Full spoiler warning for Interstellar if you somehow haven’t watched it.
In the cinema, 8 years ago was the first and last instance in which I watched Interstellar. It was the first time I could recall I’d ever cried in a movie theatre. I swore I’d never watch it again. Not because of the sadness of it, but because of how perfect I felt it was - I didn’t want that ever ruined.
Anyway fast forward to 2022, with time (relevant) I’ve become (a little) less dramatic, and finally decided to break that vow. And boy, am I glad I did.
The film takes place in the future where a big chunk of humanity’s been wiped out from environmental effects, leaving the remainder of the population with little food left and slowly dying. An ex-NASA astronaut and father is recruited to go into space to try and save the world, whilst maintaining a special relationship with his daughter.
On the surface, that sounds like a pretty banging average a movie plot right? Typical science-fiction yaddi yadda, whole world in jeopardy etc etc.
But the way Christopher Nolan has directed this, including the elements of time, the visuals, the score, and in particular the bond between Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper and Murph (Jessica Chastain) is just an absolute masterpiece.
Nolan’s always been renowned for his use of time, watch any of his other films and you’ll see elements of that. Inception, Dunkirk, and Tenet all spring to mind. But the tragedy in which Murph grows older at an accelerated rate compared to Cooper, is absolutely heartbreaking.
Watching Cooper break down as he watches his children age 27 years over the space of sheer hours for him is a really difficult watch. It reinforces the usual opposite relationship whereby our kids grow too old for us. This is particularly the case at the film’s end with Murph in her death bed and her own family surrounding her.
My normal resting heart rate is around about 59 BPM. The scene in which Cooper has to try and connect his pod to a rapidly spiralling space station is probably one of the most stressful cinema experiences I can ever recall.
My hand clenched around my other arm, the backs of my knees tightly gripping against the seat, with beads of sweat against my forehead. I looked down at my watch directly after Cooper succeeds, to find my heart rate a whole 13 beats higher in that scene. Don’t get me started on how much Hans Zimmer score adds to the drama in this moment.
I loved the dilemma here as well between family against humanity. Admittedly, quite trope-y but it really feels like between Cooper, Murph, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck and Matt Damon’s characters, you can really emphasise with each and every one of their actions.
Damon in particular has a line of “we can care deeply - selflessly - about those we know, but that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight” which resonated deeply with me.
Similarly, the connection between love and science has a striking moment of dialogue between Cooper and Hathaway’s Brand. She briefly mentions the very un-scientific concept of love when saying it’s the one thing we "perceiv[e] that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t yet understand it.”
I’m not usually one for deep quotes like this, but for someone highly rational and logical, it’s something I’ve thought about a lot as of late.
The final thing I did want to touch on, that I think makes or breaks this film for most people, is the bookcase twist at the end. In it, it’s revealed that Cooper is actually Murph’s “ghost” that she imagined at the start of the film. I totally get why some people hate this moment. It’s obviously the part that is least likely to be realistic in the whole movie.
But to me, it does an excellent job of bringing the film full-circle and I really liked the passion behind Cooper intercut with the realisation from Murph of who her ghost was 27 years later. The more you think about this scene, the less it probably makes sense… but I like the ambiguity, uncertainty and emotion of it.
Honestly, to me Interstellar is probably my favourite film of Christopher Nolan’s, of the 2010’s, and one of my favourite’s of all time. I could happily watch this movie at different points in my life and probably gain a different understanding of it each time (quite suitable for this film too).
And to me, that’s a hallmark of an absolute masterpiece in both storytelling and cinema.