Interstellar’s set-up could almost serve as a prequel to Wall-E. On a dying planet where food is becoming ever more difficult to grow, due to the atmosphere having huge amounts of dust in it, the remaining human population is forced to choose jobs based on the need for survival rather than skill. Cooper (McConaughey) is one of the unlucky ones, forced into a life of agriculture when he has the expertise for space exploration – a former NASA pilot, engineer and IT expert.
A freak occurrence leads Cooper to a secret base where mankind is preparing for one last mission. It’s aim – to find out whether there is life beyond a mysterious worm hole that has appeared in the solar system. From here on out, Cooper embarks on a journey of exploration, emotion and endurance as the concepts of time and gravity are repeatedly tested with unexpected consequences.
The beauty of Interstellar lies in its scientific and emotional complexities. Coop’s hard choices force him to decide between a life with his family and preserving the human race for generations to come. These decisions lead to tearful responses and unfathomable situations which tugs on the audience’s heart strings. One instance echoes the ‘Rimmerworld’ episode of Red Dwarf where just a few hours spent within a particular planet’s atmosphere translates as years on Earth. On this note, scientists will have a love-hate relationship with the ambition of this film. Nolan also seems to masterfully nod towards a series of science fiction films, from Kubrick’s 2001 all the way through to last year’s Gravity.
The grandness of the production will leave you breathless. Every penny of the films astronomical $165million budget has been spent with the viewer’s sound and visual experience in mind. Scenes of space craft launch and wormhole travel are exhilarating to witness, there’s also the vast planetary landscapes to feast your eyes on. As for the audio, a brilliant mix between the deafening silence of space and the pounding, thunderous segments of Hans Zimmer’s score help bring pace and balance to the epic’s extensive run time.
However, looking back at Interstallar’s dramatic references, the movie showcases too much from some shallower Sci-Fi TV shows instead of the deeper paradoxes that films in this genre have brought us. For instance, the crew is made up of the best scientists on the planet (each within their own field) who have managed to devise a plan for ensuring human life is preserved in the far reaches of space. Cooper is the pilot, yes he’s an engineer and capable of grasping the PhD levels of physics, but he’s still brought along for his skills behind the stick. Yet despite this, he manages to come up with an essential plan for entering a planet’s atmosphere, drawn comically on a small whiteboard, to which the crew’s response is “oh yeah, I hadn’t thought of that, that might work”. Understandably the audience doesn’t want to sit through a series of conversations that only Stephen Hawking will understand but they also don’t want to be patronised with simple, linear or convenient shortcuts that act as a wormhole to the next phase of the story.
Nolan combines actors from his tried and tested stable of talent with a new leading male in Matthew McConaughey, in a similar set up to what he did with Inception. McConaughey gives a brilliant performance as ‘Coop’, taking large parts of the film in his stride and hitting key emotional segments out of the park. There’s nothing necessarily groundbreaking in the way he does this, he is just a very capable actor who his heavily relied upon throughout this thriller.
Anne Hathaway is under used and under delivers when she is called upon. In the wake of an Oscar winning performance in Les Mis this is a missed opportunity for her to become the most popular woman in space since Sandra Bullock. Michael Caine occupies another supporting part in a Nolan film which is respectable and decent but never really tests the veteran British actor.
Other newcomers arrive in the form of Jessica Chastain & Casey Affleck, as older forms of Coop’s children, Murphy & Tommy. Affleck doesn’t have much to work with other than the fact that he’s not the sharpest space tool in the space shed. Chastain is convincing in her depiction of the adult Murphy, carrying a deep sense of anger against her father for leaving which is coupled with a bittersweet sense of determination to figure out what happened to him.
Like the rings of Saturn that feature in the film, Interstellar is a magnificent sight to behold. A beautiful, emotional and epic story that orbits around a planetary bond between a father & daughter. In this aspect the film succeeds beyond belief, however, as with the asteroid belt, the closer you look into it the more you begin to understand that there are gaps scattered throughout its narrative. This doesn’t prevent it from being the spectacle you want it to be, as there is no denying its overall brilliance, it’s just up to you how deep you want to go into Nolan’s 2014 space odyssey.