Interstellar is the latest mind bending thriller from Chris Nolan that features an all-star cast highlighted by Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Anne Hathaway (Amelia Brand), and a supporting cast that boasts the likes of Michael Caine (Dr. Brand), Jessica Chastain (Murph), and two major cameos that will shock you thanks to their clear omission from the film’s promotional campaign. At first glance this film may look like a fun large scale sci-fi adventure that will excite your imagination and keep you on the edge of your seat thanks to its deep space faring exploratory action, but in reality it’s a very intense look at the powers of love, mankind’s undying will to survive, and the brain busting mysteries of space and time.
In the not so distant future the people of Earth are doomed thanks to a blight that has covered the planet in a choking dust, which in turn has killed off all of the world’s crops outside of corn. The planet no longer has lavish armies, governments, and expenditures thanks to the dire food situation, so most of the world’s citizens have been forced to become farmers to keep the corn supply stocked and any chance of survival in tact. Cooper is a widowed father and a retired NASA pilot who has taken to farming, albeit with some engineering ingenuity and disdain for the field, who is living with his two children and his father-in-law (John Lithgow) in the Midwest. After Cooper’s daughter Murph begins to experience strange anomalies that she equates to a ghost, Cooper and her discover, through gravity of all things, that some entity is sending them messages using binary code and Morse code, which leads them to a hidden NASA facility.
It’s revealed that NASA has been working on a grand plan to save humanity by utilizing a wormhole found near Saturn to explore a new galaxy that shows promise in supporting human life. Multiple expeditions were previously launched and promising data from the group of scientists that braved the unknown has been streaming in, which prompts Dr. Brand to enlist Cooper, the world’s greatest spaceship pilot, to lead a last ditch effort into the wormhole to figure out which of the three viable planets could become humanity’s new home. In a rather rushed sequence of events, Cooper agrees to join the expedition on board the Endurance spacecraft and leaves his two young children behind, which his young daughter Murph struggles with greatly, playing into Interstellar’s deep examination of the power of love.
Cooper and the Endurance crew set out on an epic journey to save the world, and the plot twists begin to unfold in true Nolanesque fashion, which sets Interstellar on a trajectory that can’t be foreseen though the various trailers and TV spots that have been released to promote it. Once in space the film’s deep scientific roots begin to shine, and while you may need to brush up on Einstein’s theory of relativity and a few college level physics courses, the cavernous look at these neuron stressing concepts are expertly showcased thanks to Nolan’s attention to detail and beautiful deep space imagery.
At its core Interstellar is a film about the human experience, namely the bonds people form with each other and their families. This motif is riffed on throughout the film’s near three hour runtime, with the characters of Cooper, Murph, and Amelia Brand being the driving forces behind the power of love and how it may be a quantifiable force of nature that is more powerful than the laws of physics.
This theme is accentuated by the beautiful cinematography and depictions of meaty physics-based concepts such as wormholes and massive black holes with unknown singularities at their core. Nolan and his team brought these far out concepts to life with perfection, and give Gravity a run for its money thanks to the mesmerizing imagery that these fantastical anomalies present, which really helped to explain some of the confusing scientific jargon that a few of the supporting characters spew out to progress the space travel portion of Interstellar. Hans Zimmer’s score and the masterful sound design also help to give this film’s sci-fi roots life, and in a few scenes the powerful score takes over and almost makes you feel like your watching a symphony or opera playing out on screen.
Ultimately though, its the characters and their relationships that make Interstellar special and worth seeing. Love dominates the major emotional themes explored throughout the plot, with father/daughter relationships being the main focus. Both McConaughey and Hathaway do a bang up job bringing painful emotional moments to the plot, which becomes overly clear after their first expedition in the newly discovered galaxy goes awry, and they lose 23 years of earth time in just a few hours thanks to the effects of the ‘Gargantuan’ black hole on the space time continuum. Upon returning to the Endurance craft Cooper has to watch 23 years of messages from his family that detail his young son’s growth into a man and eventually a father, as well as the deaths of his father-in-law and grandson. He also hears from his now grown daughter Murph, who before he left earth was so devastated by his departure that she never says goodbye, which weighs on her heavily throughout her life, as well as causing Cooper to regret his decision to leave them behind in an attempt to save mankind from extinction.
McConaughey sells these heartfelt and painful moments perfectly, which draws you in even if you’re having issues with the somewhat confusing theories of relativity being shoved down your throat. Hathaway compliments his performance with her own emotional journey that she experiences while on the expedition, which also plays into the film’s curious look at the powers of love and how it can transcend the fabrics of space and time. Outside of a surprise cameo by a guest actor, these two definitely steal the show, but the supporting cast is also highlighted with some great dialogue and scenes, especially from the movie’s rad looking robot characters YARS and CASE, who give C-3P0 and R2-D2 a run for their money in the coolest robot duo popularity contest.
At times Interstellar manages to get a bit confusing and muddy with its science, especially during the twisty-turvy climax and ending, but as long as you trust your imagination in Nolan’s hands, you’ll come out feeling like you just experienced something spiritual, scientific, and deeply engrossing to the point that you won’t be able to think about anything about what you just witnessed. The opening sequence is a bit rushed, but once the action shifts to space the pace of the plot evens out and plays out perfectly until the credits roll.
Interstellar is without a doubt a magical movie experience. It’s full of heart and character, and enough science to keep even Neil deGrasse Tyson intrigued. The cast is brilliant, and the guest actor’s cameo will shock you, mainly for the fact that it hasn’t been overly leaked. The cinematography and sound design are superb and bring life to the mysteries of black holes and wormholes unlike any space epic before it. Nolan’s vision is grand and he executed it with his usual precision, which means it may be a bit complex and sometimes sterile when it comes to the overly emotional scenes, but it’s very entertaining and thoughtful, and well worth a trip to the IMAX screen to experience Nolan’s true vision for it. If you love science, or just appreciate the art of filmmaking, Interstellar should be added to your entertainment to-do list before it leaves the silver screen.
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”
Review Statement: The author of this review received a pass to the NYC screening for the purposes of this review.