Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine
Rating: Three and a half
There are two ways to look at Interstellar. In one, Christopher Nolan takes the viewer on an intergalactic ride against the toughest odds, going where almost no humans have been before and discovers the vast possibilities that the unexplored spaces bring with them. Then there is the subliminal feeling that although the gravitational pull in terms of general relativity has a crucial missing piece that can help humans get a better life, it is the pull of love, bonding and longing that transcends all universes with a kind of determination that only humans are capable of. Nolan never makes watching his films a passive activity. He pushes you to think beyond the universe that surrounds your brains and explore the possibility that there’s so much more to what’s on screen and in your head than when you started the film.
Fans of the filmmaker are usually prepped about all the jargon, mumbo-jumbo that will be thrown around, with the firm belief that Nolan is undoubtedly one of the most tedious researchers in Hollywood. With that in mind, we enter the world of Cooper (McConaughey), a former NASA pilot and engineer, who thanks to rampant blight in the near future, is forced to turn a farmer to fight starvation. Needless to say, he is frustrated with how life has turned out but doesn’t lose his scientific spark, one that is seen in his 10-year-old daughter Murphy ‘Murph’ too. Cooper lives with Murph, 15-year-old son Tom and his father-in-law Donald. A series of anomalies and inexplicable clues in binary code lead Cooper and Murph to an underground NASA facility that has been working tirelessly to find a habitable alternate planet for humans. With Cooper’s former mentor Dr Brand (Caine) at the helm of affairs, supported by his scientist daughter Amelia (Hathaway), Cooper is told quite simply that there are two plans. The priority is to find a viable planet for humans that they would then leave the environmentally toxic earth to inhabit. The Plan B is not as hopeful for those currently on earth but is a long shot at sustaining humanity.
Cooper, who is leaving his family behind, obviously has a lot riding on Plan A working. So he leaves along with Amelia, Romilly (Gyasi), Doyle (Bentley) and the robot TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) in what is the best chance to save the earthlings and give them a chance to a healthier environment. Murph, in the run-up to takeoff, has been receiving seemingly random messages that are eventually unravel the word ‘STAY’. Convinced that her father is being asked to stay back by some supernatural forces, Murph remains mighty upset at him despite her various ways to hold him back. He then orbits in space from one probable life-sustaining planet to another, in the hope of finding an option for humans so he can quickly get back to his daughter.
When in space, time is relative and as it turns out, Cooper spends a lot more time in space than he would’ve wanted to, in the process, facing some terrifying near-death moments.
Saying anything more than this would take away from Nolan’s style of filmmaking: which is revealing a story in layers within layers. If you thought Inception was cerebral, Interstellar will make Inception seem like a Disney film. The film will seem like a sum total of a lot of sci-fi flicks. There’s a strong 2001: A Space Odyssey connection, similarities with Contact, Gravity of course, and more. Nolan takes our fascination with space and sets it in his grammar of filmmaking, adding his vocabulary of imagination. He strikes a perfect balance between spelling out the plot and letting the audience figure it out for themselves. However, the one thing that works against that is the sheer length of the film. At 169 minutes, it is slowly paced and takes its own sweet time to open up. Sadly when it comes to piecing the puzzle together, Nolan speeds up the process that leaves the viewer gasping with the information overload. That said, he shakes your fundamental understanding of a linear narrative and even takes a jibe through Cooper about how he hates ending up where he started.
McConaughey as Cooper is brilliant to say the least. He is measured and understated in most parts. McConaughey has really turned himself around as an actor and his career graph the last few years has taken him from one character-driven role to another. Among Nolan favourites in casting are Hathaway and Caine. Hathaway shows a lot of promise and is occasionally betrayed by clichéd lines but it’s safe to say that she gave it her all. Caine has a limited role and seems to be Nolan’s good luck charm. The star performer would really be Mackenzie Foy who played young Murph. Chastain, who plays the middle-aged Murph has a short role with not much to do but it is Foy, who sets the tone for the father-daughter relationship and how it gets strained.
The movie has some superb visual effects, making it a must-watch on an IMAX screen. It won’t blow you away like Gravity but it’ll certainly make you feel like a part of the intergalactic adventure. With Hans Zimmer’s background score giving it the typical grandiose that he’s known for, the film takes you on a ride through the vast, infinite space making you face the unknown. Somewhere in that journey is also one of a father and daughter who go on a ride at different times and face a hitherto unknown part of their lives. The project is ambitious and Nolan gives it his all. He reached for the stars and in a long, slowly paced way got as close to it as possible cinematically.