Confession: I bought Interstellar on DVD around 5 years ago, and I’ve only just now watched it for the first time. I can’t really explain why, exactly – some mixture of preoccupation and a barely conscious fear of feeling let down by one of the best-regarded sci-fi films of all time, maybe – but after deciding I’d put it off for long enough, I sat down to take in all 169 glorious minutes.
I’ll also add that I’d managed to steer well clear of reading or seeing anything relating to spoilers, and had only the vaguest of ideas what Interstellar was actually about, so I went in with no real expectations.
Honestly, it wasn’t exactly what I expected – not to begin with, at least. The film’s near-future impending-apocalypse setting was one I found both strange and interesting: usually we’re thrown in pre-cataclysm or into some nightmarish deathscape, but Interstellar begins in a very unexpected place – a perfectly plausible near-future.
Having already listened to much of Hans Zimmer’s remarkable score, I’m pleased to say that it was still able to fully blow me away with its sheer majesty, ramping up emotion and tension in all the right ways. From the first scene, there’s a strong vein of beautifully composed music running throughout the whole film, and honestly, it’s got to be one of my all-time favourite scores.
I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by talking about scientific accuracy. It’s been incredibly well documented that Interstellar is by far one of the most scientifically accurate films ever made, and its extensive use of theoretical physics and relativity as plot points are carried off far better than I ever would have expected. The way in which writer/director/producer Christopher Nolan was able to use the complexity of advanced scientific principles in an accessible and understandable way throughout was refreshing, and at no point did the science feel strained or too messy to understand.
There’s a large ensemble cast of some of the best actors out there, but McConaughey is front and center throughout, making sure we all know what a singularly exceptional talent he possesses. There’s something about the mixture of Coop’s determination, his cool, collected composure, and his unyielding faith in his love for his children that makes him one of the most hypnotic, relatable, accessible sci-fi protagonists of all time. McConaughey’s ability to bring such a deep contrast of rich emotion to life is second to none, and he does it in a way that’s entirely seamless – there wasn’t a single moment where Coop didn’t feel like a fully realised human being to me.
The film’s narrative was relatively airtight, neatly wrapping itself up without any messiness – which, again, is remarkable when you consider the depth and complexity of the film’s plot – although it was incredibly heavy and unrelenting viewing. That would be my main (and only real) criticism of Interstellar: its length, combined with its slightly mind-bending use of physics and its outstanding performances, made for a pretty draining experience. Despite loving nearly every minute of it, and after being reduced to tears for a second time near the film’s end, I decided that it would be a long time before I sat down to watch it again. Interstellar is a true spectacle, and it’s a testament to Nolan’s skill as a filmmaker, but it’s almost excessive in its brilliance. In fact, after viewing it, I decided that I’d take a break from any high concepts, and instead cue up some mindless comedy.
Summary: A remarkable film and a singular experience, Interstellar is not the sort of film you can watch casually. It’s at once hopeful, tragic, and heavy from the off, and there’s more in it to unpack than even its near 3 hour runtime can manage. It’s brilliant, but it really isn’t for everyone.