INTERSTELLAR I Nolan reaches for the Stars

I think I may just have seen the best film in my entire existence.

Now, before I am thrown the usual he’s-just-jumping-into-this-whole-hype remark with the obligatory eye roll, I will tell you that I am well aware that every superlative should be used with caution. It’s hard to be taken seriously when using words like “best” because oftentimes, it’s this spur-of-the-moment thing. Like when you hear a brand new song and decide you’d listen to it forever but eventually tire of it. But this is different. I honestly believe Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is the best movie I have ever seen. The first reason being TARS, and the rest …well, you’ll have to read on.

Plenty of spoilers here so read at your own risk.

Here’s why.

AFTER EARTH

In Nolan’s universe, Earth in the not-so-distant future is reduced to a population that has turned to agriculture for survival. Wheat, which has been completely eradicated by a mysterious blight, has been replaced with corn as the primary food source, but even that is being threatened as well. The continuous storm of what seems to be sand and dirt is posed to obliterate this last remaining crop which will ultimately drive the entire human race to starve. There is no clear explanation as to what started this strange phenomenon but one thing is clear – the planet that has once nurtured the human race has finally turned against it. Naturally, it seems that man must leave earth.

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This is where Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) comes in. Together with his daughter, Murphy (Mackenzie Foy), the former astronaut turned farmer stumbles upon a mysterious gravitational anomaly that leads them to a super top-secret NASA headquarter which ultimately convinces him to pilot one of mankind’s most dangerous and ambitious space expedition to date. A sudden turn of events that, in my opinion, totally deserves the well that escalated quickly meme.

The Lazarus expedition, aptly named after Lazarus – the man Jesus revives from death hopes to give a second life to a soon-to-be dying race. The plan is to find a habitable planet across the universe by entering through a wormhole that has suspiciously appeared near Saturn. The wormhole connects to another galaxy, gazillion of light years away, which has potent candidate planets for mankind’s new home.

But just as the mission was inspired by a miracle, Cooper and his team of astronauts might as well be praying for one if they wish to pull this off. It’s just not that simple. What sets this film apart from every other space travel film that has ever been made is its profound awareness of time, more specifically, its variability. Time is not constant, it is in fact relative, as Einstein has pointed out. It is just as variable as speed and distance. I would dare say that this tiny inclusion to such a familiar plot as space travel is a bold move. No one has done it before and no one even seemed to even bother to tread such treacherous waters. And this diversion makes a complication of cosmic proportions.

See, time here is treated as a resource just like food, oxygen and water. It just doesn’t run out as with most movies, it is stretched and dilated. This poses a huge problem. To complete the mission, the space crew must be split in two, one hasto be left behind in the endurance (Romilly) while the rest must go to each planet and gather data. But in order to reach the planets, the sampling crew must enter a powerful gravitational field that distorts time. Since the planets revolve around Gargantua, a massive spinning black hole, the time slippage must be considered precisely as there is no other way around it. As the astronauts calculated, one hour (planet time) is equivalent to seven years (endurance time). Yes, you read that right. Seven whole years of solitude for poor Romilly in that spinning wheel.

WE ARE MERE MORTALS

Immediately, Nolan confronts us with our own mortality. We are prisoners of time.It becomes clear to Cooper and his team that each second has to be utilized carefully since in their situation, a tiny prick can turn into an ugly gashing wound. Which Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway) proves right away, anyway. Something goes horribly wrong in Miller’s planet (the first candidate planet) which delays them and cuts them short of one astronaut. All thanks to Miss Anne brattyways stubborn refusal to call the mission off.

Miller’s planet turns out to be a waterpark from hell. Due to gargantua’s strong gravitational field, powerful tidal forces create these huge waves on the planet’s surface. It becomes clear as day that this was no place for man to thrive.

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They return back to endurance to find out that Brand’s actions caused them more than two decades of slippage. Fortunately Romilly is still alive (although a lot older) and is surprisingly still sane.

Two planets remain – Mann’s and Edmund’s, and a decision must be made, and fast. Mann’s planet was more promising but Brand wants to pursue Edmund’s. This forces Cooper to blurt out his suspicion that Brand had the hots for Edmund and therefore her judgement was clouded. Her voice on the matter was immediately dismissed and it was going to be Mann’s planet.

