Interstellar ★★★★

For all its highfalutin philosophic ideas and grand science fiction exploration of the nature of human connection, Interstellar is most notable for being Christopher Nolan's film that feels as concerned with characters as it is with ideas. Nolan's films have always been cerebral and somewhat clinical in their humanity, but here his focus is firmly on families, specifically the relationships between fathers and daughters, and the lengths to which parents will go to preserve their children.

The script, co-written by Nolan with his brother Jonathan Nolan, is ambitious to a fault, using the premise of a dying earth and an attempt to save humanity through vacating the planet (if they can only solve the pesky issue of navigating everyone through a wormhole) to meditate on love, survival instinct, and the notions of sacrifice versus self-centeredness. One thing I liked about Interstellar is the way it presents this duality in a way that lets the viewer decide whose actions belong to which category.

It is a beautiful film to behold, stunning in its grandeur (especially in 70mm IMAX) and overpowering in its forcefulness. Hans Zimmer's score is pummeling, some of the best work of his career. Nolan is great at evocative emotional moments, even when so many of them come between or during sequences of exposition. For what it's worth, the movie does a pretty good job explaining its quantum physics ideas in a straightforward manner.

I just wish that for all its ambition it didn't abandon its characters in the final act. The story goes somewhere in the end that is easily guessed within the first act, so it is the promise of emotional reconciliation between the characters that keeps the film interesting. But for a nearly three-hour movie its ending feels rushed, and Nolan abandons that promise almost completely with an awkward and unsatisfying conclusion that never fulfills what it sets up in regards to that father-daughter relationship. Interstellar, a film that starts by asking us to feel a family torn apart by sacrifice, ends by getting lost gazing into its own navel. When I inevitably revisit this, it will be for the ideas rather than the characters.