By Zach Grullon
Christopher Nolan ranks among the few living directors, next to Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, that is a bigger name than the actors that star in his films. This stems partly from his ability to have nine-figure budgets that cater to his ambitious vision, which increases with each film. “Interstellar” is very much a Nolan film. You will see his usual trademarks of sweeping IMAX shots, a prominent Hans Zimmer score, highly intellectual concepts, and an appearance by Michael Caine playing a mentor of some sort. At the same time, Nolan’s latest sometimes chews more than it can swallow, making it an epic that will probably leave some viewers confounded by the end, but overall delivers on solid, thought-provoking entertainment for its near three-hour running time.
Set in a period of widespread hunger, former pilot/engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is now a farmer living with his father-in-law (Jon Lithgow) and his two siblings Murph and Tom. Cooper stumbles upon a secret NASA base with his daughter and is offered the chance to save humanity from its impending doom by making an interstellar trek through a wormhole to another galaxy that may be a better fit for humans. Like most Nolan films, with its surprising twists and turns, the less said about the plot the better.
But in this case, the less said is better only because explaining Nolan’s expansive thesis on humanity in a science-fiction odyssey would take up several pages of text. As stated before, Nolan admirably shoots for high ambitions, delivering profoundly fascinating insights into complex ideas. In a way, this is Christopher Nolan’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” with several nods to the Star-Gate Sequence.
However, much like Nolan’s last non-Batman movie “Inception,” these high ambitions require every scene to contain some form of exposition whether with scientific concepts or the emotional arcs with each character. So the whole film becomes a challenge of delivering exposition in each scene while providing solid entertainment at the same time. And while Nolan’s latest is less successful than “Inception,” which had the same dilemma, it is nonetheless fascinating to watch.
Part of this comes from the emotional context that Nolan sets the story in. The film explores how time impacts humanity as we see Cooper remain the same age during his ventures into different galaxies while Murph and Tom age on a slowly apocalyptic Earth, with Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck playing those characters in their adult years, respectively.
But this is very much Matthew McConaughey’s movie. The actor captures both the intelligent engineer and the everyday man in Cooper, making him a likable hero for this epic story. Unlike most blockbusters where special effects takes over the acting, McConaughey manages to deliver a solid performance. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast such as the aforementioned Affleck and Chastain along with Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Wes Bently, and others, are not given enough screen time to show off their true talents. However, there is an appearance by an A-list actor midway that will certainly turn heads with not just the role this actor plays, but the way it plays into the dark elements of the story.
Despite these flaws, Nolan’s latest is still a remarkable achievement that needs to be seen in not just any theater, but at one that delivers the best quality in picture and sound. The IMAX sequences, coupled by some fantastic visual effects, are breathtaking, and Zimmer’s score will ring through your ears days after you have seen the film. This may not rank with Nolan’s best work, but it is still a marvel to see the talented filmmaker bring forth to the screen a celebration of mankind’s heroic endeavors in a beautifully filmed science fiction epic.
Zach Grullon is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.