To hear Christopher Nolan speak on Inception, you'd think that the driving force of the movie was its emotion, while in reality, it's a pretty clinical and emotionally cold experience. The point, though, is that Nolan has clearly always strived to have genuine, stirring emotion in his films, even if he hasn't always succeeded in that regard. And now, with the release of his latest film, Interstellar, Nolan has finally achieved that long sought after aspiration of his.
Aspiration is a good word to describe Interstellar, because this is a film that aspires to a whole lot. It's a move that's almost three hours in length, yet doesn't waste a single minute. It's filled with ideas of space and exploration, as our main cast sets out in search of a new world to replace our own, after the Earth's natural resources have been expended, leaving the human race in imminent danger of extinction.
But in traveling through the stars to distant planets, this movie tackles a whole lot of science that I'm not even gonna pretend that I completely understood at first (though a second viewing did help clear up quite a bit of my confusion), and presents us with incredible ideas and overwhelming scenarios that make for an absolutely intense experience. (Seriously, between last year's Gravity and this year's Interstellar, these movies about space are going to give me a freaking heart attack.) And while this is probably Nolan's most ambitious film to date, which is saying a lot, above all else Interstellar is ultimately a movie driven by its emotional core, and winds up being one of the most heart wrenching tear jerkers of the whole year.
There's just so much that I love about this movie. The visuals are absolutely stunning, and images such as the massive waves on the water planet will take your breath away in awe. The movie's score by Hans Zimmer is just a thing of mesmerizing beauty, and will stay with you well after the fact. And when I saw this in IMAX, they actually pumped up the volume on the score as compared to the regular version of the movie. A lot of people are complaining about the loud score, but I personally loved this, as the increased sound and music made my body physically rumble right along with the action on the screen, making for all that more of an immersive experience.
And probably my favorite scene has gotta be the spinning spaceship scene. My god was that intense, it got my heart pumping good, and left me in a state of genuine fear for our heroes fates. Just, god damn, and then Inception had that scene with the spinning hallway, just what is it with Nolan and these epic spinning scenes in his movies? But hell, there were several moments after this scene where I seriously wondered how they were gonna get out of their latest predicament, but this movie never failed to completely surprise me.
Nolan's very technically sound and grounded, clinical style is very much on display this time around, with his mind-bending tendencies upped to a whole new level. But the difference this time around is that, where as his style usually makes for a colder viewing, with Interstellar, Nolan has interjected quite a bit of heart that makes for a far warmer undertaking. And really, the thing about this movie that keeps coming back to me as the thing that makes it really work as a whole is its underlying emotional core.
The story of Cooper and his daughter Murph will leave you a wreck, from the moment he has to leave, to all the times he just wants to find a way to get back home to her. The movie plays with time in such a crushing way that makes for scenes that'll leave you devastated when Cooper realizes just how much he's missing back at home. And one of the ideas that's really driven home here is that, beyond all of the science, the one thing in this universe that has the ability to transcend time and space itself is love. I think a lesser movie would have a hard time making this theme come across as anything but cheesy, but here, I actually think it not only works, but helps to strengthen the very science this film presents us with, for it is through following the love in their hearts that not only gravitates our heroes through this impossible journey, but so too gravitates us, the viewer, into this whole ordeal as well, and really leaves us invested in the whole outcome.
Some time back, I came across an article that theorized that Nolan was in the works of a big movie trilogy outside of his Dark Knight movies. The theory went that the first movie in this trilogy was The Prestige, which not only set up the premise of these films that would act as more spiritual successors than linearly connecting narratives, but also presented us with the core concept that would connect these movies. The Prestige, a movie about magic, gives us the three steps to presenting a trick, those being The Pledge, where the audience is presented with an ordinary object, The Turn, where the object is turned into something extraordinary, and The Prestige, where the object is brought back.
Looking at Nolan's last three non-Batman films with this in mind, The Prestige would act as The Pledge, in which Nolan, coming off of his first Batman film and the resulting newfound familiarity with him as a director, presents us with the basic groundings of just what exactly he is capable of as a director, truly introducing us to his style and take on the genre of science fiction. Then, looking at Inception as The Turn, here's a movie where he's fully been established, and has now set out to really get our brains working with the ultimate mind bending experience. Then, with Interstellar, Nolan has achieved The Prestige, in which he's pushed his magic to the limit and brought us back to reality, emitting a resonating emotional response from the audience to the journey's end.
Even if you were to look at this theory of a Nolan sci-fi trilogy chronologically, the three films also take place in such an order to do so as well, with The Prestige taking place in the past, Inception in a not too distant future, and Interstellar in a much farther, more apocalyptic future. But also keep in mind that Nolan is a director who really likes to cast the same actors from movie to movie, so much so that he straight up just used the entire cast of Inception for The Dark Knight Rises. And yet, for these three movies, each film utilizes an entirely new cast within its new time period and setting, with the only exception being Michael Caine, the supportive mentor figure who connectively acts as a guide between these films until he finally meets his own demise within the third act of this trilogy.
But I dunno, whether you want to look at the three movies as a collective trilogy or just enjoy them on their own, I suppose either way doesn't matter. I just think it's an interesting thought, and one that really shows just how much Nolan has matured as a director, and how he's progressed in various areas, for not only has his scope increased exponentially with each new film, but so too has his understanding for the human element, with Interstellar standing as his current pinnacle as a director.
And speaking of the human element, the cast here all does a great job really selling this material, with Matthew McConaughey's simple mild mannered style really helping to ease us in to all of the hard science here, and Bill Irwin's spot on comedy as the robot TARS adding a nice touch when things got too serious. And as much as Nolan gets ragged on for not being able to write women, I'd say that among his strongest characters this time around happen to be women, with Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Mackenzie Foy all impressing in their roles.
With stunning imagery, mesmerizing music, and intense ideas and scenarios that'll shake you to your core, Interstellar is a cinematic experience that deserves to be praised not only for its technical achievements and ambitions, but so too for its stirring emotional foundation. This movie starts with such simple beginnings and winds up exploring a whole universe of ideas and moments that'll just wow you, leaving you thinking for days on end, and closing out with a true, genuine feeling of completeness, having just experienced something truly vast, expansive, and grand.