If Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, suggested a creator as mad and fanatical as its titular prophet, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar feels like the work of a mad scientist; one whose outrageous ambition is almost equally matched by his knowledge, both held together by such blistering self-assurance that the object of their creation, while imperfect and at times bordering on the ridiculous, can only command awe and admiration. So meticulously crafted is its screenplay, so pervasive is the sentiment that Christopher Nolan has full understanding and confidence in what he is doing, that elements any other movie would expose as problematic – the typically world building exposition-heavy dialogue – or downright laughable – the idea that love is as concrete and quantifiable a force as gravity – become seamlessly integrated within it and turned to its advantage.
While dialogue from Anne Hathaway’s astronaut Brand, in spite of her earnest delivery, showcases how juvenile and silly such an idea of love is (and unintentionally brings to light Nolan’s seemingly stereotypical view of women as more prone to irrational heart-governance), Nolan and editor Lee Smith make a superb case for it via a magnificently-rendered vision of time dilation (Earth vs. space) and a black hole filled with images of a young woman’s bedroom at various points in time, surely one of the most astonishing visual discoveries of the year. The journey undertaken by genius NASA pilot-turned-farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is as long and emotionally draining as a human can bear, and by the time he arrives at its end, it does indeed feel like a lifetime’s worth of sensations have rushed across the audience’s mind and body. It is most appropriate therefore that his penultimate sequence – an interesting and emotionally superior reversal of the climax of Robert Zemeckis’s Contact – would involve him being literally surrounded with life.
Interstellar is not without typical Christopher Nolan problems – most notably the aforementioned stereotypes damaging an otherwise solid female character, as well as an unnecessary and unconvincingly happy last 15 minutes or so that seem consciously designed to remove any doubts from the audience’s minds as to what happened next (did Nolan take complaints about Inception’s ending too seriously?). Yet even all these faults find some justification in Nolan’s visual storytelling, which sometimes takes the aspect of a John Ford western in space whose editing would have been supervised by Alain Resnais. If Nolan’s filmmaking and writing flaws are so noticeable to the critical eye, it is because his incontrovertible skill in staging and suggesting movement and space as well as building a large framework of ideas and themes make them all the more apparent and exasperating. Interstellar is a most-welcome example of him turning most of these flaws to his advantage, and can only inspire more hope for the future.