Appreciating Christopher Nolan: Interstellar

Image retrieved from IMDb

SPOILERS for Interstellar are contained in this post. Proceed at your own risk.

Interstellar (2014)

Man, this is an awesome movie. But not “awesome” in the limiting sense that it just looks cool and some crazy things happen. It’s awesome all around. The story, the message, the music, the cinematography, the acting, the direction… everything.

So let’s get into it.

It’s great that the core of this film is love. The main loving relationship is father to daughter – Cooper to Murphy, and there is Brand and Wolf – a romantic bond. But the focus is definitely on the father/child relationship. The reason that Cooper goes to space at all is because of his love for his kids and his relationships with them makes for two of the most emotional scenes I have ever seen in a movie: the scene where he’s driving away and checks the passenger seat to see if somehow Murph snuck in the car again (about 3:25 in the video) and the scene where he is watching the videos that Murph and Tom have sent him.

Watching Cooper check the seat for Murph demonstrates that he may already be regretting leaving his family. There is so much more subtext under that one little shot and it was simply a stroke of genius for Nolan to write it into the script. And the scene where Cooper watches the years of messages has become an iconic emotional film moment. It’s beautiful the way that the camera lingers on Cooper for most of the time. His reactions to what he is seeing is what makes the scene so emotional. He’s displaying about eight emotions all at once and the viewer is feeling them right along with him.

Cooper is the typical Nolan character study. Like Bruce Wayne or Dom Cobb, he is who the entire film really focuses on. It doesn’t get as much into his head as Inception or the Dark Knight movies do, but he’s still very much that character.

The whole reason Brand goes on the mission is for love, too. She has the slightest amount of hope that she will see the man she loves again, and that is enough motivation for her to leave her entire life behind. She says, “Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.” For a movie that deals so much with time and space, this is Nolan telling us what his film is really about.

Each main performance in this movie is above and beyond. Matthew McConaughey plays an amazing father. He pilots the whole movie and is the entire reason that the audience is able to feel any sort of emotion. Anne Hathaway is great in her role as Brand, as well. When she finds out her father has been lying, the way she reacts is great. Finally, both actresses to play Murphy are incredible in their roles. Mackenzie Foy, who played young Murph, stole the movie for me the first time I saw it, and does a great job of starting the character’s arc. And Jessica Chastain picks up the role seamlessly and we’re overjoyed when she finally figures out that Cooper was her ghost the whole time and she finally forgives him.

The technical aspects of this movie are also breathtaking. Both the way that it’s shot and the score are different from any other Nolan movie. The way that the scenes of the ships are captured are so well done and compelling. They’re gripping and make you not want to look away. As I was re-watching it this time, I noticed that the score fits the visuals better than any movie I’ve ever seen. All that Nolan told Hans Zimmer at first was that it was a film about a father and daughter and he went from there. I love that story because of the end product that we got.

I love how Interstellar ends on a hopeful and open-ended high note the same way The Dark Knight Rises and Inception do. The whole story has winded down and we come to find that things are going to be alright for our heroes. Brand has found an inhabitable world and Cooper is going to find her. It’s just so satisfying and a perfect ending for an amazing film.

Finally, what makes this movie stand out as a Nolan movie more than anything is the way that it deals with time. It’s really a linear story – it follows Cooper start to end – but when he gets into the fifth dimension, Nolan really starts to play with time the way he loves to. I think that’s partly why that was added into the movie. Nolan is continuing to test his limits and abilities to see what new and creative way he can present a narrative to his audience. And he’s succeeding every time.

This is a large scale movie, but it is intensely personal. It’s what makes it resonate so much with me and it’s what the people who get too caught up in the science of it all don’t understand. Nolan has crafted a beautifully intimate film amidst all that is going on. And it just goes to show his incredible skill.

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