Christopher Nolan is a member of a select club of directors well known to the movie public at large. Following the colossal success of the Batman trilogy and Inception, Nolan has decided to take that Hollywood clout and put his bet on black, black holes.
The story commences by sketching out why “Cooper” (Matthew McConaughey) is scratching a living farming in a dust bowl with his son, daughter and father-in-law in the United States. A very different US, where drought and famine have driven people backwards to a simpler time.
A place where hope and ambition is frowned upon, any time spent not growing or finding food is wasted effort, where daring to dream is a luxury people can ill afford. A time where even the Moon landings are taught in school as fake, previously created as an instrument to drive Russia to financial ruin.
Cooper has a past, he was involved in the NASA program but never got to use his skills. Following the death of his wife and for the good of his family, he grudgingly accepts the cards he has been dealt, a life unfilled, a loaded gun never discharged.
When events believed to be outside his control lead him back to his earlier calling, he is faced with a stark choice. Does he leave his young family, a feisty daughter “Murph” (McKenzie Foy) and more steady, reliable son “Tom” (Timothee Chalamet) to save them and the world, by leaving them behind?
If by saving the world, he will never see them again, what kind of father would he be. Arguably he would also fulfil his lifelong ambition, so is the choice more selfish, altruistic or purely based on his obvious love for his children?
These are big questions and Nolan is not afraid to ask them, whether you have the answers by movies end, will depend on how you interpret the film.
The effects are solid but merely allow the story to be told rather than being front and centre. The use of unusually constructed and voiced robots, TARS and CASE is perhaps a nod to HAL from 2001. The line “self destruct in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and McConaughey’s response, is highly entertaining.
Whilst there are some beautifully filmed space sequences, complemented by a thundering Hans Zimmerman score, the movie is about people and relationships, most notably the father daughter dynamic between Cooper and Murphy, both young and middle aged versions.
McConaughey continues his “on a roll” status, turning in another excellent performance, aided here by strong turns from Anne Hathaway as a fellow astronaut, Michael Caine adding the science element with Chastain and Foy touchingly playing the older and younger versions of his daughter, “Murph”.
The film is very much based on probable reality and has employed noted scientific boffin Kip Thorne to base the science on what is known and broadly possible. The story is played for real, yet in a fantastical future where black holes, worm holes, the bending of time through the theory of relativity, can be deployed to travel vast distances, with the crew in hyper-sleep for much of the time.
There are some minor missteps, an extended star cameo arguably detracts rather than adds, a pointless brawl when so much is at stake seems out of place. Whilst the footage of real documentary TV footage from the “Dust Bowl” is poignant, it might have been better solely book ending the movie, as it is occasionally confusing.
The line “Do not go gentle into that good night” is quoted several times and Nolan has clearly taken this to heart. On the evidence of this film, he is determined to use his influence to tell the stories he wants to tell, whilst he can. Whether the film ignites your boosters or not, we should be thankful someone has the movie power and desire to tell new stories about human beings, carrying all our redeeming features, faults and frailties into otherworldly settings
Arguably not for everyone perhaps but not a “Marmite” movie either. If you are not prepared to dream or look for the bigger picture, in every sense, it may provide frustratingly open ended compared to most main stream entertainment. Whilst compared in parts to “Gravity”, this is not as accessible and is in danger of eating it’s own tail towards the conclusion, however better to aim high and merely graze the stars, than not to try at all.
Best described as a mix hybrid of “Gravity”, “2001” and “Inception” which are good base ingredients to start with, Nolan has prepared a veritable feast of sights, sounds and thoughts to consider.
A science fiction film that fits neither of those descriptions, more a meditation on life itself, fathers, daughters and our place within the cosmos albeit made digestible for a modern audience.