Hype can ruin a film-going experience and no new release creates more of a buzz than a new Christopher Nolan film. Rightly so; he’s quite possibly the greatest auteur working today and continually pushes the boundaries of modern day filmmaking. His latest work, Interstellar, is no exception; a masterpiece through and through that does in fact live up to all the hype. Easily the best film of the year so far and possibly even the last few years, it’s a piece of filmic art that feels completely different to anything Nolan has done before, yet sits nicely amongst his back catalogue. Having been extremely disappointed by last year’s critically and commercially successful Gravity, I was slightly worried that the same could happen again with Interstellar, but was thankfully proven wrong. Whereas the former was more of a rollercoaster ride through space, this goes further in creating a cosmic experience that will move you and thrill you on many different levels.
Despite never elaborating on the time in which the story is set, Nolan presents us with a stark and realistic vision of the future. There are no flying cars, hover boards or self-lacing shoes, and the scenes on earth that predominantly take place in the crop fields and farms of rural America don’t feel futuristic at all. Yet the film evidently takes place years from now, when NASA has become an underground organisation due to a lack of funding and the world appears to be ravaged by constant dust storms. Earth is becoming inhabitable and so mankind looks toward the stars for a chance of survival. Cooper, a former pilot turned farmer finds himself tasked with the mission to travel through a newly formed wormhole near Saturn that could be the gateway to other habitable worlds, where humanity could potentially re-colonise. Reluctantly leaving his daughter and son behind so as to guarantee their and other future generations lives, he and a group of explorers travel through space and time in an attempt to save the human race.
This is not your average and formulaic sci-fi adventure, and Christopher Nolan and his co-writer brother Jonathan have clearly put just as much time into getting the science right as they have the fiction. I can’t remember ever seeing a film set in space that goes into such great detail into quantum physics than this does. Large sequences of Stephen Hawking type exposition take up much of the films first act, which is dense but absorbing and mentally rewarding. All the theory is mixed in with romantic notions of love transcending all and underpinned with religious metaphors that will leave you with plenty to chew on and create great discussions after the film has ended. The very idea of space exploration is one that feels extremely current, with the debate about galactic tourism and the funding of Intergalactic missions to find other forms of life still raging on. Where the Nolan brothers sit on the matter is abundantly clear with Interstellar, and it’s the best advertisement that NASA could wish for, portraying the work that they do as a necessity for the future of mankind.
Glorious special effects and stunning cinematography combine to make a majestic and grandiose portrait of the universe and the film is a vision of beauty. It deserves to be seen in 70mm IMAX as intended by Christopher Nolan, not just because of the imagery but because of the score too. As the spaceship takes off the screen vibrates with sound, placing you in the film and creating a fuller cinematic experience than Gravity ever did. Another sweeping score from Hans Zimmer also accompanies the story too, perhaps more subtle than his previous work in this instance but just as stirring and exciting as you’d expect.
Through all of the science and otherworldly spectacle, the film never looses sight of its humanity. Stripped down, it is a story about a father trying to get home to his children; much like Nolan’s previous work, Inception, but with said father travelling through dimensions of time and space as opposed to through the subconscious. Regret, another main theme from Inception, also plays an important role in this, and the two would make a fascinating double bill. Matthew McConaughey continues his resurgence as a powerful presence in cinema and gets the opportunity to really shine in one of the films more heartbreaking scenes. He along with the great younger performance from Mackenzie Foy who plays his daughter, ground the film with touching and tearful moments that never feel overly schmaltzy. What’s particularly great and refreshing to see are female characters who are present not just as window dressing but as integral to the plot; written as scientists with intelligence equal to, if not higher than the male counterparts. There aren’t nearly enough productions made in this age that portray women in roles of power and importance and attempts to create strong role models for young girls often get lost in faux-feminism. Nolan has a knack for writing fully rounded women and here shows them going into space and working out the most complex scientific equations in the world, encouraging young female film-goers to reach higher than the stereotype often portrayed in cinema.
Interstellar is inspirational; a blockbuster that is wrought with enough tension to make you physically rigid throughout, enough spectacle to make your jaw drop and enough emotion to move you in ways you didn’t think possible. Of course, it is much more than a blockbuster and is a reminder of what film can and should do. This is what makes Christopher Nolan films so great. He challenges us as an audience to think, to feel and expect more; not just from blockbusters but cinema in general. Once you’ve seen Interstellar you’ll be sure to feel that way and your expectations of film should be infinitely higher. I am frankly in awe of it, giddy with excitement and completely in love with Interstellar, a modern classic that will be viewed and studied by generations to come.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com