With his first DARK KNIGHT film a number of years ago, Christopher Nolan announced himself as a major force in contemporary cinema. Now, with INTERSTELLAR, he has produced his most ambitious film to date. Like Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE and Nolan’s own INCEPTION, INTERSTELLAR wrestles with weighty philosophical ideas. But unlike them, it possesses a narrative clarity, and succeeds as both entertainment and art.
Co-written with Nolan’s brother Jonathan, and featuring a stellar cast including Matthew McConaughey, John Lithgow, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine, INTERSTELLAR presents McConaughey as a former astronaut now working as a farmer. But because of devastating weather and a dwindling food supply, is forced to travel again into space to find ways of sustaining human life. His journey becomes a long one.
The film presents several theories and concepts of physics: Newton’s gravity, Einstein’s relativity, Hawking’s black holes and Einstein and Rosen’s wormholes. Because of McConaughey’s proximity to a black hole, or collapsed star, his own biological time slows while the times of those on earth remain unchanged.
Happily enough, most of these theories are worked out in convincing ways through the film’s story. The only was the troubling concept was the McConaughey’s character’s ability to communicate from the future with his daughter in the past. To change past events from the future would be to disturb the Great Chain of Causation. According to the Great Chain, or Butterfly Effect, the removal of one stone in past events would radically alter history.
But more important than its dramatization of theories is INTERSTELLAR’S emotional connection with its characters. At the heart of the film is relationship between the astronaut and Murph, his daughter who remains on earth. Murph is unhappy with her father’s decision to travel back into space, and the film holds our attention with our concerns over this conflict.
While the space-traveling father remains a youngish man, Murph ages. Nolan chose well in casting Mackenzie Foy as the young girl, Jessica Chastain as the grown woman and Ellen Burstyn as the elderly woman. All three create a convincing composite portrait of Murph as an aging woman.
Most films today are pedestrian at best. It is a happy event to come across a great film among the many soon to be forgotten.