Interstellar ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I tried. I tried resisting. But I couldn't help it. I had to give it five stars. I was as impartial as a die-hard Nolan fan can be on my first watch when I gave it a light 4.5/5. I know it's not perfect. I know it's flawed. But I couldn't help it. How could I defend myself against it? No, it was a battle I was destined to lose. Objectivity, rational thought, critical mindset, cynicism, self-awareness, unfavorable comparison to other movies and especially to Nolan's other movies, nothing worked. How can I possibly say this is better than Memento? I can't. But the ratings (as of now) suggest otherwise. What does that mean? Why does it matter? It does matter. OCD is part of me. But I couldn't help it.

Anyway, Interstellar. The recursive punch in the throat of 2014. It's a strange one when looking at Nolan's filmography. In terms of themes and tackled subjects it's very much a Nolan film but none of his previous films have this much heart and emotion. It's probably because initially, Interstellar was supposed to be directed by Steven Spielberg who has been found guilty of being sentimental on many occasions. Yet Nolan runs with it and still makes it his own. That's why, while the film is the most optimistic and affectionate of his work, it still deals with grave topics and is wreathed in the ever-present darkness that's found in his other movies.

The idea that we are our own enemies, this duality of the human nature is present in every Nolan film, most notably in The Prestige and The Dark Knight. With Interstellar, this is visible in almost every character. The relationship between Cooper and Murph that is at the heart of the movie shows the conflicting nature of humans very well. Cooper's dream is to go in space and his passion for space exploration sometimes overshadows his love for his children. His decision to leave them behind so that he can make his dream come true, although for a very good reason (saving humanity), is questionable when viewed from a certain angle. Likewise, Murph's decades-long resentment towards her father for leaving her, whom she undoubtedly loves, has a selfish side to it.

Dr. Mann, probably the most interesting (and saddening) character of the film, is a carrier of the duality of humans (his name is a clear indicator), both when viewed in the mirror and when compared to Cooper. He is a very intelligent scientist who has inspired many others through his accomplishments and who is thought of as a model. But as it turns out, he is also an egotistic coward who lost hope and a bit of his sanity while on the ice planet, his (and implicitly, humanity's) flaws being exposed under extreme circumstances. When faced with death and despair, his self-preservation and survival instincts take control, his selfish actions threatening the survival of the entire species he wanted to save (probably for selfish reasons as well, like fame and recognition). The scene where he gets into a fight with Cooper has received a lot of criticism for being too silly, eye-rolling, ridiculous or cliche but for me it is one of the best scenes because of the sadness, fear and disappointment that runs through it. Even at the edge of the universe and in a pressing situation, human nature is contradictory, self-centered and destructive. The shot of Dr. Mann and Cooper struggling on the ground, seen from above as two insignificant figures surrounded by the vast, cold and inert environment, encapsulates this perfectly and shows in a few seconds what Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was all about.

Other characters are defined by their conflicting nature and by their life experiences. Professor Brand sentences the people still living on Earth to death by lying about the chances of succeeding with Plan A and about his equation. He loses hope in the people around him but in the end he regrets it. Amelia Brand is a brilliant biologist who has the best intentions but she gets Doyle killed because of her blind ambition, confidence and lack of experience. Tom, Cooper's son who develops a bitter heart after one of his children dies at a young age, refuses to move with his family to another location even though the dust storms are detrimental to their health.

When dealing with human nature in thematic terms, there are certain aspects that almost inevitably come up, one being mortality and the human in relation to death. From Robert Angier's use of Nikola Tesla's invention in The Prestige to time dilation between different levels of dreams and the Limbo in Inception, Nolan is no stranger to the subject, which he tackles once again in Interstellar. Besides the apocalyptic setting (a dying Earth) or the natural inevitability (Donald and Professor Brand's deaths), the characters are faced with many dangerous obstacles along their journey, like space, the water planet (Doyle's death), the ice planet (Romilly and Mann's deaths), and being in a constant race against time. The film brings into question whether we should push the limits of our existence as much as we can towards immortality and how would this be even possible. Physically, this is partially achieved through the cryo-sleep chambers the astronauts "hibernate" in. On a higher level, children as a legacy and immortality through sacrifice with the subsequent inspiration are also ideas previously expressed in Nolan's work, The Prestige and Inception for the former and The Dark Knight Rises for the latter. Going even further, the power of love and sacrifice leads to a higher evolutionary state, the fifth-dimensional beings.

Which leads us to the topic of faith. The film undeniably has strong religious connotations, whether it's through the name of the first mission (Lazarus), Cooper as a Christ figure (going into the black hole/the ultimate sacrifice for saving humanity, his return to Earth/resurrection, his departure to find Amelia/ascension, etc.) or the ambiguous nature of the fifth-dimensional beings. Yet the realization Cooper has while inside the black hole is that future humans are those who helped humanity all along, which denies the existence of a God in some respects. A world devoid of God and one where we have to save ourselves is a frightening thought for many and constitutes yet another way in which Nolan brings darkness into the mix, but it also constitutes the turning point to that optimistic side full of heart and hope. The retrofitting of Biblical events in science (resurrection/cryo-sleep, living hundreds of years/time dilation, the ultimate sacrifice/the intervention of future humans) takes away the mysticism from faith and points to the absence of God but it also attributes these "miracles" to humans. By making humans seem God-like and saving themselves, Nolan supports a humanist view in favor of a religious one. Then again, the fifth-dimensional beings are left ambiguous enough so that other interpretations where God is the one pulling the strings - or at least his existence isn't nullified by the existence of the evolved humans - are still valid. Therein lies the beauty and complexity of Interstellar.

All this talk about human nature and death and love and whatnot might not be such a big deal since there are movies that tackle these subjects and don't do anything worthwhile with them. But when you take into consideration the spectacular visuals, great acting and a monumental score of tremendous scope and emotion, all infused with purity, heart and ambition, the right chord is struck and everything just clicks. Add in a complex script that makes the movie lend itself to various interpretations and discussions and it almost becomes too good to be true. So I definitely couldn't help it.

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