Movie Review: ‘Interstellar’

“We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known,” says Cooper, the main character in “Interstellar.”

Writer and director Christopher Nolan is no stranger to the spectacular and thought-provoking. With “Memento,” he tackled the ideas of memory and perception. In his “Dark Knight” trilogy, he changed the landscape of superhero movies while questioning the very definition of hero. With “Inception,” he took viewers on a complex journey through the dream state. The director’s latest film, “Interstellar,” is no different. In his most ambitious project to date, Nolan tackles the grandeur of the universe while exploring the human heart.

“Interstellar” takes place in the near future, where blight has taken over the world, turning the planet into a giant dust bowl (with an extra helping of dust). Dust storms the size of hurricanes ravage the land. The planet will not be able to sustain human life for much longer. The world’s only hope for survival lies in Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a farmer-turned-engineer-turned-space-pilot. He is the leader of a mission to find suitable planets for colonization.

There’s just one problem: he has to leave his family behind, and he doesn’t know when, or if, he’ll come back. This is a big problem for his daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy), and the two part ways on bitter terms.

While exploring one planet, Cooper and his crew run into some problems. They make it back to the main ship to find that due to time dilation, while they were on the planet for a few hours, 23 years have gone by on the ship. In what may be the most touching part of the film, Cooper arrives to find years of video messages his son sent to him from Earth, though his daughter hasn’t sent him any. Cooper watches, powerless to prevent the sands of time from passing him by, as his son grows up before his eyes, from awkward high school kid to new father to middle-aged man, all in a matter of minutes.

Cooper and his crew realize that they don’t have enough fuel to explore the other two planets and go back to Earth. Cooper is forced to decide between being a father and being an explorer, between seeing his children again and saving the human race.

Composer Hans Zimmer, who scored Nolan’s last four films, returns for “Interstellar,” and he does not disappoint, coming up with a completely new sound. In some places, the music sounds otherworldly, while in others, it sounds deeply human. The highlight of the soundtrack is the use of pipe organs, new to the Zimmer canon. The organs add a majestic yet ominous element to the film.

The acting here is solid. Matthew McConaughey and 13-year-old Mackenzie Foy have great chemistry with each other in their father-daughter role. Foy, whose previous acting credits include “The Conjuring” and the last two “Twilight” films, stands out in this film, flawlessly portraying a wide range of emotions. As always, Michael Caine is brilliant, and Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain pull their weight. On the other hand, Anne Hathaway, who plays one of Cooper’s crew members, delivers a forgettable performance, complete with forced dialogue.

“Interstellar” is a smart film, but occasionally, it’s too smart for its own good. Renowned theoretical physicist Kip Thorne served as an executive producer for this film to ensure that it was scientifically accurate. At times, the film sounds more like a science textbook than a movie. Fortunately, these moments are few and far between.

This movie is not for everyone. Its nearly three-hour running time, combined with slow pacing and complicated scientific terminology, will turn away the casual viewer. There are no superheroes or giant robots to keep the audience’s attention for three hours. It is not mindless entertainment. This is a thought-provoking film that explores the universe and what it means to be human. Not one of this film’s 169 minutes goes to waste.

“Interstellar” is a beautiful film, and it takes viewers on a journey through the universe as never seen before in cinema. Nolan excels in visualizing things never viewed by human eyes, from the intricate inner workings of a wormhole to a terrifyingly magnificent black hole. This can be a bit overwhelming, seeing how small our world is in comparison to the rest of the universe. Although “Interstellar” is the most monumental of Nolan’s films, it’s also his most personal.

“Interstellar” is the closest Nolan has come to making a family film. The relationship between Cooper and Murphy is heartwarming yet believable, and Cooper’s portrayal of a loving father is a refreshing break from the plethora of deadbeat dads in today’s Hollywood productions. Much of the film focuses on the importance of love.

“Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends time and space,” says one of Cooper’s crew members. Throughout the film, we are shown that it is our ability to love others that keeps us sane. Love gives us a will to live. Love is what makes us human.

“Interstellar” manages to find the balance between grand spectacle and personal reflection, between the universe and the human heart. The result is one of the best films of the year, one that makes viewers wonder what it is in their lives that they value. In a world where people spend less time looking at the sky and more time looking down at their phones, “Interstellar” is a good reminder for us to look up at the dark night and marvel at what God hath wrought.

Jon Gallardo is a junior journalism major and sports editor for Cedars. He loves playing basketball and quoting Napoleon Dynamite. He hopes one day to play in the NBA.

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