SUB-GENRES: Drama / Thriller
DIRECTED BY: Christopher Nolan
WRITTEN BY: Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan
PEW PEW: The stakes are ever-changing and the suspense is real, but the story does not require action to make this happen.
CAT FOOD: The film is rich with speculation on what we are and where we’re going, not only in terms of how we’re ruining ourselves, but also in how we’re evolving into better things.
There is nothing quite like the power of the science fiction genre to completely surprise even its staunchest supporters.
I put off watching Interstellar until very recently, mostly because I hadn’t quite washed the taste of Christopher Nolan’s dismal The Dark Knight Rises out of my mouth. Directors are allowed their duds, I suppose, but the ongoing ‘Nolaning’ of the DC comics universe has made it so that I’ve come to dread ‘that feel.’ I mean, as a co-producer, Nolan had a hand in reducing the triumphant Superman to a stale, dark, ungodly mess in Man of Steel. While that had worked for characteristically dark Batman, it’s just unacceptable for Supe. So just what was he going to do to straight sci-fi with Interstellar? And then there’s the length of the thing. I’m a firm believer in capping films at two hours.
Well, I watched the thing… and, shut me down, I thought it was marvelous! I began the film with my arms firmly crossed over my chest and my face set firmly in crusty nerd mode, and I ended it an absolute wreck two hours and forty minutes later.
We begin in the year 2067 — pay attention because in being all crusty I nearly gave up on this entire setup — Earth has become a massive dust bowl and a blight has been killing off all of the crops that provide human beings with things they need to survive. So naturally, a heinously over-populated Earth found itself running low on food.
Apparently, the government had at least planned to strategically bomb certain starving populations, so as to relieve the burden of so many mouths to feed. Strict government policies have been put in place to ensure that people refrain from educating themselves. We’ve learned that the current population has been taught that man’s striving to invent it all was what led to the downfall of the planet. So now everyone has to become a farmer in order to cultivate future crops.
Enter Cooper, a fully-trained NASA pilot who was forced into the life of a farmer. With the help of his insanely intelligent ten-year-old daughter, and some unseen, but apparently highly evolved beings who operate in five dimensions, Cooper finds a hidden NASA base. Once inside, they explain to him that he’s been led there for a reason and that he must join a crew that will navigate through a wormhole and into another galaxy, where several astronauts were sent ahead to find planets suitable for human life.
Straight up, this is a Christopher Nolan movie unlike any Christopher Nolan movie I’ve ever seen. While the human situation on Earth and in the stars is quite bleak, there remains a strand of hope that we cling to like a lifeline during the course of this behemoth of an adventure. I’ll admit, said strand gets quite thin at the end, but it’s still there and the expert storytelling makes you to cling to it, forcing you to constantly re-evaluate the stakes. The suspense is utterly gripping at every strange turn.
The film’s story covers so much ground that the time it takes to tell it is of no consequence. I gladly give up my argument that the picture’s duration shouldn’t have exceeded two hours. Every other moment breeds a new turn of events that changes expectation considerably. Never before has a story that essentially spans nearly one hundred years felt so jarringly urgent. Every minute of the story is important to the characters, even as time flies by in years.
The scenes where Cooper, played extremely well by Matthew McConaughey, is forced to watch his children’s lives unfold over 24 years of brief recordings are terribly stirring. The whole movie turned me into an emotional basketcase as I crossed my fingers for the characters to be able to work against such incalculable odds.
Hans Zimmer’s score is a thing of true magic. The instrumentation chosen for many of the most important scenes resonates in such a way that I’ve only really heard from the great Philip Glass. The music often begins and ends suddenly, jarring us into immediate perspective. There’s nothing quite as isolating as even the music quitting on us.
The classic sci-fi fan in me must recognise the nods to Stanley Kubrick’s fine work of art, 2001: A Space Odyssey. From the starkly different scoring choices and the general aesthetic, to stakes so desperate as to brace ourselves for complete hopelessness, Interstellar is a bracing tale of the human will to survive. In its climactic scenes, just as there was in 2001: A Space Odyssey, there comes a feeling of surrender and a realisation that mankind’s evolutionary potential is quite magnificently boundless.
It gets weird, and there will be those who will get lost along the way, but Interstellar is an emotional rollercoaster that should be enjoyable even to people who don’t understand the science of the thing. At the core, beneath the extremely well structured skeleton that is the film’s highly intriguing theory, there is a human heart that most people should identify with. Matt Damon’s brief appearance in the film as NASA’s bravest and most competent astronaut casts a brilliant light on the frailty of the human spirit.
I can’t in good conscience fail to recommend this powerful film to every single fan of this fine genre.