Interstellar (2014) directed by Christopher Nolan

Sometimes a movie (or some other form of creativity) catches me at the right moment. Then it can change me, trigger me into a new orbit or just wake me up for a moment. Interstellar is one of those experiences for me. From the first five minutes I could tell I would have no problem sitting through the long ride through galaxies, wormholes and into a black hole. I had my reservations, The Guardian had given Interstellar lukewarm reviews and I do not love Gravity. Of course, what really pulled me to the theatre this time was Rust Cole (from True Detective), or Matthew McConaughey. He did not disappoint.

Matthew McConaughey plays a father who cries for his children in a distant galaxy, where he can see their video messages but cannot respond to them anymore. He goes to space to find a new planet for the people of Earth, when it is clear people cannot survive there much longer – but all the while he is trying to get back home to see his children. This struggle is tangible, heartbreaking and most of the time seems completely unrealistic. Cooper's (McConaughey) feelings of loss and love carried the whole film. There was no sex, drugs or rock'n'roll. Incompleteness, failure, survival and wonder were there though – in a surprising and magical way.

When you make a movie about space and people, you somehow always end up talking about death.
This is the case in Interstellar too. The movie pictures my biggest fear, which is to die and realise that we keep on existing, feeling emotions and even seeing what happens in the lives of our loved ones. That would be a nightmare. But in Interstellar the question of time and spacial experience is the more pressing one – what we see now is not all there is. Seeing a human face becomes the most significant experience you can have after years in isolation. Love becomes the dimension no one can predict with science. Interstellar is both understated and head-high-in-the-clouds imaginative. It's a blockbuster beauty and I'm already looking forward to Matthew McConaughey's second Oscar thank you speech – Hey hey hey.

I'm a Christopher Nolan fan, I've enjoyed most of his films. Inception left me slightly cold, although I've only watched it the once. Otherwise, I loved Memento, The Batman trilogy and The Prestige: these pictures are the acceptable and intelligent face of blockbusters and unravelling clues and plot twists on film. Insomnia and Following showed a small scale sign of the themes and style to come. Nolan is different than most mainstream directors (let's not kid ourselves here, that's exactly what Nolan is). He's decidedly old school in many respects (it must be that stiff upper lip exterior that gives me this impression), an addict to doing things 'the right way', creating spectacle with real people and objects (as opposed to CGI patchworks). What I haven't quite understood from critics (and especially critics of Interstellar) is the expectancy on some form of realism in Nolan movies. If we've learnt one thing from his pictures so far (especially the ones that delve into the sci-fi genre) is that Nolan creates worlds that don't really exist. Interstellar epitomises this: Earth cannot produce food anymore, corn is the last thing we are able to produce and farmers are premium in nurturing the food we need. Cooper (a nod perhaps to the Clint Eastwood like actor Gary Cooper from High Noon-also a movie dealing with concepts of time) is a widowed former NASA pilot who lives on his farm with his children and father in law. He has nightmares of a former flying accident and has a special bond with his daughter Murph. But Cooper is a man whose destiny has not been fulfilled and through a series of almost supernatural occurrences, he finds himself having to pilot the spaceship on a mission to the stars to find a new world and save humanity. The catch is that the mission may take many years, and Cooper has to leave his family. So Interstellar is all about time and the way it shifts and bends. But mostly, and this is important, Interstellar is really a film about family and missing loved ones.

McConaughey brings the tears to Interstellar
Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, on a roll and able to pick and choose the parts he wants. It should be enough to tell you that the reason that Interstellar works (and yes it really works) as cinema but also as a truly emotional experience, is McConaughey's performance. The actor places himself in vulnerable places – so much against the leading hero expectations. One scene (and yes, Interstellar defines episodic) where he watches years worth of video recordings sent from earth to deep space by his family is hard to handle. I was crying. McConaughey's performance here gives the movie it's emotional pull and that longing (like Ulysses) to see his family again whilst travelling through different time and space dimensions is what makes Interstellar so special. Let's not forget, this is a blockbuster, and there are some amazing looking scenes in Space (with nods and comparisons to 2001 A Space Odyssey-again Homer-being made aplenty). Despite Interstellar featuring lots of sci-fi type info, this never overwhelms in the geek department - and let's remember, before we get bogged down in how REAL Interstellar's ideas are, this is only fictional cinema - Interstellar always brings us back to the emotional core of the story, a longing for family and love over unreal distances of time.

McConaughey, Chastain & Hathaway
At three hours there is plenty of time for Interstellar to develop ideas, introduce characters (a bit too much to write about here) and for some great performances. With a thinnish role which retains a distance Anne Hathaway does well as fellow time travelling explorer Dr Brant. Casey Affleck and Matt Damon add meat to the bones of a big cast. Nolan regular Michael Caine does his usual jerky voiced emotional old timer (and somehow his schtick still works). Jessica Chastain adds the other emotional counterpart to Cooper's as the grown up daughter Murph. There is so much to recommend here just in the acting department. Another movie people have identified as a close relation to Interstellar is Gravity. Gravity seriously underwhelmed me, and Nolan's picture is far more ambitious in scope and reach. This could be Nolan's defining movie. Highly recommended, Interstellar has enough thrills and spills to keep the action fraternity happy. In pulling such an emotional punch, Interstellar transcends the often cold genre it represents, firing an arrow straight to the heart. Moving.

In space, no one can hear you cry


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