STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Anne
Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Matt Damon
2014, 169 Minutes, Directed by: Christopher Nolan
2001: A Space Odyssey was released, critics and
audiences were divided. Some hailed it as a tremendous achievement while others
found it indulgent and obscure. Over time, the movie has come to be recognized
as one of the greatest films ever. While it’s too soon to say how
Interstellar will fare in the long run, director Christopher Nolan’s bid to
do his own 2001 will undoubtedly divide viewers as well. Count this
reviewer among those who think this is the best science fiction film of the
It’s the near future. Our
destruction of the Earth is nearly complete with animals and plant life
falling to extinction, and corn seemingly one of the last crops hanging on.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) lives with his father (John Lithgow) and two
kids on his farm, although he was an engineer who had worked for NASA. Not
only is there no space program. Students are now taught that the moon
landing was faked.
Cooper learns otherwise and
finds himself on a desperate mission through space. There is a stable
wormhole that will allow us to go to another galaxy and find a new planet
for humanity. However when he and his crew get to the other side, it’s not
at all what they were expecting. To say much more about the plot would be to
give away an epic story that Nolan (and his brother/co-screenwriter
Jonathan) allow to unfold slowly. There are moments early on that may seem
like they could be cut but which pay off in the film’s final act.
Many reviewers will focus on the film’s visuals, since that’s what they
expect from science fiction movies. While the journey through the wormhole
may remind you of the trip through Kubrick’s monolith in 2001,
what’s much more imaginative are the alien surfaces they explore. A good
deal of thought has gone into avoiding clichés, so that even the robot
sidekicks are unlike anything you’re likely to have seen on screen.
"The best science fiction movie you're likely to see this year!"
The performances are solid
with most of the weight of the film on McConaughey, but nice turns by Anne
Hathaway, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, and Matt Damon as astronauts, Michael
Caine and John Lithgow as a scientist and Cooper’s grandfather respectively,
and Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck as Cooper’s grown children. However,
this is not a film about character for the most part. It’s a film about
relativity… and that’s what’s going to baffle some viewers, even more than
Nolan’s Inception did.
Time moves differently for
the astronauts than it does for the people back on Earth, and the nature of
time is one of the key questions of the film. Ironically, for those who have
no problem with that, the stumbling block may the film’s other key theme
which is the bond between parent and child or, more specifically here,
fathers and daughters. That mixture of mind-boggling ideas interlaced with
real human emotions has been a hallmark of Nolan’s films, and is one of
their strengths, even if some only appreciate one side or the other.
Interstellar is a
masterfully paced space odyssey that tackles big issues but doesn’t forget
that it’s individuals with their own personal histories who are engaging
with them. We’ll have to wait to see what people think of this in ten years,
but right now it’s the best science fiction movie you’re likely to see this
year, and quite possibly one of the best films period.
Daniel M. Kimmel is a
veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. He recently
released his first novel, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood
and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
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