takes priority and they have to consider not only fuel but time itself due to two of the planets being in close proximity to a black hole named Gargantua. If they spend an hour on one of the planets, for example, then seven years will have passed on Earth.
One of the movies that came to mind as I watched “Interstellar” was “2001: A Space Odyssey”. The movie contains actual ideas and has a brain when compared to most of the science fiction noisemakers from recent years such as the “Transformers” series. Nolan also doesn’t mind taking his time to tell his story but you barely feel the run time of 2 hours and 49 minutes.
He actually shows us what is at stake through spending time with Cooper and his family. Cooper’s son (Timothee Chalamet) is expected to be a farmer with no hope of going to college due to a lack of resources. Cooper is particularly proud of his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) due to her curiosity and high intellect that is being suppressed by a school system that is simply trying to train survivors rather than innovators. Only after about a half an hour in are we introduced to the fact that the supposedly defunct NASA has actually been secretly developing a way to save humanity beyond Earth’s own lifespan.
Visually, the movie is quite striking. Like “Gravity” before it, Nolan tries his best to stay in the realm of realism despite having to deal with more theoretical issues. The wormhole looks like it is actually a disturbance in space rather than a brightly lit entrance to a tunnel in space. The planets have striking characteristics that also prove that while they may be able to support organic life, they may not be suitable for human life specifically.
Nolan also knows how to pull together a fantastic cast of actors. Over the past five years, McConaughey has proven to be one of the best leading men of our generation. He has to carry most of the emotional weight of the movie and it is mostly through him that we see just what it’s like for these people to leave Earth. We also see the toll that it takes to leave behind everyone they love.
On Earth, Jessica Chastain plays an older Murph and Michael Caine plays Amelia’s father Professor Brand as they try to solve an equation related to gravitational anomalies that have been appearing over the past few decades. While the astronauts are trying to find a suitable home, it is this cast that reminds us that there are still people in danger on Earth. Their story is also filled with twists and turns as they also try to figure out how to save the human race from the ever increasing blight that grips the planet.
Beyond the visuals and the talented cast, the music is also another striking element. Composer Hans Zimmer has said goodbye to the drums and strings that made up the scores for the Dark Knight trilogy. Instead, Zimmer composes a score that feels like he was influenced by the original music found in “2001”. It provides a haunting effect that adds a bit of mystery and even more wonder to the emptiness of deep space.
“Interstellar” is one of those films that I want to watch again… and again… and again. There are so many moving parts to the movie that I’m sure there were things I missed. The movie makes you use your brain as well as providing solid entertainment, a common trait found in most of Nolan’s movies. As far as intellectual action films are concerned, Nolan has created what is unmistakably his masterpiece.