It’s fair to say that humanity has not exactly been the most grateful tenant for our planet. We farm its soil too much, burn its forests down, drill into its crust to extract minerals that will, in turn, lead to the continued pollution of its oceans and atmosphere. With the prospect of humanity possibly causing its own extinction, is only logical that it look to the stars to find a way to save itself, even if that means leaving the Earth behind.
It’s this monumental prospect that is at the core of Christopher Nolan’s mind bending sci-fi epic Interstellar, arguably one of the most ambitious takes on space exploration since Kubrick’s 2001.
Interstellar takes place in a future in which the Earth is dying and humanity along with it. With food supplies dwindling and farms turning up dead crops, pilot and engineer Cooper is recruited by NASA to embark upon a mission to travel through a recently discovered wormhole in the hopes that the key to humanity’s salvation lies within.
Whether it’s examining and deconstructing memory in Memento, dreams in Inception or even superheroes with The Dark Knight Trilogy, it’s safe to say that Christopher Nolan is a director who likes to make films about “Ideas” and with said ideas growing ever bigger and more ambitious with each passing film.
Interstellar tackles possibly his biggest “idea” to date, a science fiction epic with a heavy emphasis on the science. Dealing with issues around gravity, time dilation, relativity, and various scientific concepts that perhaps only Sheldon Cooper could understand, Interstellar might on paper seem like a film that would cause most causal filmgoers to fall asleep with boredom or their heads to explode with confusion.
However, surprisingly, despite being heavy in scientific concepts throughout its near 3-hour runtime, never does a dull moment arise nor does it feel ever feel like your watching a particularly flashy scientific lecture.
Outside of the heavy science, Nolan delivers his usual blend of visually impressive and carefully constructed set pieces that manage to amaze and excite. Take for an instance, a terrifying escape from a planet that seems to consist of nothing but mountain-sized tidal waves, a set-piece that leaves you aghast at this new spectacular sight that Nolan is showing us.
Christopher Nolan is a director who never fails to deliver a visual spectacle and with Interstellar he creates what might just be some of his most spectacular and beautiful visuals to date, expertly using real-world locations (such as the stunning scenery of Iceland)to create some of the most stunning and realistic depictions of foreign planets ever put to film.
The special effects are second to none, with the various spacecraft and robots, in the vein of 2001 and (in the case of the robots) Silent Running, managing to appear fantastical and futuristic but also not seeming like things not too far outside the realm of plausibility.
The comparisons to 2001 don’t stop there. Much like Kubrick’s film, Interstellar boasts a confusing head-scratching and visually bewildering ending that is as awe-inspiring to view and even if it might be a tad difficult to comprehend upon a first viewing.
The main reason that the film’s story is so powerful is that, despite its heavy scientific focus, its core themes are all quite simple. Our astronaut heroes travel millions of light-years in the hopes of finding some way of saving humanity from extinction, but in the end, they do it out of love. And most crucially its the love of a father for the daughter he is forced to leave behind.
As per usual, Nolan assembles himself an all-star cast to tell his story, with the likes Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mckenzie Foy, and Nolan’s lucky charm Michael Caine all delivering stunning work across the board. Plus we have an extended late film cameo from Matt Damon that acts a nice little bonus to an already stellar cast.
The real draw for the film and possibly the best reason to watch it is to witness the simply beautiful performance from Matthew McConaughey as Cooper, a role that fully allows him to throw off his rom-com shackles and demonstrate just how great an actor he truly is.
If I could pinpoint one scene that, to me, really made the film, it’s when Cooper sits down to watch 23 years worth of video messages from his family. We watch with Cooper as he discovers that while, for him due to time dilations, only a short period has passed, for his family a whole lifetime has gone by. We see his joy as he discovers as he has become a grandfather and we see that same joy turn to heartbreak as he begins to comprehend everything he is missing to save humanity.
It’s a beautiful scene that works so well because of McConaughey’s deeply emotional performance, especially as he begins to break down weeping as he listens to his now-adult daughter (Chastain) tearfully plead for him to come back home. It’s a beautifully acted and executed scene that honestly left me on the verge of welling up myself and one that, to me at least, demonstrates that Matthew McConaughey might just be one of the finest actors working today.
Visually spectacular, beautifully acted and intelligently crafted by a director at the peak of his powers, Interstellar is another masterpiece from Christopher Nolan’s best films and one that arguably ranks alongside 2001 as one of the greatest cinematic depictions of humanity exploring the furthest reaches of the cosmos. Check this one out.
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