Interstellar (2014) Directed by Christopher Nolan. With Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine.
During his press junkets for Interstellar, Christopher Nolan repeatedly cites Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey as his two key cinematic influences with regard to realising his ambition on screen. Although Lucas and Kubrick’s films are vastly different by their design, they nevertheless provided a springboard of imagination for a young Nolan which has culminated in this grand, spectacularly thrilling journey through the stars. In every sense, he has met the source of his inspiration.
Co-written with his brother Jonathan, Nolan once again demonstrates his love for his craft by constructing a deeply intelligent blockbuster that treats its audience with respect. He is the powerful antidote to the Michael Bay’s of this world, striving to entertain with concept and thoughtfulness as the source of his main course. With Interstellar, he has achieved an experience that feels instantly seminal.
Despite the many plot devices and clever ideas, the overarching narrative (like all the best films) is a simple one. At the heart of the thing, it is simply about love. Nolan has been criticised for creating cold characters in much of his work, and although there are a lot of people who choose to be annoyingly reductive about his talent, it is perhaps not a stretch to say that of his work to date, this is the one with the strongest heartbeat.
In the beginning, we’re introduced to a version of our planet that is dying. Crippling dust storms are a regular occurrence and corn is the only crop that will grow. The Earth needs farmers as drought and famine take hold. Where Danny Boyle’s underrated Sunshine fell short is where Interstellar takes off. We’re introduced to Matthew McConaughey and his two children. With this, Nolan ensures he lays an emotional backdrop to give gravity to his second and third acts; foremost investing heavily in his characters. Ultimately, with the title, poster and the fact that the film is called Interstellar, you ought to have an idea where the plot is going.
Aside from the head-cracking science that poses questions on top of questions (Nolan had theoretical physicist Kip Thorne as a scientific consultant), the film is home to many fine performances from an impressive cast. McConaughey brings great strength and warmth, and his scenes with his 10-year-old daughter Murph (an excellent Mackenzie Foy), suffuse the piece with its core dramatic pull. Throw in Ann Hathaway and Jessica Chastain and the star quality on screen starts to match the stars in outer space.
On the subject of outer space…wow! The best films are an experience, to the point where you almost forget you’re watching a film. That happened to me here. Hans Zimmer’s score elevates the eye-popping drama while the attention to fine detail in the production design creates that vital feeling of authenticity that allows us to fully immerse in the surroundings.
The ideas around time, wormholes, black holes, gravity and all the other scientific elements woven into the plot are nothing short of breathtaking. In lesser hands, a film like this could easily become a portentous mess; not so with Nolan. His ambition is to encourage the collective imagination to inspire people not only to look infinitely outward, but inward too. It is this dual narrative charge that sets Interstellar apart. We are astonished by the spectacle, but we are also invited to take it to heart. An instant masterpiece of epic proportions. 5/5