Flora’s Letter was the name of the top-secret project Christopher Nolan was working on last year. Later it’d be known as Interstellar, a film about the next great step for mankind, of an interstellar voyage to locate and determine habitable planets in order to save the human race from extinction. The pseudo name, however, holds the true meaning of this film, which is simply a love story between a father and his daughter. The film is everything you expect from a Nolan picture. It’s grand, it’s ambitious, it’s eager to visually please the audience, and it awes in almost every turn, but this particular one is much more than that. Nolan is bearing his heart and soul in his latest project, and he uses the story between a father and his daughter to propel the incredible journey for approximately the next 3 hours.
The setting is in the unnamed not too distant future. This future doesn’t carry new technology or new advancements. Instead, it’s a future drenched in the past. We’re Steinbeck’s Joads in the Dust Bowl trying to find a better place we can call home. In this new age, “The Blight” is the crop disease that has set the world reeling in constant dust storms as well as back several decades. Schools keep some of humanity’s biggest accomplishments under wraps, and teach kids that the Apollo missions were only propaganda. Allegedly, our purpose was not to reach a new frontier, but to bankrupt the Soviet Union. On that account, this new generation is prevented from dreaming, and is instead conditioned to focus on the earth right here, right now; the Earth that seems to be itching to get us out. So instead of engineers, kids are trained to become farmers, because that’s what the world needs.
Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper is different though. He’s an astronaut turned farmer, but most importantly, he’s a dreamer, and one of the few who still remembers that we were once “explorers, pioneers—not caretakers.” His daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy), also refuses to buy into this bleak reality. Like her father, she’s curious, and currently there’s a force inside her room that has piqued her interest as well as Cooper’s. Turns out that the “force” in her room is a gravitational anomaly that gives them coordinates leading them both to NASA’s underground hideaway. There, they meet Dr. Brand (Michael Caine), who convinces Cooper to pilot an interstellar mission. He and his crew, which includes three other astronauts, including Brand’s daughter, Anne Hathaway’s Amelia, and a spirited TARS machine, are to find a wormhole near Saturn that will hopefully lead them to a new planet humans can potentially call home.
Thus begins Nolan’s visual spectacle. Cooper’s leaving home in his truck is crosscut with his leaving home in his spacecraft, and it’s beautiful. Accompanied by Hans Zimmer’s score, the visuals are that much more magnified. From the gradual crescendos to the complete and utter silence in space, every frame is intensified by the music, or lack thereof. Furthermore, the journey through the wormhole into the habitable planets truly feels like a ride, a ride we’ve never imagined we could take before. We’re allowed to venture into the unknown. We get a glimpse of a wormhole, we behold a neighboring galaxy, and we encounter different worlds, each of which is a spectacle in its own right. One has perpetual waves that can be described as mountains. Another is stark, dark, and covered entirely in ice. Finally, above all else, we’re treated to the mysteries of fifth dimensions, of the relativity of time and space.
Nolan deftly combines science with the spiritual. Several references throughout the film to Dylan Thomas’s poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” romanticize the mission, and he postulates a theory based solely on the faculty of love. The emotional features work in conjunction with all the physics and all the equations. It works because Christopher Nolan is somehow able to take an abstract notion and turn it into a tangible entity. He shows us how love can transcend time and space. Moreover, thanks to the brilliance of all the actors, especially McConaughey, the film’s simplest moments are just as commanding and captivating as its grandest scenes. A father crying to footage of his children growing old over the years, while he is still unnaturally stuck in time, is just as potent as a journey through a wormhole.
In Inception he bent our minds on so many different levels, and showed us a world within ourselves. Interstellar is another showcase of epic storytelling on the part of Nolan. He literally takes us out of this world, and shows us what could be. He stretches our capabilities and inspires us to continue exploring the world outside ourselves all the while unfolding a more intimate side of himself, of ourselves, of humanity.
IN THEATERS NOW