Science-fiction, at it’s best, deals with some of humanity’s biggest questions.
Can our species have a future on a world of limited resources? Will we ever be able to live beyond our own planet?
They’re the sort of issues that can only be addressed by man’s best and brightest; pioneers and explorers; or, well, the first guy to stumble out of the dark. It just so happens that guy is Cooper (Matthew McConaughy), a rough around the edges engineer-cum-farmer who dreams of being all surly and melancholic out among the stars.
The planet Earth of Interstellar is one of a dwindling human population and an even more dwindling food supply. Set somewhere generically dusty in the USA, humanity has regressed to an agrarian society where all ideas of spending money on technology – let alone space travel – have been unceremoniously thrown out of the window. Show them an iPhone 6 and they’ll jab you in the eye with a carrot.
Fortunately Michael Caine and NASA are on the case – the space agency now reduced to little more than a table of men who ‘were in that thing – wait, what’s his name?’ Our hero Cooper has stumbled upon ‘the best kept secret on planet Earth’, though apparently not so secret that he can’t have every element of their work explained to him within a 20 minute montage of exposition and unnecessary organ music.
Professor Brand (Caine) invites Cooper to lead the crew of Endurance (including Brand’s daughter played by Anne Hathaway) on a journey through a wormhole to discover if one of three potential habitable worlds are capable of becoming man’s new home.
It’s the mission that he was trained for before an unfortunate crash put paid to his astronaut career, and he makes the tough decision to set out to find humanity’s new home and leave his two children behind… immediately. He doesn’t even briefly consider it, and even finds the prospect of returning home to find his daughter Murph decades older – while he remains the same age – really quite amusing.
But it is the presence of time and gravity as antagonists rather than simply narrative devices that sets Interstellar apart from so many science-fiction movies. An unexpected turn of events during a trip down to the surface of a planet where one hour is equivalent to seven Earth years results in the team losing nearly three decades – and the realisation for Cooper that he has missed his children growing into adults.
The film really ups its game during the second half once the story moves beyond the confines of Earth, with the combination of incredible visuals and intelligent use of sound creating a stunning and effecting sense of isolation among the vast expanse of nothingness.
Interstellar is a film of big ideas; a film of admirable scale and ambition that is hard to satisfactorily summarize in a review, and you could discuss the concepts, both scientific and philosophical, for hours. It is light years away from flawless, while the last 20 minutes stretched incredulity to breaking point, but it gets away with it – particularly if you’re a Sci-Fi fan who can appreciate what Nolan is trying to achieve.
At times beautiful, frequently ridiculous but constantly awe-inspiring, Intersteller is an impressive feat of film-making – and a must-see for any serious science fiction aficionados.