Part of my attraction to Christopher Nolan is his ability with and his lure to the originally written screenplay. He and his brother have made a habit out of being able to finance and successfully showcase what a big idea should look like, without the back-up of adaptation or sequelizing. Jonathan Nolan, Christopher’s brother, is the screenwriter of the two, and his work on The Prestige, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises has highlighted his ability. Not to diminish Christopher’s ability; who is as skilled with the typewriter. Christopher is obviously the most talented of the two, imagining up films, sequences and characters as fantastic as any other director in the modern world. Interstellar is the newest collaboration between the brothers; Jonathan co-writing with Christopher, who also directs his ninth film. Interstellar has flaws, but is near perfection and a bold follow-up to the Batman Trilogy.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) was once a talented rookie astronaut. However, the world has become dry and infertile, and so he is chosen to put his engineer abilities to the good of all mankind as a farmer. He yearns for more for himself and his children, Murph (Jessica Chastain) and Tom (Casey Affleck). Coop, however, soon stumbles over the hidden remnants of NASA, hiding and planning future missions to discover habitable worlds. The mission is lead by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), Coop’s old instructor. Brand tells Coop of the previous missions to find other habitable planets for mankind, where the astronauts had flown into a black hole at the edge of the solar system. Broaching the subject further, Brand asks Coop to accompany his daughter (Anne Hathaway) and two other astronauts to follow up the transmissions of the previous mission. Three were detected, each signalling they had found a habitable planet. Coop bids farewell to his children, for perhaps the last time, hoping to save their futures.
One problem I believed that the Nolans would face on this film is that of accessibility. There is a lot of jargon throughout, references to dimensions, to time and science in general. It is all placed as well as can be. However, the math can become a nuisance. The best thing to keep in mind is that Nolan is asking you not to do the equations, but to treat these concepts as plot devices, designed to keep the characters running toward a goal. In this regard, the story is an absolute success. The plot is awesome and vast, without failing to entrench us in some of the most touching character development I have seen in some time. Furthermore, the combination between story, character, setting and special effects is so seamlessly put together that it bombards the emotions without relent. All of this is once again scored by frequent Nolan collaborator, Hans Zimmer. Unlike the deep booming bass and brass scores that we are used to, Zimmer successfully escorts us along with the best synth instrumental I have ever heard in a film.
Matthew McConaughey is the absolute stand out. While it does feel like he can become restrained at stages, I wouldn’t change his performance for the world. The same goes for Anne Hathaway, matching whatever McConaughey can throw at her. Regular Nolan partner, Michael Caine, creates lasting connections with his fellow actors that are both meaningful and intriguing. It is Casey Affleck who is the black sheep throughout, failing to fit into the grand scene of performances. I will briefly applaud Jessica Chastain for her work on the film, but I really want to focus on the work of Mackenzie Foy, who portrays young Murph. This young woman is instrumental in making this film what it was. Her on-screen presence greatly magnified the work of the actors around her. She is the driving character/narrative voice in the film and should receive acclaim for it.
Before Interstellar, I had worried that Nolan was becoming too methodical in his approach to films. It is a great quality in a writer/director/producer, and like countless meticulous people before him, there is a guaranteed level of success to it. However, I fretted over whether he was maybe lacking heart to his films. In Inception, we believed Walter Cobb’s guilt from his indirect involvement in the loss of his wife. We understood Bruce Wayne’s push create the better world his parents always wanted. However, I couldn’t say I truly felt for them. Nolan changes that perception. The connection he develops between Coop and Murph is painfully beautiful to watch unfold. It is the centerpiece of this film. Not the fact that the world will soon perish, no, but the transcendence of love. Interstellar is stellar.
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