Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interstellar ★★★★

    Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" is a film that requires patience and an understanding of human nature. It places humanity in an eleventh-hour quandary and sends a small group of individuals, forming a microcosm, into the infinite cold and darkness that is our universe--a journey that almost certainly will not transpire within my lifetime, and one that would only reside in the pages of a science fiction novel.

    A picture of this magnitude must be molded by a sense of truth and by a sincerity that can only be delivered by a skilled filmmaker. Nolan has crafted a delicate product here; one that tries to persuade us of many things: that love transcends all realms of time and physical space; that the heart of human dignity is in a constant struggle between utilitarian and egoist thought; that conquering fear and death is in the pioneer infused blood of us all; that time is an aspect of life that we still do not understand and can never manipulate to our advantage. Not only does Nolan coax you into believing these romanticized notions, but he does so in an emotionally driven and aesthetically pleasing way. Literally, a daydream among the stars.

    The exposition centers on a small family, who live on a food and resource starved Earth. (A time that would make Thomas Hobbes' state of nature proud.) NASA has moved underground, and former space pilots, including our protagonist, have been reduced to mere farmers, as agriculture becomes the insatiable need of the planet's inhabitants. And this is where the film takes its first leap into the boundaries of an unrelenting aspiration.

    Cooper, our widower turned hero, must say goodbye to his family, which consists of a son and a young daughter, and shove off into space with little room for error. We travel with Cooper through the perilous stillness, which essentially lends the opportunity for Nolan to exercise his magic: Once absolved of Earth's atmosphere, the setting becomes a vessel of sheer visual delight and wonderment. Rotating external shots of the spaceship's hull and planetary backdrops become a reality, along with the terrain of foreign worlds that have features as marvelous as frozen clouds.

    Nolan's exercision of symbolism is subtle, yet never wavering in emotion. Messages from home come to symbolize the delicacy of life and feelings of heartache. Extrinsic metaphors showcase the idea of impending doom and unadulterated hope. If there is one skill set in the arsenal of Nolan that can summarize this experience, it is his use of the indirect-subjective point of view. The camera loses its physical constraints and becomes a gateway to adventure. Thus, pulverizing the audience with an intense fervor, which is accentuated masterfully by composer Hans Zimmer.

    Naturally, with any science fiction film comes the toil of pleasing astronomers and astrophysicists everywhere. I'm sure there is an abundance of articles traveling the internet freeway at this moment that refute some aspect of the plot or the inconsistency of one equation or another. The fact of the matter is that you will not read any discrepancies of this fashion here. Of course, the dialogue is rich in astronomical terminology, as time becomes nothing more than an expendable concept. However, relativity is the foremost subject matter, and the characters do their best to explain such vices with quick summaries and lines that read "that's relativity folks."  Much like a "Star Trek" episode, one has to learn the parameters and move on.

    Matthew McConaughey has come a long way as an actor. His career has progressed in a rather peculiar manner, and it has surely seen a number of missteps and debacles. Unlike most actors who come into the business with guns blazing, McConaughey has eased into the waters of Hollywood like an old man slipping into a warm bath. (What other box-office headliners can say they started their career on "Unsolved Mysteries?") Most stars burn brightly in their younger years and begrudgingly fizzle out--most of which with a string of inadequate performances. Yet here is McConaughey, in the latter portion of his acting career, shimmering as brightly as ever.

    His performance in "Interstellar" is unquestionably remarkable. There are numerous scenes that could have gone sour, if not for the brilliant acting provided by McConaughey; this is a genuine role for a genuine man. His intensity and emotion is right on cue and never fails to deliver the utmost power and authenticity. McConaughey's approach here is very well prepared and well calculated. Additionally, Michael Caine provides an exhilarating performance, albeit less lengthy and of a lesser importance--nevertheless noteworthy. His role only adds to the engrossing study of human nature and gives the picture a poetic sense of enlightenment, as his character's leitmotif becomes the repetition of the Dylan Thomas poem, aptly entitled, "Do not go gentle into that good night."

    There are many discernible flaws and illogical sequences that would have any perfectionist cringing at the thought: Emotional restraint is thrown to the wind and becomes virtually non-existent, yet scenes that suffer from this syndrome are undeniably held together by the strong performances of McConaughey and others. Some scenes of plot significance are drowned out by the, at times, overbearing score. Furthermore, there is the inconceivability of how long a human being can go without oxygen, as well as the puzzling production design of the robotic intelligence entities that accompany our human equivalents. (With regard to the latter, there are many times that these obtrusive and rather unappealing machines litter the background of an otherwise alluring setting.) Lastly, there is the philosophical issue of Cooper's display of courage and bravery; a train of thought proposed by the dialogues of one, Plato. Is he really brave if his expertise is with regard to the circumstances at hand?

    So, how does "Interstellar" counter these seemingly destructive imperfections? Well, it is quite simple--with a "suspension of disbelief." A phrase coined by the highly influential poet of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Nolan has crafted a tale so engulfed in human interest and truth, that the implausibilities that surround its structure are simply negligible.

    The problem with today's film industry is its inability to dare to dream. What child hasn't slumped his or her head back, while admiring the night sky, in pure awe and wonder? What adolescent, along with countless adults, has not wondered what is beyond the stars of our galaxy? My guess is all but a relative few, who probably remain attached to their tedious lives without a single thought to this subject. It is within these metaphysical boundaries that "Interstellar" excels and never looks back.

    Do not read any further if you have not seen the film.

    There is a scene in the denouement of this picture, which consists of the last meeting between Cooper and his daughter, where the theme will melt over all the senses like a warm blanket. It is a theme concerned with the complexity of human relationships--and more specifically--the relationship between a father and a daughter. It is a very strenuous scene and the most important in the entire film. McConaughey's execution here is perfectly orchestrated, and the beauty of this moment has lasted with me since the film's ending. A very wise man once told me that dreams are everything. Without them, we are nothing more than a misguided spawn of nature. Here is a dream that we can all enjoy.


  1. Very cool. Science fiction is a genre that seems like it's been going the way of the western lately. Great review and it is definitely on my must see list now.

  2. Hoping to head out to see this one next week, so Doug, I've not read your full text. :-)
    What I have read, intrigues me even more. Thanks for this review.

  3. Perfectly assessed! Im s fan of both you, and the movie.