Director: Christopher Nolan.
Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, David Oyelowo, Topher Grace, William Devane, Mackenzie Foy, Timothée Chalamet, Collette Wolfe, Francis X. McCarthy, Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart.
“You might have to decide between seeing your children again and the future of the human race”
With consistent deliveries over the years, director Christopher Nolan has now carved himself a place among the Hollywood elite. His sophomore movie Memento still remains one of my top ten personal favourite films but it was his hugely successful Dark Knight trilogy and the teasingly elaborate Inception that most people identified with. As a result of these blockbusters, there was much anticipation upon the release of his Sci-Fi epic Interstellar. Many were so enthused that they were literally counting down the days till the film’s release. The anticipation was so huge that there was bound to be disappointment as few films can ever truly deliver on such a basis of expectation. Interstellar has become prey to this and I can honestly say that I wish I hadn’t listened to the naysayers and their feelings of deflation.
In the near future, Earth is on the brink of decimation from climate change – resulting in dust clouds, famine and drought. Humanity’s last hope comes in the shape of astronaut turned crop-farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) who leaves behind his family to join a small crew of scientists and explore a wormhole in the far reaches our solar system. Travelling through this allows them to investigate planets which may be capable of sustaining life and possibly pave a new beginning for the human race.
Let’s face it, Nolan has never been one to scrimp on ideas or refrain from challenging his audience. Trying to tie your head around Inception or Memento, for example, were hard enough but he manages to go even further with Interstellar – and on a even grander scale. Beginning as a family drama, Nolan builds his characters and their relationships with a touching sensitivity – that he’s not normally known for. As much as he’s been able to bring a realism to his imaginative and convoluted films in the past, he’s never really brought a deliberately paced, dramatic edge. He normally sets up his stall and gets on with it. Interstellar, however, shows him at his most restrained. He builds slowly and assuredly which, ultimately, add real scope to his overall vision. And that scope is astounding; he achieves the apocalyptic dread of a decaying earth before reaching for the stars and injecting hope and wonder. Of course, this is not before he forces you to get your thinking cap on and ponder the complexities of gravity, neutron stars, spinning wormholes, black holes and Einstein’s theory of relativity.
In order to ensure the film was scientifically accurate, Nolan enlisted the help of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne – who acted as a consultant throughout. His theories may be challenging but they only add to how impressive the film’s idea’s are and how they’re not merely grown from a Hollywood script – they actually consist of scientific possibilities. This alone, hugely contributes to Interstellar being more than your average science fiction yarn. True, these theories and possibilities can be hard to wrap your head around but by building three dimensional characters and having reliable actors to embody them, Nolan has enough behind his grand ambitions to make events believable and manages to explain a fair bit on layman’s terms. That being said, there are some questionable moments whereby we are offered a hypothesis on how love can transcend time and space. Admittedly, this is misplaced and clunky (even laughable) but the magnitude and scope of the film is so vast and ambitious that it’s easy to overlook.
It’s occasions like these, however, that resemble a maudlin, schmaltzier touch more akin to Steven Spielberg (who was originally planning to make the film). Where it benefits from a Spielbergian influence, though, is in it’s sense of wonder and adventure. Despite it’s heavy themes, Nolan never forgets to entertain and (like Spielberg) delivers a real visual spectacle that reminds you of just how magical and escapist movies can be.
The film does, admittedly, have inconsistencies but they were not enough to bother me. If anything, I found the whole experience to fit wonderfully together: Hans Zimmer’s marvellously emotive score echoes the ethereal work of Philip Glass and serves the film perfectly – bringing a real gravitas to the whole spectacle – and McConaughey, yet again, delivers a central performance of depth to a character that could so easily have been swamped with the big budget and special effects.
Added to which, at a running time close to three hours, Nolan, seemingly, doesn’t know when to stop. However, I didn’t want him to. Any clock watching I found myself doing was only a result of not wanting it to end. It’s visually spectacular and as much as I greatly admired Alfonso Cauron’s Oscar winning Gravity for it’s visuals, I thought it’s story was found wanting. Interstellar, on the other hand, is narratively dense and the overall film that Gravity wishes it was. That being said, Nolan (and his co-writer and brother Jonathan) came in for some criticism in terms of their (almost indecipherable) plot and the holes therein. Personally, I think the criticisms are a tad harsh. Can it be deciphered? Is it too complicated for it’s own good? Is it because it strives to be an intellectual voyage yet remain a crowd pleaser the reason it has split audiences? These questions are better left to the individual viewer but big budget spectacles, where they dare to challenge and entertain are hard to come by and on it’s ambition alone, Interstellar succeeds.Nolan’s epic odyssey is an old fashioned mix of grandeur, sophistication and entertainment. The frequency of his transmission wasn’t well received by everyone but, personally, I was fully tuned in.
Trivia: Early in pre-production, Dr. Kip Thorne laid down two guidelines to strictly follow: nothing would violate established physical laws, and that all the wild speculations would spring from science and not from the creative mind of a screenwriter. Christopher Nolan accepted these terms as long as they did not get in the way of the making of the movie. That did not prevent clashes, though; at one point Thorne spent two weeks talking Nolan out of an idea about travelling faster than light.