The topic of space and time is so rich and complex that daring to go into that world of thought is a feat on its own. Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Interstellar, studies the seemingly endless space that we fear and admire, weaving an intricate tale of exploration. It follows the story of Cooper, played by Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey, as he leads a team of explorers on a pivotal mission to find a place among the stars where humanity can continue to thrive, as Earth reaches the end of its timeline. Rounding out the cast of this intellectual slice of cinema is Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, and Michael Caine.
Christopher Nolan continues to prove why he’s one of the best filmmakers in the world of cinema today. With him, it’s about creative storytelling more than anything else. The script, written by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, takes a hungry bite out of the space-time continuum. At the center of it all is a story about how love can be quantified, and how it may be more than just a feeling. Yes, the expository dialogue can sometimes be overwhelming, especially with all the complex explanations and theories, and some of the dialogue is contrived, but it’s a film that respects its audience as intelligent beings who want a thought-provoking film. So we can forgive the moments where Nolan somewhat struggles to make the characters sympathetic, as he’s never been consistent at doing so, because of the boldness of the script.
Visually, this film is dazzling, showing us space at its scariest and most beautiful, occasionally at the same time. The camera captures space as if it’s a character on its own. It’s definitely not 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it’s a film that will go down as a sci-fi classic on its own terms, although it does find inspiration from the Stanley Kubrick classic on more than one occasion. The effects feel tangible, and not at all like blockbuster effects because they feel real—Nolan utilized miniatures in some cases to make it so. Through Nolan’s vision, space is a beautiful, magical, and claustrophobic nightmare.
Matthew McConaughey, as Cooper, continues his streak of rich film choices, as he plays an ex-NASA test pilot who’s a dedicated family man. Cooper has a fire of dedication for exploration in his eyes which equals his dedication to his family. McConaughey turns in another great performance, as we root for him to make it through the mission despite the odds. We are able to connect to his everyman character, as he reacts naturally to all that happens in this story of wondrous complexity. Anne Hathaway, playing NASA scientist Amelia Brand, turns in a solid performance as well, dealing with the consequences of human error and the forces of love. Hathaway plays off her long lost love subplot well, despite not having a visual backstory for it; she does it through her body language and a look of emptiness that burns cold.
Besides the two main protagonists out in space, there’s Cooper’s daughter Murphy, played by Jessica Chastain, and her older brother Tom, played by Casey Affleck. Both are struggling against the ever worsening dust bowl, reminiscent of the one in The Grapes of Wrath, but worse. Affleck does well with what he has to work with, and Chastain is fantastic in continuing the natural father-daughter connection built between McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy, who plays the younger version of Murphy. Additionally, there are two rectangular, nimble robots that inject humor in the film (because what’s a space film without robots?). There’s really no weak link in the acting, and there are even some surprises from A-list talent. However, despite the solid acting all-around, the characters themselves aren’t exactly memorable.
Interstellar is a film that’s just as ambitious, bold, and dedicated as its protagonist, Cooper. There are so many topics that this film covers, and it makes everything relative, including time and relativity itself, through love as a quantifiable element. The experience is worthwhile and thought-provoking to the last drop. Is the film flawed? Yes, but so are we, and it reminds us about that too. We want to survive, but in what way and for what reason? Time simply survives us, and not the other way around, yet we are much more than what we know. It’s a film about the exploration of the human condition, as much as it is an exploration of space. Most films about space project us as insignificant ants in relation to the universe; however, perhaps the best accomplishment of this flawed epic is that it lets us know that we are significant, and we do matter.
P.S. If you have watched the film, you might want to take a look at this for further explanation about all the theories mentioned.