There’s no doubt that Christopher Nolan has had plenty of opportunities to turn his career into one similar to Michael Bay. Nolan could just cash checks and make movies about talking cars.
Instead, Nolan has written and directed a $165 million introspective sci-fi movie with nonstop references to the space-time continuum all revolving around the love that a father has for his children. If Nolan took some chances with “Inception”, he has completely gone for broke by even considering the daunting task of putting “Interstellar” on the big screen.
And oh does this movie need to be seen on a big screen. Actually, it should be seen on any screen. While there are some moments that are a bit slow, a few characters that don’t quite fit, and a sense, at times, that Nolan The Screenwriter is making it all up as he goes, “Interstellar” is a spectacle from the mind of a true movie visionary.
“Interstellar” takes place about ten or fifteen years in the future on an Earth that is experiencing a worldwide Dust Bowl, effectively killing every crop on the planet other than corn. The dust is slowly taking over and will eventually zap out all the oxygen in our atmosphere, replacing it with unlivable nitrogen.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former NASA pilot-turned farmer who cares for his two children, Murph and Tom (Mackenzie Foy and Timothee Chamalet), along with the help of his deceased wife’s father, Donald (John Lithgow). Murph is a trouble maker who insists the Apollo moon landing was a real event, even though it is now called a hoax by foolish educators. Tom, the far less sensitive of the two kids, is deemed to be not smart enough by the same educators to go to college and in collectivist fashion, Cooper is told his son won’t amount to anything more than becoming a farmer.
While Cooper ponders just how the human race became devoid of vision, Murph stumbles across some coordinates that lead her and her father to a hidden NASA station being run by Professor Brand (Michael Caine). Brand has a team of astronauts that includes his daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), and two scientists, Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Romilly (David Gyasi). Their mission is to fly to Saturn and enter a wormhole that has been placed there by some sort of higher intelligence with the intent of finding a new world for human beings to inhabit.
Sparing the details of just how it all works, please be assured that the script by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan goes into great detail explaining the real-world possibility of this journey actually happening. There is talk of time travel, hyper sleep, and even a rectangular shaped robot named TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) that aids the crew on their seemingly one way trip.
The emotional heft becomes almost unbearable once Cooper agrees to pilot the spacecraft, knowing he may never return to Earth. The sight of Cooper saying goodbye to his children, particularly the scene with Murph, is heartbreaking moviemaking of the highest order.
Once the crew gets to space, the intensity is ramped up to levels that beg for relief. Time is slowed to a halt for the astronaut heroes as decades pass on Earth. They can receive messages from Earth, watching their loved ones age as mere hours pass for them, as “Interstellar” continues to pound away at every human emotion possible.
Eventually, Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck show up as Cooper’s now adult children, who are dealing with Earth’s inevitable collapse. Chastain is fantastic as the still bitter Murph, angry her father abandoned her yet still hoping he comes home. Affleck is a bit of an afterthought, with his anger and pain seemingly coming from the fact that he was left to be nothing more than a farmer when he wanted to be so much more.
Matthew McConaughey, simply put, is the best actor on Earth right now. His charismatic, dare to dream Cooper is an inspiration and he controls the entire movie. The visceral emotional gambit of joy and sadness he runs while watching decades worth of video from his children is an amazing movie moment, only to be topped by one of the most powerful sequences put to film in recent movie memory later on in “Interstellar”.
McConaughey has become the everyman actor and his films are now must-see events.
While there are some muddy, overly talky moments, Christopher Nolan has created a true masterpiece. “Interstellar” is a visual achievement that will surely be rewarded with every single technical Academy Award. The sights of black holes, planets, and a tiny space shuttle orbiting around Saturn’s rings are breathtaking. In fact, if someone said “They actually flew to Saturn and filmed this movie”, it’s believable.
Nolan, amid all the unreal visuals, also shapes two intense action sequences that could stop hearts from pumping. One involves the space docking of a ship and it is almost unbearable to watch.
“Interstellar” is not so much a movie as it is an event. It manages to be an homage to the genius of Kubrick and Spielberg, yet be an original and fresh movie on its own. This is a movie that will be watched, studied, and admired for decades, if only due to the potential inspiration it provides for hundreds of other filmmakers.
“Interstellar” embraces the human spirit and desire to reach for the stars, whether you’re a farmer, a scientist, or a pilot. It goes from regret and sadness to inspiration and hope in seconds, leaving you in awe and truly wanting more when it ends.