DISCLAIMER: The following review contains mild spoilers.
Last week, I watched Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This week, I shelled out 250 bucks to experience Christopher Nolan’s latest offering, Interstellar, in IMAX. 250 bucks might sound like a little too much, but this is Christopher Nolan we are talking about. He is someone whose is considered a realist, more than Scorsese or Spielberg or Tarantino. And his movies have always been a delight to watch.
Talking about realism, we can successfully argue that Interstellar is a more realistic science fiction film than his previous offering from the same genre, Inception. This is because his treatment of space travel is more plausible and practical than the idea of stealing information or planting an idea into the mind of a third person through their dreams. Like every other Nolan film, Interstellar is a fantastic journey which didn’t fall short of the high expectations I had. This is a film rooted in some serious, confusing physics, but beautifully presented.
Interstellar is set in the future, at a point where Earth’s resources are depleting at a very quick rate. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer who owns a large farm somewhere in USA. He lives with his father-in-law (John Lithgow), his son Tom(Timothée Chalamet) and his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Cooper and Murph are as fascinated by science as Tom is by farming. Murph is obsessed with a ‘ghost’ in her room, and with Cooper, they find out that her ‘ghost’ is an unknown intelligence sending some messages to them in the form of binary numbers, which when decoded leads them to a top secret underground NASA establishment which is headed by Professor Brand (Michael Caine). Cooper, once a test pilot for NASA, is asked to pilot their mission to sustain human life on a planet from 12 planets identified to have the potential to sustain life. And the way to go there is through a wormhole that appeared near Saturn, which means that they might not be able to return back to Earth forever. Murph fights Cooper against the idea, but Cooper leaves anyway, to protect his children, to protect mankind.
And he sets off on a long, adrenaline-filled silent journey with Professor Brand’s biologist daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), geographer Doyle (Wes Bentley), physicist Romilly (David Gyasi) and TARS and CASE, two artificial intelligence robots, which have a good sense of humor and no evil plans (like we’ve seen in most of the movies that involve AI). So, going through a wormhole means that time will be different to them, in the sense that years to them is decades on Earth, and on the off-chance that Cooper returns home safe and sound, there is a great chance that Murph is a grown, possibly dead, woman by that time. Out of the 12, only 3 are considered possibilities, and their task is to collect the data from the three planets, return to Earth and report which planet is the best to sustain the population of the Earth.
The movie shifts into the next gear once the story is taken to space. Space is an unknown frontier, with unimaginable consequences and unknown variables. And depicting space with that description is a difficult thing to achieve, but bringing in Kip Thorne is the solution to that. The spherical wormhole, apparently based on carefully and correctly calculated mathematical models, the concept of bend of space-time are all believable. When you add all of that to Nolan’s mastery in visual depiction, you get an image of black hole that sends chills down your spine.
Matthew McConaughey, without any doubt, is the right man for the role. He carries with him a high level of expertise and an even higher level of skill. He plays the role of Cooper with great intensity, and brings the character to life. His amazement, when he first looks at the wormhole, his desperation when he is trying to communicate with Murph are testimonies to his justification of the character. His farewell to Murph is a long, warm scene filled with dialogues in gentle, cradling tones. Matthew rises to the occasion, and is easily the best actor in a cast that includes a lengthy cameo by another A-rated star.
The cinematography is beautiful. This is Nolan’s first work with Hoyte Van Hoytema, a man whom I’ve never heard of, and the outcome is a thrill. The frozen clouds, the unexpectedly high waves and the iced planet are captured beautifully. This is one of the reasons why you ought to watch it in IMAX.
The music is surprising, but sets the mood perfectly. Surprising, because I guess I was too hooked on the soundtracks of The Dark Knight Trilogy, and did not expect Zimmer to come up with something loud. Nolan’s idea of hiding the story from Zimmer and giving him just the idea of the scene for which he was supposed to compose is a great one, and it has certainly worked to his advantage.
I still remember, Inception was a movie that posed so many questions. It was, and still is, a movie that I speculate about. Interstellar, however, isn’t like that. There are questions posed, and the answers are also given, but you might have a hard time just to understand the question. While Inception was an incredible brainstorm, Interstellar is a marvelous piece of a futuristic idea that is very much possible to occur.
However, among all the talk of saving humanity, the story is based on Cooper’s love towards his daughter. He goes into other worlds not to save mankind, but to save his daughter. Nolan weaves a story that will try to make you feel and think. There are a few points where the emotional side of the story is clumsily expressed, but since it is done by the lesser significant Amelia, I can’t really blame her. But that doesn’t deter the intensity of the emotional core of the movie.
Interstellar is a great movie, best experienced in IMAX. Set against a backdrop of extinction, alien existence and parental love, this movie is arguably Nolan’s best sci-fi and human movie to date. Trust me, you do not want to miss this.