by Allan Fish
(USA 2014 169m) DVD1/2
Worrying about our place in the dirt
p Lynda Obst, Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan d Christopher Nolan w Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan ph Hoyte van Hoytema ed Lee Smith m Hans Zimmer art Nathan Crowley cos Mary Zophres spc John Kelso, Michael Clarke
Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Anne Hathaway (Brand), Michael Caine (Prof.Brand), Jessica Chastain (Murph), David Gyasi (Romilly), Matt Damon (Mann), Mackenzie Foy (Murph, aged 10), Casey Affleck (Tom), David Oyelowo (principal), Ellen Burstyn (old Murph), John Lithgow (Donald), Wes Bentley (Doyle), Bill Irwin (voice of TARS),
In retrospect, Interstellar was always coming, and it’s with some irony that I say that. Christopher Nolan has always been bending and readjusting cinematic dimensions. In Memento he made a backwards movie, playing with narrative convention. In The Prestige he played with perception, how our eyes and minds play tricks with us and allow ourselves to be fooled. In Inception he played with the dimension walls within dreams, fitting them inside each other like Russian dolls. After all that, what else is there but to try and bend the actual space-time continuum itself? And what better year to do it than in the same year that a more traditional cinematic statue was being put up to Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything, which could even be the title of Nolan’s sci-fi opus.
Nolan is rightly famed for his cold detachment and intellectual rigour; qualities without which his great films could not have existed. “We’ve always defined ourselves by our ability to overcome the impossible”, Cooper says. If only the film could prove it, but here he is seemingly fighting a paradox from the start; to save mankind requires bending the laws of space-time in a way that goes against the laws of physics (this isn’t Doctor Who, time can’t be rewritten). Can the search for the impossible forgive his caving in to the sort of sentimentality associated with Close Encounters, Avatar, Gravity or that other McConaughey sci-fi piece, Contact? Perhaps, when the ambition is greater than those films combined…
Even so, Caine is miscast as a scientific genius, there as if Nolan’s totem to guide him back to sanity. Hathaway is another Hollywood woman doing the stupid thing to put the mission in jeopardy. Chastain does her best but is merely a cipher and Burstyn’s cameo doesn’t even qualify as a token gesture. McConaughey has one great scene – watching in agony years of built up video messages from his family – and Foy is great as lil’ Murph. Yet what else is left?
Visually it’s astonishing, as one has come to expect from Nolan, especially when one considers how he resisted using green screen as much as possible. On IMAX in 70mm it must be one hell of an experience, one powerful enough to make one forgive much. For those who succumb to excessive sentimentality and scientific theories being damned, who drown in bliss at Hans Zimmer’s music giving a religious dimension Nolan couldn’t bring himself to put into the script, who love visuals so awe-inspiring as to defy logic, sound that can drown out the dialogue, and who could only accept a new world equal parts Inception’s foldaway dimensions and Field of Dreams, it’s a masterpiece, a 2001 for the 21st century. Is it enough to make one forgive the plot holes bigger than the wormhole off Saturn that starts the film’s rescue mission for mankind (how does Romilly survive 23 years while the other crew members are on Miller’s world, where is TARS in the Fifth Dimension archive tesseract, if Caine wanted the crew to be the genesis of survival, why send only one woman and his daughter at that?; think about it…)? For those who want a cinema of real thought, they can only hope that Nolan wakes from his dream and puts his sensible setting up from 25% to 100. Yet maybe one needs to have faced death and the infinite to grasp that humanity will cling to what it can in an effort to survive and comprehend; what else do we think of then but our loved ones? Nolan knows, as Damon’s Mann said, we’re not ready to embrace a really far-reaching concept that goes beyond the immediate. It’s flawed but ambitious, the cinema of hope, of optimism over experience. As Dylan Thomas said; “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”