US/UK | 2014 | Directed by Christopher Nolan
Logline: In a near future ravaged by drought and dirt storms, a group of space explorers travel through a wormhole to another galaxy to try and find a suitable new home for humankind.
Originally a project Steven Spielberg was to direct, and Interstellar exudes much of the Hollywood titan’s exemplary feelgood vibe, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it won’t do the movie any favours in the long run, just as Gravity won’t weigh nearly as heavily ten or so years down the track. Christopher Nolan was hired by Spielberg to pen the screenplay, and when Spielberg opted to fry other fish, Nolan had the option to direct, and he brought his brother Jonathon in to co-script.
Based loosely on the theories of quantum physicist Kip Thorne, it deals with the travel undertaken by several astronauts through a rip in the space-time continuum, and the ultimate consequences, successful and perilous, involved in this kind of cosmic journey. Matthew McConaughy is Cooper, the former spaceman turned corn farmer who is brought back into the NASA fold.
Humanity is facing extinction, so it is imperative that another planet be found that is within reach, and that can support human life. A wormhole near Saturn has suddenly opened up, allowing travel to a distant galaxy where several new worlds exist. On the closest planet one hour on its surface is equal to seven years on Earth. Cooper’s 14-year-old daughter is inconsolable when she learns of her father’s decision to make the epic journey. He promises he will return.
Like Ridley Scott’s attention to detail, Nolan is excellent at immersing his audience completely in his world. The production design and special effects are stunning, especially considering that Nolan prefers to use, as much as possible, models and in-camera effects. Even when using green screen he has projections installed so the actors can work against a visually accurate background. A notable point-of-view are the spacecraft-cam shots, in particular the jettisoning of the sections during the first part of the journey.
This is a space journey, but the narrative backbone is the relationship between Cooper and his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), and it is this that provides the movie it’s undeniably moving ending. As cynical as I might be at some of the Nolans’ screenwriting, in particular sections of dialogue, the silly robot (um, Demon Seed, anyone?), the awkward shift in tone – once again the movie turns into a James Bond adventure complete with ridiculous fight sequence (an uncredited Matt Damon suddenly appears!). And as for the trapped behind the bookshelves sequence, the less said the better.
There is one brief moment – which occurs twice in the movie, from two separate perspectives – that encapsulated the whole cosmic causality wormhole/blackhole phenomenon beautifully, and involves Amelia (Anne Hathaway)’s hand. For me, it was the highlight of the entire movie, a tiny speck of spacedust in the storm of humanity’s survival.
McConaughey is solid, but Jessica Chastain brings much gravitas to the picture. However the most notable element of the whole movie is Hans Zimmer’s amazing score, probably the best he’s ever done.
Interstellar isn’t the next piece of brilliance all the Nolan fans were anticipating. He cites 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and Blade Runner, as inspiration. Robert Zemeckis's Contact was the movie that came to mind most often. I find Nolan suffers from illusions of grandeur; his movies becoming increasingly pompous, but it’s still an entertaining, exhilarating, heart-tugging ride.
Might be time to revisit Memento, his time-space masterpiece.