Christopher Nolan’s science fiction epic is my new BFF
by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Director Christopher Nolan is one of the few filmmakers who’s able to get original and expensive films greenlighted by major studios. Sure, he owes his reputation to the Dark Knight saga, but the quality of his standalone films and his capacity to blend complex ideas with popcorn entertainment is what keeps him in business.
Inception and The Prestige were as good as Hollywood gets, but Nolan clearly has his sights set on surpassing Stanley Kubrick with Interstellar. It’s a phenomenally ambitious film that succeeds in turning quantum mechanics and theoretical physics into narrative framings, but fumbles a bit when it comes to depicting real feelings.
In the near future, climate change and unchecked population growth have severely hampered the planet’s capacity to produce food. Increasingly frequent dust-storms threaten both the crops and any semblance of a normal life. Almost everyone is focused on farming, and science and technology rank low on the world’s list of concerns.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is one of the millions who got a raw deal thanks to the situation. Once an elite pilot, all he does now is grow corn and try to keep the aspirations of his kids in check. This proves particularly hard with his daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy first, Jessica Chastain later), a brilliant girl with a knack for science. Father and offspring find their way to NASA (a clandestine organization these days), because the agency is in dire need of someone to pilot a spaceship through a black hole next to Saturn. Earth is dying, and humanity needs to to find a new planet capable of sustaining life.
Of course, Cooper is the pilot NASA needs, and the main source of conflict in the film is the separation of Cooper and Murphy. The girl is unforgivingly bitter, and the pilot’s efforts to come back to Earth are thwarted at every turn. Much of the tension comes from “time slippage,” as the passage of time in space can be slower than on Earth. And a threatened family reunion isn’t the only thing in peril: all of humanity is going to kiss it goodbye unless Cooper and co. find us a new home soon.
Clocking at a prodigious two hours and fifty minutes, Interstellar features plenty of pluses and minuses. The shortcomings are standard Nolan: underdeveloped female characters (seriously dude, the “dead wife” plot device has to go) and excessively broad depictions of inner turmoil. But the achievements outweigh the film’s deficiencies ten-to-one.
The reviews of Interstellar have been mixed, but that’s because the film is being measured by conventional standards. The truth is that Nolan is operating on an entirely different level than basically anyone else in Hollywood. Look for the biggest screen in your area, and go to see it now. Then give it a couple of days, and go again.