- RatedPG13 /GenreScience Fiction
Watching ‘Interstellar’ is akin to traversing Christopher Nolan’s vast imagination.
The director’s expansive mind is like the universe itself, a black abyss of unknowable unknowns.
That is, until you land on one of his improbable worlds.
Nolan is one of those rare auteurs, along with Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg, to put his grand designs on an ambitious scale – from his breakout ‘Memento’ with its puzzling twists and profundities, to the prestidigitation of ‘The Prestige’, to the incredible dreamscapes of ‘Inception’, and the political allegories of ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy.
With ‘Interstellar’, Nolan takes off into the vast cosmos, and along the way, makes his audience ponder their place on Earth and if their fate lies beyond the stars.
The film opens in a time where humanity is on the brink of starvation and countries have turned into John Steinbeck-esque ‘Grapes of Wrath’ egalitarian societies, barely surviving.
Dust storms ravage the land and at the rate crops are dying, humankind is on a crash-course towards extinction.
Making ends meet in this bleak dystopia is a former test pilot-turned-farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) from US space giant Nasa. He never stopped dreaming of something better for his children Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) and Tom (Timothee Chalamat).
A seemingly “supernatural” event at home leads Cooper and Murphy to the underground hideout of the now fly-by-night operation Nasa, where Cooper is persuaded to fly off into the unknown for the future of the planet.
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It turns out that scientists have discovered a wormhole near Saturn where planets lie on the other side, opening a possibility for humanity to be saved.
“We’re not meant to save the world,” Michael Caine, playing Nasa chief Dr Brand, says. “We’re meant to leave it.”
OVER AT THE DARK SIDE
And so the adventure begins with a band of Earth’s saviours gathered to go off with Cooper: Dr Brand’s daughter and planetary scientist Amelia (Anne Hathaway), co-pilot Doyle (Wes Bently), astrophysicist Romili (David Gyasi) and a pair of chatty robots Tars and Case (voiced by Bill Irwin and Josh Stewart) – obvious nods to Hal from ‘2001’.
It is in the darkest reaches of space that ‘Interstellar’ gets really interesting, with its serpentine twists and narrative reversals; the movie’s emotional web will leave you tangled and enraptured.
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In between the occasional mind-numbing dialogues heavy on theoretical physics and quantum mechanics, audiences are treated to the majesty of space.
Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (replacing frequent collaborator Wally Pfister) spared no expense in mapping out the movie’s celestial landscape.
Shot on large-format Imax film, Nolan’s visually charged space epic takes you on a journey that can only be enjoyed on the silver screen – and the bigger, the better, so spare no expense.
‘Interstellar’ never fails to elicit a sense of childlike wonder: Set in the blackness of space, the image of the lonely spaceship traversing the rings of Saturn, and the dazzling cosmic maelstrom of wormholes and blackholes revealing the strange new worlds – these are just some of scenes you won’t forget for a while.
It is astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ on steroids.
Another Nolan regular, composer Han Zimmer, adds a rich tapestry of sound to the film. Having spent close to a decade working with Nolan, Zimmer has an ear for the director’s spectacle, and his score elevates and amplifies the emotional core of the show.
There are times when he goes all intimate and quiet when you expect something big, and vice versa.
THE LOVE STORY
Unlike his other movies where human relationships are an afterthought, Nolan tackles them head-on in ‘Interstellar’.
As much as the film is Nolan’s ode to Nasa and space, as well as a stinging critique of climate-change deniers, it is, in essence, also a love story between Cooper and his daughter Murphy.
McConaughey, who is man of the moment, is on a roll here as he carries the weight of humanity on his shoulders. He is the most existential lead character ever in a Nolan movie – no dark past, no baggage, just a man focused on a mission.
Stealing the show though, is young Foy, who plays his daughter. Although she appears only in the first couple of acts, the 13-year-old’s tenacity is felt throughout the film.
The rest of the cast pulls in effective performances, but never close to McConaughey’s intensity.
Not one who is deft in portraying emotion on film, Nolan has produced an emotionally gripping film with this piece that is co-written by brother Jonathan Nolan, allowing viewers to identify with McConaughey’s dogged space traveller who is also a loving father.
A spectacle from end to end, ‘Interstellar’ puts its visionary director in a league of his own.
‘Interstellar’ opens 6 November 2014