SYNOPSIS: With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers undertakes the most important mission in human history; traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.
The film trailer makes Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar look like a space adventure, but it so much more than that. It’s the kind of film that leaves the audience in stunned silence at the end. Nolan and his brother Jonathan have written a multi-layered screenplay that offers a full spectrum of science, philosophy, and human emotion. It also gets in a few barbs at science “deniers.” It’s long – 169 minutes – but I couldn’t think of any part that should have been cut. I don’t usually recommend seeing a film in IMAX, but this one is an exception. IMAX provides what feels like a full-body experience for Interstellar.
Interstellar is set in a non-specific future when Earth is in the throes of its final crisis. A nitrogen-fueled blight has decimated most crops, corn being the only exception, thereby starving out most of humanity. Scientists know the Earth can’t be saved, but the general population believes they can be “caretakers” of what’s left. A group of NASA scientists has been working in secret to find a plan that would save the human race. They have a Plan A, which involves a gigantic space station, and a Plan B, which involves locating a habitable planet to house humanity.
Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a former astronaut who now farms corn in the dust-plagued heartland. He’s a widower who lives with his father-in-law, Donald (John Lithgow), and his children, Tom and Murph. Murph is an exceptionally gifted young girl who believes, and eventually convinces her father, that they are receiving messages from an unknown source, which, for want of a better word, she calls “ghosts.” They decipher coordinates that lead them to the secret NASA compound.
There, Cooper encounters his old professor, Dr. Brand (Michael Caine), and his daughter, Dr. Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway). Brand tells Cooper of a recently- discovered “worm-hole” that can transport a spacecraft to another galaxy where there may be habitable planets. They have already sent 12 manned probes on a one-way journey and have received data back from three of them. Brand convinces Cooper that only he can pilot the craft so that he and his crew can determine which one is Earth’s best bet. The team includes Amelia, Doyle (Wes Bentley), Jenkins (Marlon Sanders), and Romilly (David Gyasi). Bill Irwin voices the robot TARS, an ingenious construction of metal beams that morph into various forms according to need.
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What they find is not what they expected – I’ll leave the outcome of their journey for you to experience. I also will not pretend to understand the quantum mechanics and relativity theory behind the unfolding story. The scientific basis for the story is provided by theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who also consulted on one of my favorite films, Contact. Indeed, you will see influences, acknowledged by Nolan, of films that influenced Interstellar. Besides Contact, Nolan cited 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), and Blade Runner (1982).
On the philosophical side, the film puts forth ideas about the possibility and value of extraterrestrial space travel. More than one viewpoint is suggested letting the audience speculate about not only what may be possible, but what should be attempted. Also, underlying everything is the cautionary tale about the willful destruction of the environment on our home planet.
Interstellar, in addition, explores the range of human emotions: anger, despair, lying, betrayal, family ties, madness, courage, inner strength, survival instinct, denial, and love. Above all, the film deals with the power of love in its many forms. The film is a work of art crafted from amazing performances by all actors involved, stunning special effects, and awe-inducing visual styling.