Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is out, and it is ambitious. It aims to be a blockbuster movie, but it is also about big ideas — really big ideas — and it succeeds on almost every level. It is entertaining, but it forces anyone with the least bit of intellectual curiosity to leave the theater with a lot to think about.
On a cursory level, Interstellar is about a group of astronauts who go on an expedition to find habitable planets for humans to colonize. The earth is dying, and Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), must leave his family behind, knowing that he may never see them again.
On a deeper level, Interstellar is about what we seem to have lost as a species. Cooper says early on in the film, “We used to look up in the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”
There are two types of people: There are those like Cooper and Brand (Anne Hathaway), and then there are those like the Orwellian teachers early on in the film who try to brainwash Cooper’s child Murph, played wonderfully by Mackenzie Foy.
Teacher: Murph is a great kid. She’s really bright, but she’s been having a little trouble lately. She brought this in to show the other students. The section on the lunar landings.
Cooper: Yeah, it’s one of my old textbooks. She always loved the pictures.
Teacher: It’s an old federal textbook. We’ve replaced them with the corrected versions.
Teacher: Explaining how the Apollo missions were faked to bankrupt the Soviet Union.
Cooper: You don’t believe we went to the moon?
Teacher: I believe that it was a brilliant piece of propaganda. That the Soviets bankrupted themselves pouring resources into rockets and other useless machines.
Cooper: Useless machines?
Teacher: And if we don’t want a repeat of the excess and wastefulness of the 20th Century, then we need to teach our kids about this planet — not tales of leaving it.
Cooper: You know, one of those useless machines they used to make was called an MRI. And if we had any of those left, the doctors would have been able to cut the cyst in my wife’s brain before she died, instead of afterwards. And then she would have been the one sitting her listening to this instead of me, which would’ve been good because she was always the calmer one.
Are we merely meant to run around in the dirt like ants, or are we meant to explore — to constantly seek out new horizons — physically, mentally, and spiritually?
What are the limits of science? What does it mean for science that the human body might not have the hardware necessary to perceive realities that exist outside of its five senses?
Cooper: You’re a scientist, Brand.
Brand: So listen to me when I say love isn’t something that we invented. It’s observable. Powerful. It has to mean something.
Cooper: Love has meaning, yes. Social utility, social bonding, child rearing.
Brand: You love people who died. Where’s the social utility in that?
Brand: Maybe it means something more — something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. I’m drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen in a decade who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it. All right Cooper. Yes, the tiniest possibility of seeing Wolf again excites me. That doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
Cooper: Honestly, Amelia, it might.
It’s hard to comment much more on Mr. Nolan’s film without giving away key details. In short, it’s a touching, momentarily terrifying, beautiful labor of love by a man who is clearly a master of his craft. Han’s Zimmer’s score is fantastic and all of the primary actors involved did a superb job.
If you get a chance to see Interstellar before it leaves theaters, then I highly suggest making time on a Friday or Saturday night. Then, let me know what you thought. I would love to hear what you have to say.