Interstellar is Christopher Nolan's end-of-the-world space epic. It is beautiful and ambitious and incredible from beginning to end. But it's impossible for me to rehash someone else's masterpiece. You need to see Interstellar for yourself.
Interstellar opens you to the idea that you really cannot begin to fathom how large the universe (and what lies beyond) is. It is an epic in the sense that it is a vast tale with a scope that spans worlds and years and generations. And it conveys the deep emotional toll that (I'd imagine) traveling between those spaces and universes could take on a person.
This, of course, is a review. But I'd like to keep things as spoiler-free as possible. I went into Interstellar blind. I had seen the trailers that in two minutes had filled me with anxiety. (Imagine a protracted version of that over nearly three hours). I knew a very few basic plot-level things about the movie: the world is ending, Matthew McConaughey has to go to space to save humanity, and something about wormholes.
I also knew I wanted to see it as soon as possible. That was about it. I'd like everyone else to have the opportunity to fly blind into Interstellar as well. Honestly, you have my permission to stop reading here if you'd like. Just go see the movie. Don't read anything else about it. It's just going to be critics arguing about physics and splitting hairs over minute details.
I'm not here to do that. Interstellar has roots in scientific theory, yes. Physicist Kip Thorne was an executive producer and an advisor on the film. The science is equal parts cool and integral to the plot. But science notwithstanding, this is an excellent film that will leave you awestruck.
The plot is dense and multilayered, but the basics are this: It's sometime in the future, somewhere in America's heartland, and the world is coming to an end. We don't know when but soon. We don't know how soon, but imminent. The world is past saving, so the last remaining people have to find a new world so humanity can continue.
NASA has gone underground. "You can't fund space exploration when you can't afford to feed people," is the line you hear from Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) when McConaughey's character, Coop, discovers the agency's underground headquarters.
You find out early on that Coop was a gifted pilot, back when the U.S. still had a military. But NASA needs him and his flying prowess to travel to the three remaining planets left that could possible host the human race. He's faced with the choice of either leaving his family and home and attempting to find his family (and the rest of the planet a new home), or run the risk of not having a family to come back to.
There are theoreticals and absolutes all over the place, but Coop makes the obvious choice, and it's into deep space along with a crew of Dr. Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi), and TARS and CASE, two HAL-like robots. The liftoff from the secret NASA hanger will take your breath away. But although you have an idea of where the crew is headed and what they need to find, you could not predict what comes next.
From the moment the mission called Lazarus (named for the biblical tale of dead man Jesus brought back to life) leaves the station on earth, you're along for the ride. I mean, you feel the emotion of the mission and the quiet lonely beauty of space. But there are very few quiet moments in the sense that the movie really moves. It's stressful to watch. Seriously, I was very, very anxious for about three hours.
The story goes beyond what I could have imagined as far as the plot is concerned. And you don't know how it's going to end up. That's a good thing. It's not often you can go into a movie and have no idea what's going to happen. It's even less often you can go into a movie and not predict the ending by the halfway point. Even less often than that can a movie make you think so far outside of yourself into worlds and universes and planets far from us.
That extends into some much broader ideas. You want to know what's scary? Space is scary. The fact that the world might one day shrivel up and die is scary. The fact that we don't know what will happen after that is scary. The possibility that we might have to find somewhere else to go after that is scary. The possibility that there are worlds that exist so far beyond us that time and space stretch in order to arrive at them. Those are the thoughts that Interstellar opens you up to. These are actual notes I wrote on the train once I was able to stop saying "oh my god oh my god" over and over upon exiting the movie theater.
Interstellar's story is broad and deep, literally spanning space and time and galaxies. But if it were just about the plot it would be so simple to be easy to disconnect and see it as just a story. But even though Interstellar is this big story about saving humankind, it's also deeply emotional. It tugs at your heart, because at the heart of this giant tale, it's about a father who's just trying to get back to his family.
Matthew McConaughey embodies that man. At times there's a little overacting. Okay, I will give that. He doesn't necessarily metamorphose into another character—he's still the good-hearted, deeply intelligent but slightly grizzled man's man with a Texas twang, who is a hero from frame one. But that character fits into different puzzle pieces, and it fits as Coop. I was skeptical that the McConaughey time is a flat circle part of things might get in the way, but he works.
Anne Hathaway is also excellent. Her character is so deeply pro-science and so deeply heartfelt. There is a symbiosis to those two sides. The rest of the cast is just bonkers. You can IMDB this for yourself, but otherwise, just believe me, because I don't want to ruin any surprises here.
I admit I cried. A lot. I cried probably eight times. Part of it was the relationships. Coop's relationship with his daughter and his family is so real. He is a protector and a provider and that's why he's bound for Saturn's orbit in the first place. Love! Coop did not want to leave his family but he felt a duty. But it was also that the weight of the world was on his shoulders. Don't let this sound overwrought, but that burden is palpable. The people are real. The relationships are deep. And time is of the essence over the whole three hour epic.
But it's also the passage of time and the loneliness that comes with it that got me. In the far reaches of the universe, time passes differently. An hour on one planet is seven years on earth. People exist in these different dimensions, and their life continues at different paces and that creates a tension and a loss and a disconnect between them. It also creates an urgency. They have to complete the mission before time on earth has passed so far that their loved ones have been forgotten. Holy Lord, this shit runs deep.
The movie is excellent. There are a few holes in the plot that no doubt will be analyzed and discussed and dissected to death. Those don't bother me! Interstellar is excellent. It takes you to new worlds, it fills you with wonder, and it captivates you fully with the hugeness of space and the depth and breadth of emotion an exploration. And you need to see it. You really, really need to see it.
Interstellar opens Friday, November 7.