Make no mistake, Interstellar is a big film. Big ideas, big images, big heart, all driven by the big ambitions of writer/director Christopher Nolan.
Interstellar takes what might, in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, have been a too-familiar series of science fiction tropes (doomed Earth, maverick ex-pilot, the perils and wonders of space) and spins them into a galaxy-spanning epic that delivers not only eye-popping visions of interstellar travel, but profoundly moving moments of human emotional truth.
Did I say “big”? Strike that, this film is immense.
The sequences set in space, or on alien planets – and there are a lot of these – are breathtaking. Dramatic and beautiful, and oh, thank god, Nolan is ready to let his camera linger on that beauty. Forget the era of fast-cut shaky-cam. Here at last is a filmmaker who’s happy once more to say, “Look at this, and be awed.”
Don’t take the word of a self-professed science fiction geek. My wife, whose eyes usually glaze over when I tell her the film has spaceships in it, was wowed by Interstellar’s panoramic visions of Saturn and all that lies beyond. That the film spoke with equal power to someone like her, and someone like me, is remarkable.
The same is true for Interstellar’s human dimension. Each of us each made powerful emotional connections with entirely different aspects of the narrative. My daughter connected with something different again. I’m talking real tears here, myself included.
So never mind the spectacle. Never mind the extraordinary, redemptive qualities of the film’s closing twenty minutes, which justify all the harrowing – and frequently desperate – drama that precedes them. Somehow, Nolan has managed to forge a film that speaks to many hearts, on many levels, simultaneously.
Are there gripes amid all this gushing? Well, there are always gripes. There’s a major plot point that simply isn’t adequately explained. Being a geek, I pieced it together readily enough but a little extra exposition wouldn’t have gone amiss. And I can’t decided whether the frostiness between two of the leads was deliberate, or down to a lack of chemistry. Knowing Nolan, it was almost certainly the former, but I’d have like to see a few more sparks flying.
These are tiny things. Raise the bar as high as Nolan has, and you’re going to make it wobble as you clear it. But clear it he does. In any case, the tiny things don’t matter.
Because this film is big.