REVIEW: Interstellar

9 11 2014

“We were meant to be explorers, pioneers – not caretakers,” utters Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper towards the start of “Interstellar.”  This declaration is true not only for the world of the film but also of its filmmaker, the inimitable Christopher Nolan.  As if exploring the deepest corners of the mind with “Inception” or redefining an entire cinematic genre with “The Dark Knight” was not enough, he has now flung his vision and ambition into the farthest reaches of space and time.

His “Interstellar” is not limited by dimensions nor encumbered by gravity.  It defies time and space entirely.  It is at once poetic and narrative.  It is a calculated work of science that also operates from a profound emotional level, wedding Kubrickian formalism to Spielbergian sentimentalism.  And most importantly, it inspires wonder and awe.

This is why, at least in Christopher Nolan’s lifetime, the movie theater experience will not perish.  His cinema is bold, immersive, and ultimately transcendent.  He goes beyond capturing an image or a feeling for what it is, showing the majesty it can embody and convey.  When at his calibrated best, Nolan can invoke not only a visceral reaction but also a spiritual one.

He is the undeniable myth maker of our time.  If that does not prompt loyal adherence, it should, at the bare minimum, command admiration and respect.  No one else working with this massive a budget is coming anywhere close to approximating Nolan’s scope or verve.  “Interstellar” is the latest shining star in his cinematic universe, and it shines brightly as a paradigm of balancing artistry and authorship along with accessibility and avant-gardism.


That’s not to say the film is perfect, however.  “Interstellar” has its share of rough edges, including the hokey incorporation of documentary-style interview footage at its beginning (which is thankfully abandoned quickly) as well as some clunky intergalactic cross-cutting.  But a filmmaker working with a canvas this sprawling can certainly be forgiven for a few minor missteps.  In the grand scheme of things, they are mere punctuation errors in an epic cinematic tome.

He begins in a tattered American heartland, ravaged by environmental and economic crises that are only alluded to in vague passing comments.  It’s less of a dystopian society and more of a Dust Bowl, though the specifics do not exactly matter.  The earth, sooner than scientifically predicted, can no longer sustain life.  A mission to find a new home for its inhabitants is necessary if they are to survive, and Nolan’s protagonist is just the man for the job.

McConaughey’s Cooper, an ex-NASA pilot turned happy father and unhappy farmer, makes the difficult decision to leave his family in the hopes that he might be able to save them.  While he embarks on a journey through a wormhole, across dimensions, and into uncharted territory, “Interstellar” never comes unmoored from its terrestrial origins.  Cooper may talk about the expedition with his companion, Anne Hathaway’s Brand, in broadly overarching terms, yet all emotion and reason stays remarkably grounded.

Out in the firmament, objects in space are not violent threats like in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity;” they are graceful ballet dancers in the ether similar to those in Kubrick’s “2001.”  Nolan knows how to craft a stunning sequence with loud, kinetic brushstrokes, but he also knows when to slow down for a moment.  Though he works from both poles of a spectrum, Nolan knows how to find the illustrious, elusive middle ground that can activate the brain, arrest the heart, and overload the senses.

In “Interstellar,” he lets the simple beauty of the world overwhelm us by focusing on the gentle spin of a spacecraft or the mere speck humanity represents when compared to these behemoth entities.  Most of the time, he surprisingly grounds these fleeting glimpses in realism, achieved through cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema’s GoPro-like photography.  Whether Nolan underscores with silence or with Hans Zimmer’s organ-heavy score, these images are indubitably due deep reverence.

The epic odyssey of the story, which Nolan weaves masterfully with his consistent collaborator and brother, Jonathan, matches the intensity of the film’s visual language.  “Interstellar” challenges notions of humanity and its present capabilities as it reaffirms their timeless dual capacity for selfless love and selfish malice.  This is but another dichotomy which Nolan can effortlessly collapse to create something that can engage the widest possible gamut of moviegoers.

He is not merely a caretaker for the filmmaking status quo.  Christopher Nolan can reconcile opposing styles and ideologies, uniting and then embodying the best of each camp.  “Interstellar” is so many things, but above all, it is a testament to the boundless possibility still present in the medium of cinema for those who dare to dream beyond what is presently seen or known.  A- / 3halfstars



One response

9 11 2014

Loved this movie. It did stumble a bit at times due to its penchant for overexplaining, but as an experience, this was immersive and fantastic. The performances were great, and Nolan committed to his vision and sold it. Also, TARS was awesome. Great review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: