Space: what’s out there? Are there other worlds and alien civilizations far beyond our galaxy, waiting for us to discover them? Or are we destined to live out our lives wondering about our place in the dirt, as Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) so cynically puts it?
I’m sorry to begin this review in such a pretentious, douchey manner. But it’s two days after I watched Interstellar, and my mind is still swirling round and round just thinking about it. After all, Nolan does have a habit of making movies like that – Memento (2000), Inception (2010) and now a masterpiece on space travel.
Of all the numerous sci-fi scenarios that have threatened the Earth – asteroid crashing, alien invasion, the sun going out- this is one that hasn’t been addressed on film, and a far more plausible hypothesis too: running out of food.
Some time in the not-too-distant future, humanity can barely feed itself. Engineers, pilots and explorers are no longer valued, with farmers the most important profession of all. Enter former pilot Cooper, who stumbles upon a secret project by his former mentor Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway).
The goal: to travel through a wormhole, in hopes of finding an inhabitable world that humanity can flee to. They ask Cooper to pilot the spaceship on this mission, but he’ll have to leave behind his two young kids Tom (Timothee Chalamet) and Murphy (a simply wonderful Mackenzie Foy). And therein lies the very heart and soul of this movie.
Is there anything a parent would not do for their child? And does a child ever stop pining for the loving embrace of a father or mother? The scenes where Cooper leaves Murphy for the last time are simply heart wrenching, not to mention the messages he receives from his children in the far reaches of outer space.
It’s not the first time a movie has addressed the notion of deep space travel and messages from beyond. McConaughey himself starred in Contact (1997), while Prometheus (2012) also took on the same themes.
But none of them have had quite the heart that Interstellar does, nor the same quality of director, script or cast (Sorry, Ridley Scott – Interstellar is essentially the movie Prometheus tried to be, minus the monsters)
They’ve also not been blessed with an exceptional cast that uniformly delivers. McConaughey, Hathaway and Chastain (as the grown up Murphy) are all outstanding, with Caine exceptional. Is there anyone better than him at playing the mentor figure? Quietly, wisely, gently persuasive, his Dr Brand seems capable of coaxing anyone to do the things he asks.
But it’s McConaughey who carries the movie for long stretches, and finds it no burden at all. He and the often unfairly maligned Hathaway share an excellent chemistry as well – one a parent longing for his kids, the other a child desperately hoping to see her father again. Look out too for the surprise cameo by an A-list star who will come to play a key role.
The biggest issue with the movie (and it’s a pretty big one): in Nolan’s apparent attempt to make the science as plausible as possible, the exposition often becomes highly confusing. All this talk of wormholes and black holes and the theory of relativity may well be too much for audience members without a working knowledge of quantum physics.
It’s to Nolan’s credit that the narrative still manages to chug along in spite of the confusing jargon. Interstellar is ultimately not a story of science but of humanity and the relationships that bind us together. Just brace yourselves for the huge twist halfway through that will leave you gasping.
After last year’s Gravity (see our review), Warners has again delivered a science fiction masterpiece. Just be sure to watch it in IMAX too!
Interstellar opens in Singapore today. You can check out the rest of our Interstellar coverage here. Tell us what you think of our review once you’ve seen the movie!