Following the mad matryoshka architecture of dreams in Inception (2010), and having finally vacated Gotham’s city limits for good, Christopher Nolan is now aiming his gaze firmly onto the most epic of imaginable canvases. The history of mankind’s achievement is built on voracious exploration, and Nolan now asks audiences to follow his scientifically-framed expedition into humanity’s future, and dare to imagine what lies beyond our understanding. Interstellar (2014) is another example of the director’s ability to make entertaining, idea-driven blockbusters. It is his ode to Spielberg and Kubrick, and whilst he’s unable to quite emulate either, the results are audacious, imaginative and visually spectacular.
“We used to look up and wonder about our place in the stars,” laments Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper. “Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” It’s a line that provides succinct context for the outlook of the near-future inhabitants of a dying Earth. Dust storms and blight are killing the last few cultivatable crops and people have lost faith in advancement. Cooper is Nolan’s cypher, a technician and ex-pilot who has turned corn farmer through necessity, but who sees potential and salvation in discovery. Despite Interstellar being earthbound for the period before Cooper’s rocket launches, it’s always straining to peer behind the event horizon and the limits of our perception. Not known for especially rich and textured characters, Nolan is fortunate to have some fantastic talent at his disposal.
Still regularly playing the exposition-spouting clauses of an intricate and impressive cinematic equation, his cast nonetheless manage to inject some emotion into the void. Anne Hathaway has a thankless task playing McConaughey’s shipmate, Amelia – she philosophises about love, but it’s all intellect and no feeling. Conversely, their robotic help, the monolith-inspired TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) gets the most colourful dialogue. It’s in the relationship between Cooper and his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy, then Jessica Chastain) where heartstrings are tugged, with Nolan once again mining the paternal bond to moving effect in what is his most emotionally impactful film. That relationship transcends time and space over the course of Interstellar’s grand arc which soars once it vacates terra firma. In space, and on alien planets cast as potential homes, Hoyte van Hoytema does exceptional work crafting arresting images on a gargantuan scale.
This is a film that demands to be seen on the largest screen possible to comprehend the magnitude of its scope. When Cooper accepts a mission from NASA (via Michael Caine) to leave his two children amongst the corn and pilot humanity’s final hope – a craft heading through a wormhole in search of refuge – he must navigate awe-inspiring worlds. There are wrong-turns and bumps along the way and black (plot) holes do emerge into which underdeveloped characters are destined to be sucked – Casey Affleck is one such casualty. While the emotional core could have been all the more involving, it does still resonate. In particular, a time-bending, ‘through the Stargate’ sequence manages to twist lofty concepts into a highly cinematic denouement that proves narratively satisfying and elegantly humanist. Interstellar may not be perfect, but tent-pole filmmaking with such ambition and grandeur is always worth celebrating.
Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson
Interstellar is an impressive achievement even if some moviegoers were confused by the scientific ideas presented in the film. Wormholes, black holes, and the fifth dimension can be as difficult for some people to understand as computer CMMS Software applications. While the science may be confusing to some, or even impossible to others, there’s no denying that Christopher Nolan has brought something unique and adventurous to the big screen.