MANKIND WAS BORN ON EARTH. IT WAS NEVER MEANT TO DIE HERE.
The day I saw this movie, I woke up feeling sad over what is a very common dream for me. It had taken me back to my teenage years, or childhood (time is not all that important in these dreams) and I was with my parents, brother and sister, all living together. I’m not sure why these dreams put me in a melancholy mood; my family is alive and our bonds are strong. But my parents and siblings have put an indelible mark on me, even though it may not have been as clear in, say, 1990.
One of the early reviews of Interstellar called it “Christopher Nolan’s most personal yet”. His family issues just happen to be here in the shape of a space epic.
Earth’s survivors turn to farming
Sometime in the future, Earth has become a difficult place to live. Most of its surviving inhabitants have become farmers, desperately trying to find ways to survive, constantly plagued by violent dust storms. Former astronaut Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is approached by Dr. John Brand (Michael Caine) and his team who tell him that there is a wormhole in space near Saturn, put there by extra-terrestrials, that can take an expedition into other dimensions. Since Earth is more or less doomed, Brand hopes to assemble a crew that could find other inhabitable planets where mankind has a chance to settle. Cooper agrees to do it, along with three other astronauts, including Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway). After a very painful goodbye to his children, the journey begins…
Challenging the imagination of traditional Nolan fans
After a brilliant Batman trilogy and Inception (2010), there is no doubt that Nolan is in a very creative and successful mode and this is his most ambitious project yet. Those who know 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) will recognize themes and visual details from that masterpiece, but Nolan was also inspired by complex films like Tarkovsky’s The Mirror (1975) and more down-to-earth NASA chronicles like The Right Stuff (1983). Nolan’s ambition is clearly to challenge the imagination of his traditional fans, fusing action and tension (especially in two thrilling set-pieces, one on the watery surface of a planet where our heroes face gigantic tsunamis, and one on another planet where they fight a very unexpected enemy) with “trippy” visuals near a black hole and intelligent musings on climate change and how our mind and human bonds work.
It’s a lot to chew on, and there are moments during the film’s near-three hour running time that Nolan is close to losing us. Some of the characters are underdeveloped, the pacing is uneven, and Hans Zimmer’s music score runs the whole gamut, from genuinely touching to overly hysterical infatuation with organs. However, there is so much here to cherish. This is perhaps the only film I’ve seen that clearly explains and illustrates why we’re not doing enough to combat climate change. It’s simply not in us because all human beings care about is ourselves and possibly our children; our thinking in general doesn’t stretch farther than that. The filmmakers’ attitude to what is happening to Earth in the future is depressing but realistic, without preaching.
McConaughey, Hathaway and Jessica Chastain are perfectly relatable in their parts, even as the film plays around with time and space. The visual effects and production design are based on cutting-edge technology and science that bring us one step closer from the unfathomable to something tangible.
In the end, it is also a simple story about the bond between a father and a daughter. That’s where the heart of the movie lies, an emotional, touching connection that transcends the cold science.
Interstellar 2014-U.S.-Britain. 169 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst, Emma Thomas. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan. Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema. Music: Hans Zimmer. Production Design: Nathan Crowley. Cast: Matthew McConaughey (Joseph Cooper), Anne Hathaway (Amelia Brand), Jessica Chastain (Murphy Cooper), Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, Michael Caine… John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, David Oyelowo, Timothée Chalamet. Cameo: Matt Damon.
Trivia: Steven Spielberg was allegedly considered as director at one point; Irrfan Khan for a role.
Oscar: Best Visual Effects. BAFTA: Best Special Visual Effects.
Last word: “The emotion of ‘Interstellar’ was really important to me but also very frightening. I wrote a speech for Anne Hathaway about the nature of love and I looked at it and thought: I should cut that out, I’m terrified of it and I don’t know how to pull it off. But she did it and it’s very important in the film. That’s what great actors can do for you. The movie wears its emotions on its sleeve, and when you’ve worked in the genres I have in the past, you have ways of sidestepping genuine emotion if it makes you uncomfortable. There’s a scene with Matthew McConaughey I find completely heartbreaking and he performed that with a rawness on the first take. It’s not something I’ve ever put into any of my films. There’s a little more theatrical distance to most things I’ve done.” (Nolan, Time Out)