“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age shall burn and rave at the close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”
169 minutes and some awe-stricken few seconds here and there. Well, that’s all it takes for this neat flick from the creative master, Christopher Nolan to put you at the edge of your seats and visualize the optical diaspora of exploration into the space age, all mixed with the humid effervescence of the human emotions in one long saga that does indeed unlike other Nolan trivias, have a big ‘happily ever after’ epilogue.
The gist of the story revolves around a widower. Cooper (played and nailed by Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey) who is seen in a time period not too distant from ours on an American farm belt, a former test-pilot, who depends on his father-in-law (John Lithgow) to help him raise his two children; 15-year old Tom (Timothee Chamalet) and the 10 year old daughter Murphy (played to an amazing finesse and unflinching emotional drive by a beautiful, spirited Mackenzie Foy). The character sketch of Cooper and his daughter Murphy are shown to be alike each other as they both discard the hackneyed ways of life and rebel to any and all official dictum that is put before them. Nolan wrenches out emotions off his sleeve and the father-daughter familial relation stands out as the high end of this story.
The story picks up race when the dad-daughter duo find that the NASA has not yet been decommissioned and is still very much operational but covertly, headed by Cooper’s old boss Professor Brand (the uncanny, no-nonsense Michael Canie). Brand gives Cooper the physics mantra of accentuating the space and travel through black holes and warp zones and get retrieved back through worm holes and other meta-physics stuff (thanks to the guidance of Caltech’s Dr. Kip Thorne, who has been a legendary figure in this field and was consulted regarding the physics aspect of this story). Cooper agrees to commandeer the mother ship ‘Endurance’ accompanied by a research team comprising of Amelia (Anna Hathaway, beautiful and provocative daughter of Prof. Brand), Romilly (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley). Of course, not to forget the R2-D2 and C-3P0, the ex-military robots of the story called CASE and TARS. The legendary Bill Irwin voices TARS, a chatty monolith.
The real wow factor of the story is the high tension docking maneuver; that offers the perfect ‘nirvana’ for the movie fans. Then there is a surprise visitor and a battle ensues on the frozen dead land of a distant planet. The sheer opulence of a tidal wave the size of a mountain. The movie could not have been rendered any better other than the ace cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and VFX supervisor Paul J. Franklin. The cherry on the top is the background score by Hans Zimmer who literally aggravates thrill of looking through the endless space and time trying to actually visualize Black Holes, wormholes and space-time continuum.
Do they return or not? Or do they find respite and another habitable land to survive? The closing hour of the movie wraps up a great deal of loose ends and it is thus last bit of the story that takes the movie from a high-end sci-fi thriller to a story with a heart of its own. Although Nolan keeps physics and its implications at the core of all matters, it is hard to miss the humane angle that he reaches out to make a try understand the vulnerability of our existence in this wide universe. Interstellar is not a space odyssey with UFO’s or blue-skinned creatures or even worse aliens trying to take control over mother Earth. The underlying emotion that Nolan projects towards us has been rudimentary throughout all human civilizations and dynasties: hope.
Don’t go high with Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity (that won an Oscar for VFX in 3-D, this movie is in IMAX 2-D), nor compare it with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey of 1968(which is thought to be Nolan’s inspiration for Interstellar along with George Luca’s epic franchise, the Star Wars). This is a story that delves deeper into human feelings, gets under your skin even though it is set ‘light years’ away. Feel the anger rush and eyes get moist as Murphy fights with her father Cooper before he departs for his mission. Watch with awe and relish those emotions as Cooper watches his kids grow into adults as all the heavy meta-physics talks take root when he realizes his two years in space have occupied 23 years on Earth. Pity on the father who watches his ‘adult’ kids talk to him of their sadness and joys, resentments and happiness as they grow normally on Earth while all Coop can do is watch in muted silence. McConaughey deserves to be the actor of the year every bit for the way he tears down his own self bit by bit, draining from ‘cool’, calm and collected persona to a father eager to get home. He realizes the life he has missed with his kids and that they would never forgive him. But look into the eyes of McConaughey and Jessica Chastain (who plays the adult Murphy, brilliantly), and you suddenly realize they need not say a word. Their silence is the eloquence that provides beauty to this cold, frigid space. Even the arrogant Tom (the adult version played by Casey Affleck); shows little or no indifference to the world that has not changed for him even after his father’s departure.
Nolan’s symbolism throughout the film is rampant with the poster of the movie showing McConaughey over a wasteland. It’s meant to be some distant planet, but it could as well be Earth where human pressure has led to environmental imbalance initiating a Dirt Bowl, starting and choking its citizens. In Kubrick’s 2001, he thought we had no hope and that the doomsday was near. But, Nolan imagines a dying Earth where faith in one another would pull us through. He provokes and prompts you to think through the movie rather than just sit through and reflect later.
Drop the minute glitches that physics might have had but the movie failed to interpret and go out at night and look up to the stars believing : “that man was not supposed to die here” and therefore… “Though wise men at their end know dark is right, because their words had forked no lighting
They do not go gentle into that good night.”
[P.S. – 169 minutes of Interstellar cost the producers a whopping $ 165 million to make, it therefore carries a price tag of approx $ 976,000/ minute. The movie is a highly technical one involving deep nuances of physics and the director Christopher Nolan does not have a cell phone till date].
– Saurav Bakshi (Civil, 2k12)
(This movie review has been extracted from the 33rd edition of Sarjana).