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'Interstellar' Pierces Through Space, Stretches the Imagination

  • Penelope Poulou

Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan takes audiences beyond the Milky Way galaxy with his philosophical sci-fi drama, Interstellar.

His award-winning cast, breathtaking cinematography, razor-sharp editing, haunting music score and profound story unlock the endless possibilities of space exploration on an IMAX screen. Opening nationwide November 7, the visual story of cosmic proportions is grounded by an intimate tale of love between a father and a daughter.

Cooper, a test pilot-turned-farmer, sees humanity’s dying spirit in a dying planet. Sometime in the near future, the climate change on Earth has caused an agricultural crisis setting the beginning of famine. Cooper knows that corn, one of the last crops to survive the permanent drought on the planet, will start dwindling soon. By then, it will be too late to save the world.

Cooper is a widower who raises his two children on their corn farm with the help of his father-in-law. He shares a special bond with his young daughter, Murph, who also shares his love for science. Together they follow coordinates that lead them to an underground site where a small group of scientists and engineers are preparing a space mission beyond the galaxy in search of habitable planets.

One character in the film, Professor Brand – the brains behind the mission – informs Cooper that scientists are no longer meant to save Earth but to leave it.

Nolan said his film does not advocate abandoning an ailing planet instead of reversing global warming. He said the intention is to show that, if necessary, humans have the spirit to move beyond the confines of our galaxy.

But Interstellar shows that though the human drive for adventure is powerful, what sustains us is the love that binds us together.

Brand offers Cooper the dream of a lifetime: Go out there and explore the universe.

But Cooper is torn. He loves his children too much to leave, but also too much to stay and let them die.

Nolan launches the astronauts into the cold unknown. They look so vulnerable against the backdrop of the awesome vastness of space.

But their drive to save humanity scales unfathomable distances. They are the trailblazers of a new era.

Inspired by Kubrick

Nolan said his greatest inspiration was visionary Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi philosophical drama A Space Odyssey: 2001. Nolan saw it when he was 7, he said.

"My dad took me to see it on the big screen on the re-release," said Nolan. "That experience just stuck with me my whole career: the potential of what movies can be, how that big screen can take you across the universe. Interstellar is definitely my attempt [to] give kids of today some sense of that."

Interstellar takes audiences through wormholes and black holes at a dizzying speed. It looks at their backbones and probes their purpose with scientific integrity. Throughout the movie, Nolan consulted with leading theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, whose work focuses on detecting gravitational waves, studying black holes and conceiving the great possibilities or wormholes.

Endless space, intimate portraits

But as big as this space film is, it is equally intimate.

In the lead role, actor Matthew McConaughey offers a layered interpretation of conflicted Cooper, who promises his daughter he will return. But he fears he may never see his kids again.

"It’s about the dare of exploration, discovery and courage," McConaughey said. "And it reminds us that our capacities are sometimes ... greater than we even give ourselves credit for. We have incredible capacity as a species and this film challenges us."

Challenging roles for women

Anne Hathaway plays Amelia Brand, the professor's daughter and a bioengineer looking for habitable planets. She leaves her father behind.

Hathaway said her role was a demanding one, emotionally as well as physically.

"I am a tomboy so I usually don’t like to admit when I am challenged by something, but this was really hard," she said. “... I’m the only girl for miles, and so the boys, for them were like oh! This suit is kind of heavy and I am just ...."

Hathaway's voice trailed off as she slouched, recalled the suit's weight.

Jessica Chastain plays Cooper’s daughter, Murph, as she grows up.

As time stretches beyond the confines of the galaxy, one hour for the astronauts is seven years on Earth. And while Murph’s father is working against time to find a planet and see his children again, she, is working as a scientist against time to save mankind on Earth.

“This is a character which for women is very odd to get to play, a character like this that gets to be intelligent, capable, actively participating in our own world and the world around her and emotional,” Chastain said. “Sometimes women can be intelligent and capable, but they are not allowed to be emotional, right?”
Special effects aside, each character goes through self-exploration through self-sacrifice.

Nolan, the director who gave us Memento and Inception, does not follow shortcuts or clichés. As the skeleton crew races through the mysterious fabric of the universe, Interstellar takes us on a gripping, emotional and unpredictable journey.

This is a movie of Titanic proportions.

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