Interstellar ★★★★★

Cinema rarely has the true power to enthral or evoke wonder anymore in these days of production line sequels and repetitive guff... and then you get Interstellar, which reminds you of what cinema is meant to do. Christopher Nolan's first picture after completing his Batman saga would be the magnum opus of many directors careers, yet you leave this experience feeling like this is just the beginning for an artist who perhaps is too beholden to certain classic inspirations to precisely be an auteur himself, but who is one of the few directors left in modern cinema capable of fusing awe-inspiring imagery, grand themes about existence, and a heartfelt emotional connection that thanks to a river of warm, self-deprecating humour never strays into the saccharine. Interstellar feels like the love child of Spielberg & Kubrick you never knew you were waiting for, and that word love is especially important as despite on the face of it Nolan's film would appear to concern space exploration, wormholes, relativity and a brace of hard science concepts, in truth... he's made a film about the meaning, balance and deconstruction of love itself.

The heart of Interstellar--and it is riven with a great deal of heart--is a singular relationship, that of Matthew McConaughey's disenchanted farmer Cooper & his young, idealistic daughter Murph. Theirs is set against a disturbingly possible backdrop, a never specified year but a near future where the Earth is running out of food, where farmers are valued over scientists, and where humanity is on the backfoot. McConaughey brings his all-American charm to bear as a man 'born in the wrong time', as his father in law John Lithgow suggests - a man looking up at the stars when everyone else is looking down at the dirt, and who imbues that wonder in his daughter when the reality of life is trying to push her down, eliminate her dreams & beliefs of a spiritual hand guiding her. Nolan never tips his hand specifically but faith & spirituality are always part of his films, a concept more than a specific belief, and it's nowhere more powerful than Interstellar where he takes the risk of his narrative being driven by such ephemeral concepts. He gets away with it eventually, primarily because he ties everything back to Cooper, back to Murph, back to the love that binds them, one any parent or child can relate to equally - the fear of losing the other. Hence why Nolan spends a good hour almost in the Steinbeck-esque dust bowl of future America, establishing a world edging towards dystopia, building a picture of humanity carefully through Cooper & his family.

The remarkable thing when Nolan does eventually get into space, when he starts exploring some deeply conceptual ideas, is that you never feel like Interstellar has detached from the homely, familial, emotional connections of its first act; if anything they deepen, and inform what follows. To say much about the journey Cooper undertakes with the backing of Michael Caine's wizened old NASA professor (it wouldn't be a Nolan epic without Sir Mike would it?) & Anne Hathaway's driven fellow scientist Brand, among others, would be extremely disingenuous as Interstellar deserves to be experienced as cold as possible. Nolan and his brother Jonathan, in crafting a script from the scientific theories & ideas of Kip Thorne, who acted as a consultant (and had a robot named after him), pull off the remarkable trick of telling a hard SF story where it doesn't matter if you *dont* fully understand the science - chances are you won't get the concepts of gravity, singularities, time dilation, wormholes etc... but the emotional heart of the film always weighs them out, keeps them background without the science ever getting truly lost. Nolan's centrifugal sets that make up the Endurance space craft that undertakes the voyage meant to save humanity's future are remarkable, allowing his camera to twist & turn & immerse you in the feeling of zero gravity, while the absence of noise in space only heightens the feelings of isolation & wonder that he conveys through some truly startling visuals; there are moments watching Interstellar you feel as if cinema is taking you where no filmmaker has been before, and that's deeply exciting. Nolan always wears inspirations on his sleeve of course - his sets & the scene stealing robot TARS recall the clear white beauty & monolithic power of Kubrick's 2001, his narrative midway evokes Boyle's Sunshine in how it twists a particular character (played by a cast addition you'll be surprised to see), while plenty of the orbital visuals take a cue from Cuaron's Gravity, but Nolan's personal stamp, his style, his fusion of emotion, grandeur, operatic escalation, and wry beats of humour even in painful moments, all are present and at the top of their game.

The biggest potential point of contention for Interstellar will be the final act, make no mistake, because Christopher Nolan takes one hell of a dramatic leap. He asks us to trust him as he moves beyond the science, beyond theory, into the true unknown, yet he's earned it and crucially such a development feels right. Underpinning his movie, Nolan explores a level of spiritual belief, a hopeful certainty that tethers Cooper & Murph together throughout the piece, and he pays that off by the climax in letting it inform the story. If you're invested in what he's doing, you'll buy the leap of faith he asks of you, but it won't be for everyone. Much like every Nolan movie, Interstellar will polarise. Some will want more hard science, some less; some will feel the emotion too mawkish and others will feel he cribs too deeply from other sources. One element, however, no one can dispute - Interstellar will make you care enough either way to keep you talking for a long time. To my mind, it's a beautiful masterpiece of cinema that blends glorious visuals, a typically stunning score from Hans Zimmer, a wonderfully believable performance by Matthew McConaughey & a narrative that thrills and evokes true depth & feeling. Do not go gentle into that good night...

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