(director/writer: Christopher Nolan; screenwriter: Jonathan Nolan; cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema; editor: Lee Smith; music: Hans Zimmer; cast: Matthew McConaughey (Cooper), Anne Hathaway (Dr. Amelia Brand), Jessica Chastain (Murph as an adult), Bill Irwin (voice of TARS), Mackenzie Foy (Murph at 10), John Lithgow (Donald), Timothée Chalamet (Tom at 15), Wes Bentley (Doyle), David Gyasi (Romilly), Topher Grace (Getty), Michael Caine (Professor Brand), Ellen Burstyn (Dying older Murph), Casey Affleck (Tom as an adult), Matt Damon (Dr. Mann); Runtime: 169; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Emma Thomas/Christopher Nolan/Lynda Obst; Paramount; 2014)
“It intelligently and in a masterful cinematic way weaves together a story that explores both the cosmic world and the real world.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Christopher Nolan(“Memento”/”The Dark Knight”/”Man of Steel”) co-writes the high-concept visionary screenplay with brother Jonathan. It’s nearly three hours long and is sometimes a tedious slog through its idea-rich story line. But as a space epic with a humanistic bent, it’s visually stunning, thought-provoking, filled with many twists, it fuels speculation about mankind’s future and its serious drama is touching. Nolan’s exceptionally well-conceived episodic sci-fi film, a response to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, is a save the world space odyssey, but with no aliens. Instead it intelligently and in a masterful cinematic way weaves together a story that explores both the cosmic world and the real world. It leaves us with the not too subtle powerful message that love takes us to places science might not be able to go. Its speculative theme tells us that at some point of time mankind will find the Earth no longer livable and would need to migrate to outer space to survive, and that there is hope because of America’s ability to always find solutions for its toughest problems.
It opens with mankind’s immanent end on Earth about to happen any time in the near future of the 21st century due to some unexplained catastrophic event that curtails our food supply. Focusing on the domestic scene of a farm family somewhere in the Midwest farm belt, we observe the actions of a family struggling to survive a Dust Bowl situation by growing corn. The family consists of the widower Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former test pilot, his teenage son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and his beloved bright but stubborn like dad rebellious 10-year-old daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy). Also living on the farm is his father-in-law, the children’s lovable grandfather (John Lithgow).
The action picks up when Cooper and Murph go driving at night in the countryside and locate the unclassified secret grounds of a NASA operation by following a mysterious code they discovered when it formed in the dust from falling books in their home library. Despite the space program losing its funding and shutting down, Cooper’s genius physicist old boss, Professor Brand (Michael Caine), and other true believers of the space program, huddle there to come up with a way to save the world. Brand is working on an advanced gravitational theory that suggests through a wormhole visible near Saturn, it’s possible for astronauts to slip through this narrow gap in space and emerge in a different galaxy near another planet so that its alien inhabitants might give us another chance to sustain life again on their planet. When Brand is not lecturing us on science, he invokes the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and quotes his verse of “Do not go gentle into that good night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” The film’s science technical adviser was theoretical physicist KipThorne, whose expertise in science makes this ambitious but far-fetched sci-fi film perhaps more intriguing than many others.
Brand talks the reluctant Cooper to go into space with a team of explorers to locate the previous explorers sent to find the wormhole. But Murph is not happy, as she believes dad is deserting the family instead of remaining home to look after them on a dying Earth. Even when Coop tells his family ”I’m coming back,” Murph is inconsolable.
On this Lazarus Mission, the pilot Cooper and the scientist astronaut Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Brand’s attractive daughter, are joined by the pensive astrophysicist Romilly (DavidGyasi), the scientist and co-pilot Doyle (WesBentley) and the mobile computerized robot TARS (voiced by BillIrwin). After two years in space, meaning that 23 years past on Earth, Cooper becomes distraught that he might not see his children again and faces opposition as he tries to get the mission to return home. In the meantime Murph (now played as an adult by Jessica Chastain) is presented as about the same age as her space-bound father due to the laws of space travel (an hour in space is 7 years on Earth).
For sci-fi techie geeks there are several diverting set pieces that include a spacecraft trying to get away from a mile-high tidal wave; a razzle-dazzle docking adventure; visually astonishing trips through wormholes; and amazing treks across an unimaginable frozen world covered by mountain-like formations of frozen clouds.
Though going too far when trying to tack onto science a number of truisms about love as dogmas and coming up short with too many mawkish family moments, nevertheless its heartfelt story about the trials of space exploration and about the right for Earthlings to grow up without being suppressed intellectually by authorities results in an engrossing and elegant film. It’s a compassionate and knowledgeable film that measures up to the better films of this sci-fi genre.
REVIEWED ON 11/8/2014 GRADE: B+