When I watched the first teaser for Interstellar, I teared up at the sheer epicness of it. I knew at that point that I’d be counting down the days until Christopher Nolan’s space flick hit the big screen. Still, with as high as my expectations were coming into the film, I never thought that they would be exceeded in every way imaginable.
Before diving into a formal review, I’d like to address a disturbing trend I’ve noticed recently. Certain directors have their work held to a higher standard than others. Nolan is at the forefront of that group. Many moviegoers and a fair share of critics go into his films looking for any reason at all to complain about what they saw. The fact there are some who can’t enjoy Inception is baffling. As is hearing that anyone didn’t think The Dark Knight Rises is the perfect cap to that trilogy. In the hands of any other director, these films would be adored. But with Nolan’s name attached, midnight moviegoers are going to grumble, articles are going to reach the web about supposed plot holes, and critics are going to write negative reviews.
They’re all wrong.
Interstellar is more phenomenal than any space adventure we’ve seen in recent years, and yes, I’m aware that Gravity was nominated for best picture last year. This movie is breathtaking in every sense of the word, but it also has the ability to make you cry, make you think, and make you love movies once again.
In a somewhat distant future where the world’s population has shrunk and the food available has shrunk even further, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former astronaut turned farmer who still dreams of more than corn. He finds just that when some mysterious gravitational patterns lead him to an underground NASA laboratory. He’s presented with the opportunity to go into space and find a new world that humans could inhabit. The only problem is, leaving for this journey means he may never see his family again, including his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain). Still, in order to save them, he sets off with a crew of scientists (including one played by Anne Hathaway) through a wormhole in hopes of reaching new planets.
That’s as far as I’ll take this plot description, because from then on (and even in some moments before that) there was enough to keep me guessing. I was so uncertain at times that it almost felt like I was watching a psychological thriller. But the movie is far from that. It’s first and foremost a sci-fi exploration story, but it’s also a family drama, a love story, and an uplifting tale. Essentially, a movie that is for absolutely everyone.
Never before has there been a sci-fi movie that blends the cosmic and the intimate so well. Even on the surface of the most breathtaking planets, millions of light years away from Earth, there’s not a moment where the human elements aren’t a focal point. That may not be what was expected from a Nolan movie, but it contains a hopeful aspect that’s so important to have in place in Hollywood today.
The story weaves through those elements in such a deft way that it’s almost hard to believe. Unless you’ve done some serious research into wormholes, the fact you’re going to walk out of that theater understanding what happened is a major credit to Nolan, and that’s something that shouldn’t be forgotten. But aside from that, he’s able to balance some of the highest tension action scenes that have ever been put on film with some of the most heartfelt emotional scenes in recent memory is such a feat. It’d be a shame if that’s dismissed because this is a science fiction film, or worse, because it’s a Nolan film.
Nearly every performance is spot on. McConaughey continues to wow, turning in what I would argue is his best performance yet. He handles the quiet, yet intensely human moments just as well as the high stakes action. We see the realities of the passage of time settle onto him like a lead weight and his composed manner during a high speed docking manuever, and they’re equally believable. As is everything in between. This should be the second year in a row that McConaughey nabs a best actor nomination. Chastain is another standout. I wasn’t sold on her after Zero Dark Thirty like so many were, but Interstellar has me all in. She does so much with relatively limited screen time, and every minute of it is just about perfect. Those two are the highlights, but really the entire cast is excellent. If you happen to teach an acting for the screen class, throw out the textbook. Three hours of Interstellar will do just fine.
I’ve heard some complaints about how the music is used, blasting the viewer throughout. I’d make a joke about that being a review written by my grandma, but she has much better sense than that. And she will love every minute of the incredible sound design. An organ hasn’t been used this well since Phantom of the Opera. Every ounce of the score adds to the experience, so I highly recommend not watching this on an airplane.
See this movie on the biggest, loudest screen possible. And then see it again. In every format you can, with every mindset you can. See it when you’re sad. See it when you’re happy. See it when the universe has you feeling insignificant and see it when your problems seem bigger than they should. See it when you’ve lost all faith in humankind and see it when you want to have hope for humankind once again. But most of all, see it to believe that truly ambitious, remarkable filmmaking is still possible in the seas of blockbuster rubble.
Interstellar may be the cinematic achievement of the 21st century so far.