INTERSTELLAR. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Michael Caine, Mackenzie Foy, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo. Directed by Christopher Nolan. 169 minutes. Rated M (Science fiction themes, infrequent coarse language).
During the last 10 years, a new film from writer-director, Christopher Nolan, has become something of an event. He has made the very successful Batman trilogy, Batman Returns, The Dark Night, The Dark Night Rises. Somewhere in there is a less well-known drama about magicians, well worth seeing, The Prestige. And in there as well is the extraordinary story of dreams and dreams within dreams, Inception. Quite a career following an initial black and white 70 minute experimental feature, Following, the now classic exploration of a character, the screenplay going from the present into the past, Memento, and the re-make of the Scandinavian police thriller with Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank, insomnia.
Expectations were very high for interstellar.
For Nolan fans, there is so much to relish. Interstellar is the story of a post-apocalyptic future in the United States, the collapse of the environment, crops failing, people hungry, aspects of ordinary life still functioning but grim prospects for survival. Interstellar is also the story of NASA experiments to find planets in the galaxies where humans might be able to survive. These two themes are interwoven over a period of decades, birth still battling to survive, extraordinary experiences in space.
While Inception was tantalising with the exploration of psychology, dreams, parallel worlds, Interstellar as much of the same except that the focus is very explicit on science and technology as well as imagination and dreams. It may be that some audiences will find the scientific language and detailed explanations beyond there ken and will accept them or feel overwhelmed by them. Depending on in audiences interest in space exploration and the particular mission to find other planets, this scientific perspective may be too much.
It would seem that the screenwriters, Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan, have been influenced by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space To see of 1968. There are many similarities in the plot, especially in Kubrick’s vision of a space traveller going further and further into the future and rediscovering the past.
This is a long film, almost 3 hours, has so much to do like the eye and the year, especially in space, in the spaceship as well as in the various planets. (some of the spectacular sequences were filmed for IMAX screening and this is a recommendation for those who want to see Interstellar, to go to the IMAX cinema.)
The success of the film also depends on audience response to Matthew McConaughey. While filming this, he won an Oscar for that Best Actor in The Dallas Buyers Club. In recent years he has been in many successful dramas including Mud, The Paperboy, and filmmakers can rely on him to sustain audience interest in such a long film as this. Michael Caine, who has appeared in all of Nolan’s films in the last 10 years, is the scientist overseeing the voyage into space. His daughter, who goes on the expedition, is played by Anne Hathaway.
The screenplay posits relativity in time, travel through black holes, a year in space corresponding to many years on earth, which means that the travellers stay younger as people on earth grow older, shown in video messages to the explorers. Matthew’s precocious daughter, Murphy, who did not want her father to leave but had enabled him to make contact with NASA because of a seeming ghost or pot poltergeist in the house and series of gravity, appears in the second half of the film with Jessica Cass stain in the role.
The mission to find explorers who have gone before, leads to some exciting travel through space, some crises which are handled well, dangers on planets which are found to consist of water and enormous waves (spectacular in IMAX) or dissidents mountains (again spectacular in IMAX and filmed in Iceland). It is here that Matt Damon appears as a significant character even though he is credited for the film.
The last part of the film may be confusing or challenging, or both. It presupposes the relativity of time, time folding and unfolding back on itself, communication and lack of communication, the mysteries of time and the future.
Interstellar is a film of its time, in more senses than one. It is spectacular, thought-provoking, indeed, a cinematic achievement.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released 6th November 2015.