Updated: Dec 23, 2020
If you’re a sci-fi movie nerd, and if you love astrophysics and space travel, this movie is going to set a benchmark for all the space travel movies you’ll see next. A film like Interstellar is a rare event.
Galaxies, higher dimensions, the relativity of time and space, the mysteries of black holes and quantum gravity are things that have always fascinated me like crazy as a kid and continue to do so till date. The idea of space exploration is something that has been explored extensively and is among the favourite themes of movies. It evokes a strong sense of emotion in a lot of people and Interstellar does that among other things. This movie is one of my favourites (not just because there are no opening credits, except for the title) and the closest to my heart and the little girl in me who wanted to be a NASA astronaut will only allow me to write a review as critical as this:
Interstellar was an ambitious science fiction-adventure movie and was heavy to process. It asks the audience to think about well after it has ended. It requires repeat viewings and audience debate for a long time and has a massive scope and vision. The cinematography was stunning. Aesthetically beautiful with large-scale visuals, it is meant to be seen on a screen as big as possible. (Trust me, you want to watch this one in IMAX. It's worth the extra bucks.) Built upon a mesmerizing Hans Zimmer score that (literally) shakes the theatre. Critics are quite divided on whether the deafening music was pleasing to the ears or not but one thing was clear, the volume played a role in conveying the current emotion screen very effectively; be it ‘They're Not Mountains’ conveying an impending sense of doom or the heartbreaking ‘S.T.A.Y.’ It is both delicately quiet while rambunctiously loud.
Interstellar becomes more engaging with each passing minute. One of the first sequences, the docking, alone will have you on the edge of your seat.
The story of a last-ditch space expedition hoping to find a new home for the human race after blight and apocalyptic dust storms have left the Earth slowly dying. This, for me, was a great big thumbs up. This felt like a mature step taken by the writer; if the earth were dying and we need to find another home among the heavenly bodies, it's more likely to be because of humans’ catastrophic actions towards Earth rather than alien invasion or a sudden volcano eruption. The movie shows a sense of emergency for the planet and its future without making you pity the humans who are responsible for it, as is generally done in the ‘earth is dying, we are dying’ type of movies.
To help tell the neat but multi-layered story of Interstellar, Nolan enlists a cast of both big-name stars and talented character actors, and all perform wonderfully. But one clearly sticks out above all others. Actors can get lost in sci-fi epics, but Matthew McConaughey is at the top of his game here yet again. McConaughey once again proves himself a charismatic, strong leading man, and he does so here playing Cooper. He wholeheartedly commits to every line and the moment he's given is the right leading man for this kind of film. The character has a duality: one side of him reaching for the stars and the other side not wanting to let go of his family. The Oscar-winning star plays both sides with great passion and serves as a terrific connect for the audience.
Of course, the adverse effect of having one character stand out so much in a large ensemble is that the rest gets a little overshadowed – and while everyone else does their job, they aren’t exactly given a lot of material to work with. Hurtling through space alongside McConaughey, Anne Hathaway is given some development and moderate screen time Jessica Chastain, playing Cooper’s daughter, Murphy, as an adult, is left to do most of the heavy lifting back on Earth, and dealing with more than her fair share of abandonment issues. Matthew McConaughey has some key emotional moments that compete against any emotional movie scenes yet. The scenes of him hopelessly standing by and watching his children group up was heartbreaking and makes your heart go out for him. His (younger) daughter who's played by McKenzie Foy is my absolute favourite. Her acting keeps you thinking about that goodbye scene, and how its anguish drives everything that Murph and Cooper are trying to do. Some suspect that this is a deeply personal film for Nolan: it's about a man who feels he has been "called" to a particular job, and whose work requires him to spend long periods away from his family.
Interstellar puts Einstein's theories of relativity to test. I feel that the movie's storytelling masterstroke comes from adherence to principles of relativity: the astronauts perceive time differently depending on where their ship is, which means that when they go down onto a planet that is prospectively habitable, a few minutes there will equal weeks or months back on the ship. The movie makes you want to Google all known space theories, read Hawking's biography and pursue PCM as a stream in 11th and 12th (kids, please don’t). Meanwhile, on Earth, everyone is losing hope, ageing and dying. But for all its high-tech glitz, Interstellar has a defiantly old-movie feeling.
“Mankind was born on Earth … It was never meant to die here.” gives it a new dimension and a higher purpose to it all.
The climax affirms Nolan’s stature as a puzzle-maker rather than a poet. He can’t resist the impulse to explain the trick, to reveal the identity of the man behind the curtain, which dissolves the aura of mystery and awe a bit.
In Interstellar, there’s an equation for everything. There are no loose ends. The story, thankfully, doesn’t go into a full explanatory mode, though some purists wish it had.
Interstellar is a captivating film that proves Hollywood is capable of making smart, stand-alone works of art. Christopher Nolan did it once with Inception and he’s done it again here. Visually overwhelming and emotionally exhausting, this movie is a must-watch.