Really great science fiction often has more to say about our current location in time and space than it does about any of the fantastical worlds it transports us to.
“Interstellar” is really great science fiction. It tugs at our heartstrings while exploring our humanity, and at the same time, it blows our minds with the wonders and complexities of intergalactic space travel. In other words, it’s just a really cool flick.
The movie was directed by Christopher Nolan (who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan) who has formed the rarified brand of delivering blockbuster spectacle while simultaneously challenging his audience’s emotions and intellect.
If Michael Bay is the cinematic equivalent of a chili dog, then Nolan is a Porterhouse steak.
He can also be a little cold and clinical, which is why he leans on his cast to soften the blow. With “Interstellar,” Nolan’s wisely chosen Matthew McConaughey to wrap us in his sun-weathered arms and keep us from getting too freaked out by all this scary space stuff.
Another hallmark of good sci-fi is it feels lived-in and doesn’t feel the need to over-explain every little detail.
The movie is set in an indeterminate time in the future where McConaughey plays Cooper, a former-test-pilot-turned-farmer who raises crops on a famine-ravaged planet Earth with his two kids and his father-in-law (played by John Lithgow).
With humanity’s hopes fading (Nolan intersperses the movie with real-life interviews from Ken Burns’ Dust Bowl documentary to add to the apocalyptic flavor), Cooper is tasked with leading an expedition to explore a wormhole that leads to potentially habitable worlds on the other side.
Cooper is joined by other scientists, including Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), whose father (played by Nolan’s spirit animal Michael Caine) is left back on Earth with Cooper’s now-grown, genius daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain) to figure out how to get a sizable chunk of the Earth’s population to their new home if the mission is a success.
To give away any more would be to spoil the jarring twists and turns this movie takes in its sprawling (but never lagging), nearly-three-hour run time.
“Interstellar” falls somewhere between the eye-popping technical achievement of “Gravity” and the mind-bending depth of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” It’s also one of those rare movies that beg to be seen in IMAX where the speakers rattle your seats to the point you feel like you should be wearing a pressurized helmet and finishing every sentence with the word “over.”
At its heart, this movie is about that unique spark that pushes humanity to accomplish great things, but at the same time exposes those inherent flaws that always seem to be holding us back.
This is one of the best films of the year, a cinematic wonder that comes from a place that feels familiar yet is wholly original. It may spiral a little too far afield for some people, but it’s guaranteed to leave you talking about it a long time after you’ve left the theater.
“Interstellar” is rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language.