A lot of the early word-of mouth on Interstellar was that the film was good, but didn’t deliver on the promise of a great director like Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) working in the beloved space opera genre. Well, those early whispers are wrong. Interstellar delivers, and then some.
I won’t waste words on a plot summary. All you need to know is that Matthew McConaughey stars, and outer space is involved. Here, McConaughey continues his recent streak of phenomenal performances. Some of his costars (particularly Jessica Chastain) have the thankless task of being exposition machines. It’s a shame, because this film’s cast (which is full of surprises that I won’t spoil here) is too good to play Irving the Explainer.
But these are minor quibbles. Like last year’s excellent Gravity, Interstellar surprised me at every term. As a sci-fi fan, I like it when a film takes science seriously, even if it’s not totally accurate. The cold cynicism of Nolan’s Memento and Inception is gone, and the film comes off more like a Spielberg flick than anything else. It’s sentimental without ever being cloying, and Nolan seems genuinely in love with the mysteries and beauty of space.
That’s not to say that Interstellar is an anomaly for Nolan. There are obvious thematic links to his other films, especially the relativity of time that he explored in Inception. His masterful use of special effects continues as well. In the all-digital, CGI’d-to-death landscape of 2014, I rarely find myself wowed by special effects. I was constantly in awe of Interstellar. Nolan’s use of practical effects, shot on real film, is a gift that feels all too rare.
Interstellar faces the same problem all sci-fi epics face: how do you make a narratively satisfying movie about a subject that’s, ultimately, unexplainable? The best ones (2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris) remain enigmatic. Interstellar isn’t 2001, but it’s a damned entertaining sci-fi picture that left me more than satisfied.