There are certain things that we have come to expect from a Christopher Nolan film these days, and Interstellar is no departure. Film noir influences? Check. Timey-wimey, dream within a dream cross-cutting and twists? Check. Michael Caine? Check. Score by Hans Zimmer? Check. Practical effects? Check. Indeed, Interstellar continues in the Nolan tradition by being a film that you simply must see in cinemas – and not only because of the water-cooler discussion that it will inspire.
It’s not his best non-batman movie – Inception is better – but it’s still a damn sight more ambitious than most of what we’ve seen this year. At an epic 169 minutes, Interstellar is a slow burn that’s made to be seen on the biggest screen possible. It’s an experience, one that needs to wash over you. You might not ‘get’ it all first time through (it plays fast and loose with its science), but Nolan’s Interstellar isn’t meant to be a hard sci-fi depiction of the reality of space travel. It’s a study of endurance, exploration and of the transcendent power of love.
Renowned theoretical physicist Kip Thorne was an executive producer and consultant on the film, ensuring that Interstellar’s depictions of wormholes and black holes, were as accurate as possible – the black hole, ‘Gargantua’, is purportedly the most realistic visualisation of a black hole that we’ve ever seen. Apparently, several legitimate scientific discoveries were made in realising Gargantua. Still, on the whole, what Nolan provides us in an artistic interpretation of space travel; Interstellar is a cinematic reality and not actual reality, delving into complex themes and ideas that will have fans discussing their meaning for the weeks and months to come.
Set in the near future, Interstellar finds Earth ravaged by blight. Crops are failing the world over and humanity’s last hope is to turn to the stars to find new worlds to colonise. Matthew McConaughey is Cooper, a former pilot turned farmer turned pilot again when he’s roped back into NASA due to a gravitational phenomenon. Cooper is joined by Anne Hathaway’s Dr Brand and a small crew on a mission through a worm hole to protect our future. Also accompanying them is the Tetris block TARS, a hilarious robot voiced by Bill Irwin who I was not expecting to be anywhere near as funny or original as he was.
McConaughey is the heart of the movie as Cooper. He’s the rock solid centre of all of Interstellar’s moving parts, keeping it together even when the narrative doesn’t always hit its ambitious marks. It’s a powerful performance, made stronger by his relationship with his daughter Murphy – Cooper must leave his family behind on the expedition, aware that if he returns he may have outlived his children (or they may even be the same age as him – that’s relativity folks!). Cooper’s desire to provide a future for his family is his motivation, and it’s this love that Nolan shows us transcends space and time.
So what’s not to like? The runtime for one. Despite being a slow burn, Interstellar’s three hours pass quite quickly, but a little more focus and 20 or so minutes shaved off could have really tightened things up. Some of the dialogue is also a bit clunky – a monologue by Dr Brand about the power of love is a little on the nose. It’s an example of Nolan telling us about how amazing the power of love is rather than showing it as he does elsewhere in the film. The mind-bending finale may be too fantasy and deus ex machina for some. I didn’t mind, mostly because I was awed by Nolan’s mastery of the medium and his ambition as a storyteller, and was equally enthralled by McConaughey’s performance – and utterly blown away by Hans Zimmer’s colossal sound, compromised of pounding pipe-organs and cinema-shaking reverb. The guy’s a genius.