Dr. Donna Copeland’s
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY ANNE HATHAWAY JESSICA CHASTAIN
I N T E R S T E L L A R
“Do we get to come back?” Ellie Arroway asks in Contact. “In time, you will take another trip,” she is answered. Writer/director/visionary Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight) gives the audience that return trip. If Contact, based on the novel by Carl Sagan, asked questions left to us to ponder, Nolan’s Interstellar script asks and answers those same questions. Nolan always asks a lot of his audience, and he does so again here; it’s a wild ride with heartbreak, thrilling suspense, and scientifically based ideas that require open minds. It’s ultimately a film about choices, the choice of the people on earth, the choice of those trying to save earth, and the choice of a father and the promises he has made to his family.
In the not-too-distant future, NASA is rendered unnecessary, and money can no longer be spent on technology, such as MRI machines. Farmers, not engineers, are what companies are paying for, with food being a scarce and limited resource. Cooper (McConaughey) was one of the best pilots of his generation, but now is forced to farm his land to provide for his family. Cooper and his ten year-old daughter, Murphy, decipher a message in the dirt that leads them to a facility that hasn’t given up hope on saving the planet. They want Cooper to travel years towards Saturn, where a wormhole has opened up and might hold the answers earth has been looking for. “We’re not meant to save the world, we’re meant to leave it”, Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) explains.
The combination of Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey’s emotional and heroic performance as a desperate father, combined with maybe a career-high moment for music composer Hans Zimmer, is beyond tear jerking. Nolan has crafted a script about the fate of the world unlike any I have seen before; what’s at stake here feels greater than any other film on the topic. Wonderment is about the only term I can think of to describe how I felt watching this journey, from the visuals to the suspense. There is a sequence when Cooper and crew, including Dr. Amelia Brand (Hathaway) first land on a possibly habitable planet, and it’s the most thrilling sequence of the year, and perhaps Nolan’s entire career. Even though we see Cooper say in the trailer, “Those aren’t mountains…”, it doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of the sequence. It’s also in that segment the film’s strongest point of time relativity is really explained through visuals and dire circumstance.
Unfortunately, it’s the last 45 minutes, the final act, that Nolan’s imagination and ideas overtake him. He pushes this journey beyond its capabilities and sacrifices much of the emotional reservoir. Regardless of that last act, what precedes it is so compelling it can be forgiven or ignored. However, I do feel Interstellar sacrifices any real possibility of winning best picture awards because of the last 45 minutes. Visually, it’s another masterpiece as black holes and wormholes are depicted with science, research, and visual artistry. The sound editing and effects are top notch. Hathaway and Chastain both help stabilize the humanity in the film with their performances.
Final Thought – An epic, flawed masterpiece.
By: Dustin Chase
The special effects of Interstellar are spectacular. Many times, it really does feel like you’re on that spaceship, and the music is so crashing, it makes the room shake, furthering the vibratory effects—in our seats no less! The drawback to this is that the music (Hans Zimmer) frequently drowns out the dialog, especially when the actors are not articulating very well. It was also difficult for me to grasp the scientists’ arguments, perhaps because I understand little of astrophysics or maybe because the terms are unfamiliar. At any rate, Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography and the art and special effects people impressively guide us on a space journey that seems altogether real.
Much has been made in the media about Christopher Nolan (Director and co-writer with his brother Jonathan) bringing in more emotional elements, compared to his previous work. My take on this aspect of Interstellar is that it’s underwhelming. The actors do a fine job; however, the script tells a story that has been told much better by others about deception, betrayal, love as a fundamental aspect of human relationships, and the quandaries one has when pulled by work versus family commitment, for instance. There are some extremely tense moments having to do with the ethics of survival of a few versus many, and this point is brought home very well. It would actually make a good conversation topic after the movie.
In the beginning, we’re introduced to Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former astronaut, and his family on their farm. His wife has died, and her father (John Lithgow) helps him take care of his two children, Tom and Murph. (Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain play their roles as young adults.) Cooper has a special connection with his daughter because of her interest in science and mysterious phenomena. The earth is in bad shape with crops constantly destroyed by the elements, particularly dust storms, which reminds us of the Great Depression in U.S. history, as well as the current concerns about global warming.
One day, Cooper and Murph stumble upon a secret scientific facility run by his old Professor, Brand (Michael Caine). Much is made about how they discovered it, and it’s finally concluded they were “meant” to (religious connotations), in that Brand wants Cooper and his own daughter, scientist Amelia (Anne Hathaway), to go on a space mission to find another planet(s) for earthlings to inhabit, since earth is being destroyed. Murph has a fit when Cooper decides to go (he has never liked farming anyway), and although he tells her he’ll return in two years, she remains distraught and resentful. Significantly, he gives her a watch just like his, which they’ll compare upon his return (he’ll be going through time warps, so they will age on different scales).
Of course, once the crew is up in space, they encounter significant challenges having to do with the space/time and gravity conundrums, and when they purposefully venture into a black hole (“Gargantua”), survival again becomes an issue.
Christopher Nolan clearly has strong opinions about the value of space travel and NASA’s budget being cut drastically. Part of a Thomas Dylan poem is repeated a number of times: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” However, Nolan is not referring to an individual, but to an entire species and to earth itself. I think he is admonishing all of us to “Do something!”—like, maybe resuming space exploration.
Special effects make this ride seem real.
By: Donna Copeland