Movie Review: Interstellar
By Matthew Huntley
November 10, 2014
The best thing Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar does - and it does many things exceptionally well - is assume its audience is smart and that we’re wanting and willing to be challenged. Nolan and his filmmaking team have constructed a complex, thoughtful and thoroughly engaging science fiction drama that exercises both our minds and emotions. The film is exhausting, but in a most satisfying way; as we watch it, its energy, ideas and beauty overwhelm us and we’re reminded of just how powerful the movies can be.
On the surface, Interstellar recycles several elements common to the sci-fi genre, and it won’t be hard to spot the similarities between it and other films of its kind, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (and its lesser known sequel, 2010), Armageddon, and most recently, Gravity. But it doesn’t rip these films off as much as utilize their same assets. What Interstellar does with them, and the effect it has on our minds and bodies, seems unparalleled, at least in recent memory. And speaking of its physical impressions, this is a film that demands to be seen in theaters because of the way it envelops our senses and makes us feel like we’re not only watching something spectacular but also taking a ride.
Typical of science fiction, the story takes place in the not-too-distant future, when most of the world has been marred by an arid and unfruitful climate. Dust storms are a daily occurrence, and corn is one of the few remaining crops, though even its days are numbered. The fear is that this perpetual dryness will one day make the Earth uninhabitable, which is why the majority of the population is doing what it can to stave off famine by abandoning technology-related fields and taking up farming instead. “We are now a caretaker society,” one character observes.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is one such man who’s resorted to farming to survive, though his heart and mind aren’t in it. He ‘s a former NASA test pilot and engineer who still yearns to be in the air surrounded by machines and gadgets. Cooper is a widower who lives with his father-in-law (John Lithgow) and two kids, 15-year-old Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and 10-year-old Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Murph, like her father, is a science junkie and is also wise beyond her years. She believes there’s a poltergeist in her room that’s trying to send her a message, but as her Dad explains, there’s no such things as ghosts and he advises her to approach the situation from a scientific point of view: develop a theory, test it out and draw a conclusion. Her hunches and curiosity will play an integral role later on.
Following the latest dust storm, Cooper and Murph discover an atmospheric anomaly related to gravity. They believe the particular way the dust settles in Murph’s room is Morse code, and indeed it points them to the coordinates of an underground NASA station. Here, Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter, Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway), are among other scientists and explorers planning a clandestine mission into space. They’ve discovered a wormhole in the solar system that leads to another galaxy with potentially inhabitable planets. Their hope is that humans can settle on one of them, thus ensuring our survival. In light of Cooper’s stumbling upon the project, Professor Brand beseeches him to pilot the spacecraft that would confirm the planets’ viability. But “to save the world,” as it is said, Cooper must abandon his family, which Murph has a hard time accepting.