Gathering knowledge of the unknown has been a centuries old task. Learning new ideas about the universe has had a profound impact on the people that explore such complex questions. This is exactly what Christopher Nolan is doing with his film, “Interstellar”.
“Interstellar” is Nolan’s attempt at asking questions about the universe in an entertaining and (what he calls) a “scientifically accurate” fashion. This story begins in the thick of what seems to be the near future. The advancement of science has brought the world new technologies, but at the cost of a dying planet. Food shortages abound and, with farming numbers dwindling, there aren’t enough people to grow and harvest new strains of crops. Dust storms wreak havoc on the environment, thus making it harder for humans to live long lives. Enter Matthew McConaughey, who leads an all-star cast. He plays Cooper, an engineer by trade and a farmer by necessity. Cooper was once on the fast track to be shot into space as an astronaut, but instead has been called upon to tend to his two children and his father-in-law, played by the always wonderful, John Lithgow. Trying to make the best of a horrible situation, he longs for the opportunity to fix a world that seems to be on the brink.
Cooper’s two children, Murph and Tom have bleak and predestined futures, which Cooper is trying to change. His son Tom is on his way to becoming a farmer himself. His younger daughter, Murph, is smart and quite inquisitive. She has the mind of her father; she constantly asks questions that she wants to find the answer to. She believes that she is experiencing paranormal activity in her room. Books keep flying off her shelf and she knows she must investigate to get to the bottom of it. During one of the many dust storms, Cooper and the family rush home for shelter. Cooper asks the family to make sure the windows are closed; they all are, with the exception of Murph’s bedroom, the one with the “paranormal activity”. What happens in that room with Cooper and Murph is what sets the film into motion.
Cooper and Murph set out on an adventure to coordinates on a map that were found in Murph’s room. What they find is Cooper’s former employer, NASA, working under a cloak of darkness, trying to find a way to better the planet’s outcome. We meet Professor Brand, played by Michael Caine, Cooper’s former professor and colleague. We are also introduced to Brand, the daughter of Professor Brand, played by Anne Hathaway. Through the research done by them and the NASA team, we find out that Earth is doomed and the only way to save mankind is to find a new planet to call home.
Through years of trial and error research, NASA thinks they may have found a way to gather past expedition information in the cause of finding a new habitable planet. Cooper is tasked with leading the new expedition along with the daughter Brand, two other researchers, a plucky A.I. bot called TARS and human embryos for safe keeping, just in case Earth and its inhabitants happen to no longer exist while they are away.
Christopher Nolan has crafted an extremely beautiful film. This movie is quite the looker. It truly is hard to avert your eyes from every frame. From the ships to the landscapes to the planets, you could freeze frame any scene and frame it as a piece of art. It’s that astoundingly gorgeous.
The story is compelling, hard to explain, and even mystical. The subject matter in the film from a scientific standpoint, I can’t verify, but the dialogue sounds authentic coming out of the mouths of the actors. The theory of relativity, the law of gravity, wormholes and so on are broached and it all sounds credible. The science is not dumbed-down and they don’t treat the audience as such. Yet, you don’t feel as if you are sitting through a college lecture.
Christopher Nolan knows how to handle a camera and what goes in front of it. This is evident with the special effects, which aren’t outrageous or overblown. The “less is more “credo works best in a film like this. In age of green screen filmmaking and ostentatious effects, “Interstellar” is a breath of fresh air in the event movie landscape.
I’ve been heaping praise upon this film, but there are a few niggling issues I have with it. The extremely talented cast is truly committed to the roles they play, but I have to say I felt some of them were sleepwalking through some their performances. That’s possibly because this movie is nearly three hours, although for most of its runtime, it moves rather briskly. You do feel Christopher Nolan could’ve easily cut 30 minutes from the runtime and still told a coherent, compelling story.
This movie touches on many themes and performances I haven’t even written about here, including Jessica Chastain in a captivating performance as an adult Murph. There’s also Matt Damon, playing an astronaut, “doing what’s best for the greater good”.
“Interstellar” should be experienced. It’s an amazing piece of cinema, like a cross between “2001: A Space Odyssey” and an episode of my favorite show of all-time, “The Twilight Zone”. It captures the imagination and leaves you satisfied, but asking questions.
The best sci-fi is never about making the impossible possible, but about looking inward to find what is possible which in turn serves mankind with unlimited possibilities. These possibilities continue on as the dreams of those willing to look inward for answers and to make them a reality. This is at the heart of “Interstellar”; a film that dares to dream of a better mankind, not a better place to inhabit. Our problems may not require a trip to other worlds, but a journey into the depths of the human heart.