So Far Away, So Close, So Nolan-esque: ”Interstellar” Rocks the Universe
So, is this a ”2001” for the 2000’s? The always ambitious Mr Christopher Nolan, along with his brother and frequent writing partner Jonathan, has created an existential space opera that runs close to three hours and takes place in a possible future, apparently not too distant in time. Unfortunately. Serious, planet-wide food shortage has resulted in a visible regression in social services and technological advances. Priorities are about sheer survival. Everything seems a little more grey and primitive than what we (at least in this present industrial world) are used to, accompanied by passing comments concerning a consumer society that apparently came to a crashing end one or a few generations back. The older characters in the story seem to have some fleeting memories of a different era.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) plows his fields somewhere on the American Midwest prairie, although he used to be a pilot and engineer with remarkable skills regarding everything airborne. In this atmosphere and the next. Through coincidental (or not) circumstances, he and his likewise tech wizard-esque daughter stumbles upon a research facility which turns out to be what’s left of NASA. There, a small but determined group of scientists are working on a plan to save humanity from the coming apocalypse they still predict in the reasonably near future.
The introduction takes its time. It’s grounded in a gray-ish reality. Then, slowly but decisively, ”Interstellar” becomes a rather stunning experience, a remarkable odyssey in time and space. Nolan & Nolan don’t exactly hold back. The conclusion is powerful, visually as well as emotionally, even though not everyone agrees it holds water on all levels. By that time, I am so caught up in the whole build-up and execution that I accept most of the potentially quasi-philosophical and pseudo-scientific ideas presented and simply want to follow the journey to the end to find out where it all, and by extension we all, will end up. ”Interstellar” is not only a feast for the eyes but it also does provide, as the expression (overused or not) goes, ”food for thought”. At least to the same degree as Nolan’s earlier challenging works like ”Inception” and ”The Prestige”. Maybe more so.
Do we really perceive our entire reality? What are we capable of? How do we deal with the Relativity Theory in practice? The mission for a few brave souls is to find other brave souls who left a while ago to look for hospitable planets in other dimensions, to possibly colonize and populate. There the premise reminds me of Danny Boyle’s ”Sunshine” (a film that didn’t convince everyone either – but I liked it). The technology and terminology on display – do we need to ‘get it’ completely to appreciate this film? I think not. Quantum physics, wormholes, five dimensions, mystical creatures who might communicate with us, or maybe they’re just figments of our own imagination… Realizing the fact that time in itself doesn’t adhere to the same rules in every corner of the Universe. An hour on one planet could mean seven lost, or at least spent, on our own. The important thing is to keep an open mind as much as possible for a couple of hours. And stay awake. I know people who fell asleep in the same cinema where I watched the film, sometime halfway through…
Are there sequences that could have been more heavily edited than they are? Maybe. On the other hand they tend to build up to poignant, important scenes that not necessarily would have had the same impact with a faster pace preceding them. Credibility on a scientific level, well – that’s an area where others might have more insight to share. And they have. Just check the internet for differing views on that topic (like those of Neil deGrasse Tyson). The film strives to expand our views of the world we know, and it gradually manages to just that. If all its concepts are familiar or not is actually of minor importance. The human connection is there anyway. Will we survive? If and when should you sacrifice, or at least abandon the people close to you, family and friends, for something bigger? The story raises issues like, how far can our empathy reach, further than to the ones we know personally, to a nation, to an entire civilization? Existentialism has always been a part of Nolan’s films. But probably never as much as this time, this earnestly and immersively staged. It’s less of mindblowing-experiment such as ”Inception” and more of, yes the Stanley Kubrick classic I mentioned early on, the one with the conclusion that seemingly eludes everyone but still resonates with the viewer on an almost subconscious level.
”Interstellar” also becomes a more successful exploration of the universe than Ridley Scott’s ”Prometheus” a few years ago. That one was undeniably exciting and visually impressive, but it never really managed to capitalize on its own inherent mythology. Nolan & Nolan were apparently inspired by writings by astrophysicist Kip Thorne, whose ideas supposedly also informed ”Contact” (1997) where Jodie Foster tried to interpret messages from the other side of the vast black space thing surrounding us. And featured a supporting role from a fellow named Matthew McConaughey. ”Interstellar” shakes, clatters and swirls like the recent ”Gravity” and beholds the fate of a whole civilization like in ”Sunshine”. In a vision of the future that’s equally frightening and inspiring.
Said McConaughey has had a couple of good years, to say the least, Oscar winner for ”Dallas Buyers Club” and then part of the instant TV classic ”True Detective”. The same could be said for Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain. Here, they play Cooper’s astronaut/researcher colleague and his eventually grown-up daughter, respectively. They all seem to choose the right roles recently. And they know how to spend the time they get on screen. Yes, there seems to be a lot of references to time in this review. Whatever the reason may be. On the whole, this is one of the best films I’ve come across this year. Preferably, it should be seen on the big screen, but considering the home cinema installations many people invest in these days, it’s probably not a complete deal breaker if you choose to wait a while for the BluRay version.