Interstellar, his (Nolan) sci-fi spectacular helixed around a father-daughter love story, is a gamble like no other in his career. It’s his longest film, his headiest, his most personal. And, in its square-peg-in-a-round-wormhole stab at being the weepy motion-picture event of the year, it’s also his sappiest.Interstellar is simultaneously a big-budget science fiction endeavor and a very simple tale of love and sacrifice. It is by turns edgy, breathtaking, hopeful, and heartbreaking.Black holes, relativity, singularity, the fifth dimension! The talk is grand. There’s a problem, however. Delivered in rushed colloquial style, much of this fabulous arcane, central to the plot, is hard to understand, and some of it is hard to hear. The composer Hans Zimmer produces monstrous swells of organ music that occasionally smother the words like lava. The actors seem over matched by the production.
Meanwhile, Right Stuff-style pilot-turned-farmer Cooper is prompted by ghostly forces to lead an exploratory mission through a wormhole beyond the rings of Saturn, abandoning his family in search of a future for all humanity. What follows is a dizzying mash-up of The Haunting, Slaughterhouse-Five.Event Horizon and the director’s cut of Aliens, with the inverted time shifts of Inception(an hour on a distant planet equals lost years back on Earth) thrown in for extra emotional heft.
Intergalactic portals are breached, timescales bifurcated, science and faith reconciled. Crucially, for all their astro-maths exposition, the constant in both stories is neither time, space, nor gravity, but love. More than once I was reminded of Contact’s Ellie striking the outer limits of the universe and breathlessly declaring: “They should have sent a poet.” In dispatching Nolan beyond the stars, that’s exactly what they’ve done.