This movie is here even though it hasn’t been nominated for best picture, because it got the same number of nominations as ‘Foxcatcher’ (2014) and thus completes the two available slots for the 10 Days of Oscar. This is also a re-post of my review I did in 2014, so enjoy, tomorrow we shall have original content once again.
by Jaime Grijalba.
I have to start this text with a highly personal note. The subject of this film, its plot, the theories, the knowledge that puts upfront on the table so it moves forward, are among my personal most favorite things. Nothing interests me more than outer space, space-time, relativity theory and worm/black holes. It’s as if they’ve made a movie exclusively for me, and I can’t avoid feeling that it would be unfair to any other person that doesn’t feel any interest in these themes to see the enthusiasm that I put in my words towards this movie and feel it unjustified. It’s, possibly, the movie of the year for me.
The trajectory of Christopher Nolan has lead him through diverse roads, which has guided him in a travel that had to finish in this space opus of great proportions and even greater budget. For some reason, when one sees the posters, the trailers, it’s as if this director has been years making films like these, but no, curiously this would be the first time in which he goes for a hard genre directly. His movies until now have been a recollection and remix of the detective genre, and some have even mentioned him in connection with film noir. With films like ‘Memento’ (2000), ‘Following’ (1996), ‘The Prestige’ (2006), and even the Batman Dark Knight Trilogy, it’s about characters that follow clues, they do the detective work, and at the same time they try to figure out themselves.
In the case of ‘Interstellar’ (2014), it would follow the same line, but exclusively inside the science fiction genre. From the first minutes we already feel in a world where the rules aren’t the same as in our reality, while in the rest of his filmography, the plausibility of what’s happening is part of the first world construction elements (yes, even ‘Inception’ (2010), the only strange element is the sub-culture of people who go into and control their own dreams, a technology that doesn’t seem that far off from today). Although Nolan takes hands into the matter of managing that this brand new, strange and far world (compared to the one we live in), isn’t actually a shock: slowly, once the plot starts, we see interviews as extracted from a historical documentary in which we are talked about the times that people lived on Earth.
The humanity seems to be in danger, after a war that extinguished millions if not billions of lives, and the most important activity in the world is being a farmer. That’s how we meet our protagonist, Cooper (Matthew McConagheuy), an ex engineer/pilot that has been obliged to take a corn farm as his only work, and at the same time he manages to help others through the food he produces, as the world dies of hunger.
We rapidly note that everything seems to go wrong, the constant dust storms and the earth itself threatens to kill people, as a virus is slowly consuming other plantations, leaving little by little, and as years pass, less alternatives to gather food. All this first hour of the film is to establish Cobb’s family (a daughter, a son, and the father of his late wife) problem, as well as some unusual situations related with gravity and magnetic fields, that make the farm machines react weirdly and books in the room of her daughter to fall from the shelves.
The first hour also has a Malick flavor: with the corn fields, the sunrise and the ‘magic hour’, as well as the dust storms that could recall the apocalyptic nature of the appearance of the locusts in ‘Days of Heaven’ (1978), it could even manage to be a direct quote: the times change, things pass and one has to find the way to continue ahead. The form that Cooper finds to continue is finding out that near his house is the retired NASA, that is forming a crew that will travel through a worm hole that is positioned near Saturn that leads to a system distant from ours but that could have some planets that could have human life. Here is when we notice that Earth is doomed and that it’s time for humanity to move on and change places.
The rest of the film is a trip. An exterior and interior trip (as it should be), a search of a new planet in which to live, at the same time as our protagonist fights to come back so he can see his kids again, whom he has abandoned without any clue about when he’s coming back. And it’s now that we have to assume a reality, space travel isn’t fast, and we’re never going to become even close to traveling at the speed of light. It takes them two years to reach Saturn, and that’s just the first of the problems that they’ll face, specially when they realize that the approach to worm holes and black holes leads them, due to the relativity theory, to spend more time than what they thing in one place or another. A minute could end up being the difference between life and death in the planet that they’re trying to save.
Nolan manages the tension, in a 2 hours 40 minutes movie. While he worries us in the first hour, he tenses us in the second, leaving us with a deep message (although a bit cheesy for some spectators). Personally, I think that this time Christopher Nolan has gone a bit too far when it comes to his liking of exposing the matters, falling sometimes in the repetition of themes through dialogue, when they could’ve been visual, and even verbal (specially regarding the poem that is read out loud five times in the movie, but it works, as each time it has a different meaning), and end up tiring the viewer instead of enchanting him.
I also think that, even because of those things, there are great moments. It’s not a movie that is pulling strings to obtain the reactions of its viewers, it doesn’t use music in the obvious ways, resonating through the speakers to augment the sensation of what is being looked for, but it’s realized through moments so precisely calculated in the editing as well as simple dialogue phrases that make your heart sink in despair or surge with renovated hope.
I think this might be one of the few positive thoughtful critics that people will find of this movie, it’s not a film for everyone, it’s less for a critical and cynical audience in terms of what we think of the narrative of the film. Here the plot holes don’t matter, the illogical or the incredible of the exposed science, in the end nothing like that matters. If someone cares about those things. let them be, they search for the perfection in every sense, and as Mozart (or Beethoven, can’t remember) said when they told him his piece was perfect, he said that it was, but that it lacked humility.
Besides the big budget, ‘Interstellar’ (2014) does not lack humility, and that’s what in the end makes it more human.