Decades of negligence has caused the Earth to slowly evolve into a giant dust ball. The only farmable crop left is corn, which is slowly dying along with earth itself. The fate of the human race lies in the hands of a team of brave explorers who set out in search of a new home.
Like the space epics of the past, director Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” draws upon the curiosity of the unknown and the inevitable need to discover to create a space thriller that is both ambitious in aesthetics and personal in narrative.
Without any warning, we are dropped into the life of a small family located in a corn-farming town in rural America—a town of pickups, cornfields and hardworking farmers. Clips of testimonies by some old folks interrupt this peaceful scene as they recount the sole hazard they face everyday: dust.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) lives in this little town with his two children and father-in-law, played by John Lithgow. A widower and ex-NASA pilot, Cooper now lives his life as a corn farmer, like many others in this world. Farming has become a necessity, as we learn later on during a parent-teacher meeting that decided the career of Cooper’s 15-year-old son, Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and also from the outcome of an argument between Cooper’s 10-year-old daughter, Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) and her class.
In this scene, a short dialogue between Cooper and Murphy’s teacher, Ms. Hanley (Collette Wolfe) dropped a hint as to how earth has come to this point of no return under the rule of man. This dialogue will catch you by surprise at first, but its message becomes vivid and poignant as the film progresses.
The Nolans are fond of double characters and mirror plots, so “Interstellar” naturally features pairings of father-daughter relationships as a plot device. Between Cooper and Young Murph, old Murph (Jessica Chastain), Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway) and her father, also named Dr. Brand (Michael Caine), who heads the expedition from earth along with old Murph. The pairs of father and daughter serve not only as a plot device to connect the two worlds, but also reflect on themes of paternal and filial love, loyalty, conflict, compromise and revelation.
The aesthetic setting of “Interstellar” is absolutely stunning, even in 4K digital. Wide shots of the “Endurance” spaceship against the backdrop of space creates a magnificent visual experience. The film is also paired with a near-perfect score by composer Hans Zimmer.
Zimmer paired the soundlessness of space to the sudden and crisp sound of the mechanic interaction between spaceships and planets in a way that created tension as well as a surreal atmosphere. However, definitely watch it in IMAX, if possible. This is one of the few films, outside of the made-for-museums IMAX genre, that truly takes advantage of the capabilities of IMAX.
As a fan of director Stanley Kubrick’s “2001,” it was very pleasant to see Nolan’s homage to the late director Kubrick. These subtle scenes were detailed and just short enough for any Kubrick fan to recognize without feeling too exposed to it.
President John F. Kennedy stimulated the curiosity of a whole generation of Americans when we sent man to the moon 50 years ago. Since then, this curiosity has seemed to have lost its way as we become more concerned with more immediate issues.
“Interstellar” rejuvenates our curiosity by reminding us of the beauty and endless possibilities within this universe.