Genre: Science Fiction
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine
Release Date: November 4th, 2014
“The thing’s gotta learn how to adapt, ed Murph, ask like the rest of us.” So states Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), the lead character in the new drama Interstellar, referring to a recently crashed drone he found and promptly loaded onto the back of his pickup truck . Despite the sci-fi elements that are so prevalent in Interstellar, I hesitate to call it a science fiction film because it reaches beyond simplistic science fiction and attempts to tell a grandiose story about humanity itself.
The story begins on a farm where the widowed Cooper is raising his two young children with the aide of his patient father-in-law (John Lithgow). Cooper is a farmer— yes— but he’s also a pilot and a scientist who argues with the bureaucratic school administrators who believe that the Apollo missions were faked in order to help bankrupt the Soviet Union. With NASA seemingly in our nation’s rear-view mirror, it seems like scientific knowledge has been erased in this new world. Along with that education, the military has been also eradicated but with a dramatically changing environment, the future of the entire planet is in doubt. Although this isn’t set up like a dystopian world, there are elements of that here with much of the population having been wiped out through starvation and the world seemingly on the brink of destruction.
The ever-imaginative Cooper, alongside his astute daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), eventually discovers– though a series of hidden messages Murph keeps finding with the aid of a “ghost” in her room– a secret NASA facility that is attempting to find another planet for the human race to survive on. “Mankind was born on Earth, it was never meant to die here,” Cooper notes, believing that he must leave his family in order to save mankind.
Without delving too deeply into the plot here (and the synopsis above covers only the very beginning of the story), it must be said that director Christopher Nolan is reaching for the stars here. Not only is he aiming to tell a provocative story about a family’s struggles in the midst of our planet’s decay but he’s also hoping to speak to greater themes here about human sacrifice, scientific exploration and the idea that there’s much more to explore in this universe than we’ve ever even imagined. Nolan’s love for intergalactic discussions is clear from the moment the first drone hits the ground. To his credit (and to the credit of co-writer Jonathan Nolan), this film reaches some of the stars it attempts to grasp.
While watching the film, it’s never in doubt that this is a feature that shows what great filmmakers are capable of. There are a few story beats that seem out of place here, including a battle between the older Murph (Jessica Chastain) and her embittered brother Tom (Casey Affleck). But as a whole, Interstellar is an undeniable cinematic event that brilliantly succeeds at making the case for future space exploration and imaginative and unique adventure stories.
Nolan has previously stated his love for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and in many ways, this movie feels like an ode to grandiose and thought-provoking movies like that. But more importantly, it’s an ode to the idea of that there are worlds out there that we need to explore. Tugging at the heartstrings at times, the film also offers up the undeniable truth that our time is limited both in our personal lives and on this planet.
Knowledge and exploration may be the keys to our survival as a species and we must remember that even in the harshest of environments. It’s a powerful theme that is explored deeply and powerfully in the unforgettable Interstellar.
Review by: John Hanlon