By Eric Marcy, guest writer
Though time may eventually prove the following statement wrong, it is not too far-fetched to argue that Interstellar is the work of a master craftsman who, at the same moment, has reached the heights of his technical ability and artistic ambition simultaneously.
While Christopher Nolan’s love letter to space and the human spirit may bend under the weight of its own grand designs, it does not break, offering a thoughtful, beautiful and powerful tour de force in the tradition of the finest masterworks that science fiction has to offer, 2001: A Space Odyssey chief among them.
To describe the plot of Interstellar in detail would be to betray the fundamental nature of the script, woven together intricately by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, one of discovery on an unrivaled scale. Suffice to say that Earth is slowly dying in the near future, crops overrun by a combination of blight and dust-bowl like storms.
Humanity cannot survive and needs a new home, and thus former NASA test pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey, playing a widower whose first name is never given) must make an agonizing decision: whether to lead an interstellar expedition through a wormhole orbiting Saturn, or stay and watch over his two young children, particularly his heartbroken daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). The rest of the film documents this truly epic race against and through both time and space, returning occasionally to Earth to explore the legacy of Cooper on the now older daughter he has left behind (played in her older iteration by Jessica Chastain).
Nolan truly outdoes himself in Interstellar in regards to depth of feeling, achieving a Spielberg-like level of intimacy in the primary relationship: that of Cooper and Murph. Aided by nuanced performances, particularly by McConaughey, this father/daughter relationship provides a potent emotional anchor for what is a deeply philosophical work.
True to form, Nolan packs the story full of intricate plot details that threaten to overwhelm the proceedings, but the heart of this complex and multifaceted journey is simple and poignant: one man’s love for his daughter. All of Cooper’s travels, all the moral and spiritual wrestling, all the thrilling action sequences and mental gymnastics revolve around the fundamental question of how Cooper ought to best love Murph.
Armed with an affecting narrative core, Nolan guides the tools at his disposal to elevate Interstellar to near transcendent heights. The cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema is majestic and sure-handed, like the work of a classical painter and not unlike that of Stanley Kubrick’s Odyssey, the camera lingering over Cooper’s truck slicing its way through cornfields, glorying in the gargantuan scale of planets and wormholes that dwarf the spacecraft of our explorers, and venturing through alien skies.
Hans Zimmer’s minimalist, organ-driven score revels in both the resplendent beauty and dread terror of space, setting the scale and emotional tone perfectly. It would also be remiss to ignore Anne Hathaway’s exceptional portrayal of a rational scientist struggling with the irrationality of love, or the Nolan brother’s knack for packing dialogue full of both personal and philosophical meaning, which permeates the entire story.
Over the course of Interstellar’s nearly three hour runtime, it almost feels as if Nolan is dragging the audience to and fro, eagerly and excitedly exhorting them to “look here, and here, and here as well! Is it not beautiful? Is it not lovely? Is it not wondrous?” Perhaps he is overeager, perhaps he threatens to overwhelm his audience with the sheer volume of intellectual and visual stimulation he offers, but how can one complain when, like it or not, Nolan is right?
The artists he has assembled have crafted something truly beautiful and wondrous. Interstellar requires an attentive and contemplative audience, and at times it may be an arduous and difficult journey, but like scaling the highest mountain peaks, the view from the summit will take your breath away.
Eric Marcy is a junior English major.