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Christopher Nolan’s latest sci-fi epic Interstellar is exactly that – epic. Blistering performances all round give rise to one of the broadest and impressive science-fiction films ever produced. It is entirely worthy of the praise it has thus far garnered.
Minor spoilers to follow.
Interstellar revolves around the quest for extending the human race. In the future the Earth is failing and yearly crops are bringing in increasingly scarce harvests. It is predicted that only one more generation will be able to survive on Earth, and then humanity will be over. Step in Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper. Following a mysterious signal he receives from a ‘ghost’, he stumbles upon the remnants of NASA, and promptly heads into space to find a new planet for mankind to move to.
McConaughey is stunning from the onset. Cooper is a character the audience empathise with instantly – whether it’s his playful relationship with his children (Mackenzie Foy as the younger Murphy, or ‘Murph’, in particular is sensational) or his stoic determination in the face of adversary. Cooper is someone the audience will anchor to. The members of the astronaut crew sent into space, however, aren’t particularly fleshed out – it’s Anne Hathaway’s Amelia Brand who is given the most material to play with. It goes for something when the robotic character – here TARS, who is simply brilliant – is more fleshed out than the human ones. But the crew works to provide background fodder – not all of them make it to the end of the film.
What follows is a complex tale. One doesn’t need to know the staples of science-fiction, but a prior knowledge is helpful. Wormholes and blackholes are explained throughout the course of Interstellar, but these descriptions are somewhat confusing if you’re not already in the know. In parts Interstellar is heavy on exposition.
The film’s juxtaposing halves spar with one another. The first details Cooper’s familial relationships, and his departure from Earth, along with beautifully muted shots of their journey from Earth to the rings of Saturn. The second is jam-packed with action and emotion. In particular, an unbroken shot of McConaughey’s face as he is relayed messages from his family is heartbreaking. This is a film in which tears will fall – both from the characters and the audience. I defy you all not not weep.
Hathaway’s Amelia is on a mission for love and prolonging the existence of humanity, whereas McConaughey’s Cooper is simply desperate to ensure the survival of his children. It is Murph who is fleshed out the most, and played brilliantly by both Foy and Jessica Chastain (who plays the older Murph). His son, Tom, doesn’t feature all that much. It is Murph’s story back on Earth, and her guilt for not saying goodbye to her father as he left, which bridges these two stories. Quite what her story is we’ll leave out, but it is one which you’re entirely rooting for.
If you’re watching Interstellar in the hope of glimpsing extraterrestrial life, you will be disappointed. Aside from one mind-boggling interaction scene, the peripheral ‘Them’ who brought the wormhole into our universe aren’t glimpsed at all. Their existence is merely mysterious until the conclusion – it is thought that Them brought the wormhole in order to help humanity and a prevailing question of why lingers across the film. It is not until the film concludes that you will understand why the wormhole was created – if you understand it at all, that is.
The wormhole bridges the gap between universes and allows the astronaut crew to travel across immense distances in a short period of time. Their journey through the wormhole is beautifully enacted with impressive CGI. Once in the other universe, we travel to three aliens planets capable of sustaining human life. Apparently, all is not as it seems, but each of these worlds (though one is only briefly glimpsed) are impressively realised onscreen – they do feel alien.
It shows two worlds positioned around a blackhole, a region of space in which gravity destroys everything – space, time, light. Nothing can escape it. If you’re a fan of science-fiction it is probable that you’ve come across this notion anyway. If not, a blackhole’s ability to destroy time means that for Cooper and Brand time runs slower for them than those left back on Earth. In a matter of hours for Cooper, Murph ages decades. But it is this blackhole which seemingly gives the answers to humanity’s survival. A suicide mission is needed to gain more data. What follows is breathtaking.
Interstellar is scored by Hans Zimmer, whose music is simply spine-tingling. Many scenes are made by his glorious music, whether it’s the listless drift through space or the sparring battle between two astronauts, every scene is lit with his score. In a film rich in death despite a limited cast, each and every one of their deaths will come as a blow. As I said tears will fall but, it’s entirely worth it. Interstellar is beautifully harrowing, and ultimately shows that something to this extent is probable, and it will befall humanity eventually.