Dr. Brand immediately goes Fantine and delivers this monologue about love as the only force that transcends space and time. And that following love instead of logic was the right thing to do. She could be right or she could be wrong. Sadly, the synopsis has to end here.

This movie cannot be justified by just reading about it or even watching it at home. This film demands to be experienced as Nolan has intended it to be. It has to be watched in a movie theatre. And dont even get me started on Hans Zimmers scoring for this film. It’s overwhelming in a good and strange way. It complements the film well and gives you this feeling of immensity. It’s a full-blown orchestra when it needs be and reduces into a series of percussion that gives you a sense of dread, as if something terribly wrong is about to happen. It’s just perfect.

If someone asks me why I love this movie so much,which I have already been, I’d find it really difficult to answer. It is a refreshing addition to an overused genre. The things that I have experienced watching it were mostly sensory and resides mostly on the subconscious which are really hard to define or articulate, and those that I can explain are basically too idealistic, completely abstract or downright mumbo jumbo.

As of writing, those sensations are yet to subside. I remember perfectly how I wanted to watch it again after the credits started rolling. And so I did, for good measure. Just to make sure that it wasn’t, you know, a spur-of-the-moment thing. And it wasn’t, that I’m certain. Actually I’d advise anyone who has seen it to consider watching it again. The scale of the plot alone for this film takes some time to wrap your mind around into. Not to mention that southern accent Matthew’s sporting is really hard to understand.

THE DAWN OF MAN

I had to borrow some Kubrick. This film undeniably feels like an homage to A Space Odyssey but somehow Nolan has taken numerous liberties in this film that it feels brazenly original. As with Odyssey, this film courageously tackles humanity. The movie might have taken us across the universe but the point being driven might actually be closer to home.

This movie is a three-hour dissection of the human condition.

I remembered sitting there in the dark (sadly with only about five other strangers who watched it with me), watching as Endurance is speeding its way to Saturn and thinking what has all this space around us mean? Does it even have to mean something in the first place?

Surely, it has got to mean something. The scene where Endurance shots its way across this vast space of nothingness really puts mankind into perspective. We are but a speck of this unfathomable void. The film talks of leaving Earth for some kind of natural disaster; about building huge space crafts to repopulate some other earth-like planet. But maybe all this empty space around us is telling us that we should just stay right where we are. You don’t need blight nor some tentacled queen alien-we as a people are more than enough to threaten our very own existence. There seems to be a never ending reason for war at every corner of the globe. We desperately aspire for a life out there yet we can’t even protect the life here on our own. The human condition is as complex as the fibers of stars, dust and galaxies that are strewn together to make our universe but buried deep within that raging mess lies a specific quality that has taken as this far.

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We have the ability to love. Corny, but true.

It’s not reasonable, yes, and an abstract concept at best, but sometimes maybe logic can only solve so much. A mother is willing to give her own life for her children. A nun cares for dozens of orphans as if it were her own. A soldier is willing to take a bullet to protect not just his family but his countrymen. We are capable to sacrifice our own life for someone else’s sake. Love has undeniable power that reaches far beyond the comforts of human comprehension. This couldn’t possibly be a genetic fluke we inherited from our ancestors. It was placed there for a reason. Like a two sided coin, we are both our own end and our own salvation. But we don’t have to toss that coin and let luck decide for us. We can take the matter into our own hands. We as a race can wield our own destiny.

As the movie closes and we are shown that Dr. Brand was right after all, that Edmund’s planet was the perfect candidate for mankind’s new habitat and that choosing the heart over the mind can sometimes be the right thing to do I was reminded why I loved my previous best movie The Mist so much. It, too, was a rigorous study of the human condition (plus it was written originally by Stephen King) and its ending hits you like a ton of bricks. In times of moral crisis, it is very tempting to lose our humanity and what ultimately makes us human is our ability to love.

Essentially, I feel like Interstellar is Nolan’s love letter to mankind. And as most love letters come in scented envelopes, Nolan’s has come with a front row seat that carries you into an endeavor, not just of the farthest distances of the galaxy but most importantly, deep into the pursuit of the abyss that is the human psyche. An endeavor that is impossible as it is necessary.

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