Christopher Nolan is one of those directors in Hollywood who most people seem to either love or hate. He’s known to be bold, ambitious, and hellbent on creating movies that clock in at almost three-hours, and for better or worse, Interstellar seems like the perfect amalgamation of all his many traits.
Above all else, this movie is a cinematic experience meant to leave you in awe at the visuals presented on screen, and while this does mean that the overall plot and character development occasionally stumble, it still made for an undoubtedly astounding piece of film making. It’s not a perfect story, but it is also one I can’t seem to stop thinking about it.
Interstellar tells a classic, yet refreshingly original, science fiction tale of family, exploration, and survival, that is able to, for the most part, successfully juggle its many ideas and themes really well. Even when the characters were flying headfirst into a wormhole or outrunning a skyscraper-sized tsunami wave on a distant planet, I never stopped believing in what I was seeing on screen, and loved almost every minute of it.
The story starts off by introducing us to a world that is both very different, yet eerily similar, to our own. In the near future, our planet is in a state of perpetual decay, and as its atmosphere continues to fall apart, humanity becomes desperate for a chance at survival, regardless of any possible risks or costs.
What made the premise so refreshing for me was that it tackled this apocalypse-like scenario with a uniquely grounded take. There are no monsters or crazed people running around in Interstellar, but rather, simple farmers and scientists who are doing their best to create food for themselves even when nature is falling apart all around them.
This new perspective on the end of the world was immediately captivating for me, and it made it easy to quickly connect and root for the primary cast of characters, lead by now award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, who plays the former astronaut turned humble farmer Cooper.
After stumbling across a secret government facility, Cooper is recruited in a last-ditch effort to find a new home for humanity amongst the stars of a distant galaxy. While Cooper is initially hesitant to leave his family behind, the understanding that humanity might not have another chance at survival convinces him to embark on the possibly one-way journey in hopes of giving his son and daughter a brighter future than his own.
Cooper’s fatherly motivations are what drive the plot forward even when it occasionally buckles under its own weighty ambitions, and McConaughey delivers yet another fantastic, emotionally charged performance that gives the entire story a real, tangible sense of urgency and realism even in the face of increasingly crazy circumstances.
However, some of the secondary characters, while all well-acted, weren’t given quite enough development to transcend their initial stereotypes. The other astronauts with Cooper on the space voyage, for example, are all unique in their own ways, but they fail to make much of an impact simply because they’re never allowed the freedom or time to do so.
Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain are probably the two exceptions, as they each tend to nail every scene they’re given. Hathaway’s headstrong yet undeniably vulnerable character Amelia Brand was a stand-out in more than a couple scenes, and her resolve and commitment to the task at hand created from some lively conflict between her and Cooper that intensified an already exciting film.
Chastain is also great as Cooper’s adult daughter, Murph, but I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see from her. She delivered on everything that was given to her, but in an already crowded story, she wasn’t afforded quite enough content to really reach her full potential as a character.
This is likely due to the fact that the child version of Murph, played by the extremely talented young actress Mackenzie Foy, was a major focus for the first half of the film, which meant that when Chastain took the spotlight later on, there was already so much history behind her character that it was hard to shake the feeling that I had missed out on something.
As I said above, however, Interstellar is a visual experience above all else, and in that regard, it more than succeeds. The visuals are consistently breathtaking and feel quite unlike anything else I have ever seen on the big screen. The movie is able to wonderfully capture the appeal and thrill of space travel in a big way, and I was left with my jaw on the floor on an almost constant basis.
Christopher Nolan is a brilliant director, and his work here has only reinforced that. He’s able to capture both the humanity of his characters and the otherworldly, yet still strangely familiar, environments that inhabit much of the film’s running time in a truly spectacular fashion, and his work behind the camera was nearly worth the price of admission on its own.
However, as has become one of his trademark habits, Nolan drags the movie’s plot out for too long, and at almost three-hours long, it would’ve benefited from some trimming in regards to its off-the-wall ending. While the final act certainly stuck with me, the plot was wrapped up in such a complicated way that I was left with a lot more questions than answers, which is never a fun feeling to have after a movie.
Perhaps this was Nolan’s attempt to get us thinking about the weighty topics and themes he tackles with the movie, but he doesn’t quite tie it up enough to give the audience a real sense of closure. Instead we’re left with an open-ended conclusion that doesn’t feel entirely satisfying. And yet, the more I think about it, the more I find myself wanting to watch it again, which stands as a testament to just how engaging the rest of the movie was for me.
Interstellar is going to be one of those movies that will draw a wide range of opinions, but even with its flaws, I was floored by the movie in more ways than one. Its captivating sense of scale and adventure had me hooked right off the bat, and even though the plot stumbled under its own ambitions near the end, this is still a movie that must be seen on the big screen, and is absolutely worth your time and money.