“Christopher Nolan takes on other galaxies in his ambitious sci-fi space adventure.”
Nolan embarks on his first feature after the huge success of the Batman franchise, which cemented his place as one of the greatest directors of his generation. Here Nolan returns to the twisting plotlines of his last (Batman-less) feature ‘Inception,’ but this time he has tried to ground his grand adventure in a human story of a father’s unrelenting will to see his daughter again. However, like Inception Nolan revels in making his narrative scientifically plausible, he is obsessed in grounding his sweeping intergalactic storyline in reality. At the core of the film, if you stop trying to wrestle with the physics lessons about relativity, is a storyline where Nolan is testing the limits of ‘love,’ a concept that has no scientific boundaries and is devoid of logic. Nolan was recently quoted as saying the story is an exploration of “What happens when scientists bump up against these things that defy easy characterisation and analysis — things like love,” but unfortunately its not until the last third of the film where this becomes the focus and the film gets lost in it’s own cleverness at times.
As with any Nolan movie it’s not that simple and it follows a similar non-linear structure, but I’ll try and give you the basic outline without the science stuff…
Cooper an ex spaceship pilot and now farmer and widowed father of two farms corn fields, as it is the only crop that can withstand the ferocious dust winds that have swept across the globe. When Coop’s daughter Murph discovers that the ghost in her room is actually a gravitational pull that reveals co-ordinates on a map, the father and daughter team then discover the last remnants of NASA, now operating undercover. Professor Brand (Played by Michael Caine) and his daughter (Anne Hathaway) inform the pair that NASA have been trying to discover new inhabitable planets through the ‘Lazarus missions’ and convince Coop to pilot one a new mission to save Murph’s generation from being the last on Earth. Cooper then pilots a team of scientists and a Stanley Kubrick-esque droid called TARS — through a wormhole that will allow them to explore distant worlds.
Despite this being an astonishing example of sci-fi exploration, I do have some objections. The characterization of the main players that embark on one last ‘Lazarus’ mission is almost non-existent. Anne Hathaway delivers another irritating performance as Amelia Brand, who serves as body that spews out Nolan’s scientific jargon, occasionally she cries about a lover that we never actually see on screen and the tears roll off her space helmet to a powerful Hanz Zimmer score. Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper is a character with an absurd skill-set; over the course of the film he is a successful pilot, corn farmer, physicist, engineer, and pretty much a genius. It’s a dream role for Mconaugh who does hit his straps during the film’s emotional notes. At times it feels like a film full of great talent that have jumped on the Nolan bandwagon and have been accommodated in cameo roles. We see Casey Affleck pop up as an older version of as Coop’s son and he spends most of his time on Coops grainy television screen, unfortunately for him his part in the film is under-written and mostly irrelevant.
The strongest written part is in fact Affleck’s counterpart Jessica Chastain who plays Cooper’s daughter Murph. Murph is possibly Nolan’s strongest female character to date she shuns and resents her father for leaving but also uses him as inspiration to further her own ambitions as an adult. She is a strong willed, stubborn character, full of all the same sense of adventure as her father, but is constantly haunted by his absence. Instead of using a dead wife to drive Coopers to the furthest ends of the universe, as with Inception, Nolan uses the paternal instinct of a father determined to see his daughter one more time as the driving force in his narrative.
The film’s greatest moments come mostly when the crew of the Lazarus are in free-fall, exploring what they soon discover as uninhabitable planets. The cost of visiting each planet takes its toll thanks to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Nolan makes you feel like each minute on a planet is painstaking for Cooper, as it translates into years back on earth,where his daughter is slowly getting closer to his own age. Nolan’s depiction of time is uncannily similar to the way he depicted the dream worlds of Inception, even visually we see the inverted planets where the floor of a planet joins with the ceilings to create a spherical environment.
Such a huge scientific theory as relativity should normally clog up a narrative such as this, the bulk of information that needs to be explained does not suit a Hollywood audience. However Nolan seems to thrive on challenging this assumption. Interstellar starts off as cautionary tale about overpopulation, climate change and the end of mankind, and turns in to a rallying call for exploration and discovery. It could be called Nolan’s love letter to science. From creating the most visually accurate black hole to be put on screen, to one of the most worked on movie space-crafts ever, Nolan’s scope and attention to detail is simply awe inspiring. I think this is what is to be applauded here. Nolan has had the whole of Hollywood in the palm of his hand and yet he has still pushed the boundaries of filmmaking to the point where he embarrasses other blockbuster movies due to the scale of his vision. Although not his strongest film to date, the scale of Nolan’s ambition as a filmmaker on show here is exciting for the industry and for audiences.
Written By Will Harper