jpark’s review published on Letterboxd:
Nolan's masterpiece Interstellar champions the idea that humanity thrives when we dedicate ourselves towards discovering and conquering the unknown; striving to grasp things such as love, discovery and human connection. It's an epic and ambitious poem that treasures our capacity for survival, that longs to find a vision for a selfless and compassionate humanity. It transcends sentiment; forging a newfound and groundbreaking approach to finding that beautiful, singular element to what we call the human condition.
There's a key scene, I think, about halfway through the film that tests the thematic, narrative and logical strength of Nolan's entire structure here. Following the sequence on the "wave" planet, in which the crew loses 23 years of time for essentially naught. This changes the plan, and Cooper and Brand (McConaughey and Hathaway) debate what to do next, in essence. Brand argues the case for visiting the planet of her former lover, to which Cooper immediately maligns her for having compromised judgement. After quiet contemplation, Brand asserts a theory that perhaps that love heightens her judgement rather than impairs it; that this supposed weakness is rather a strength. That love, the fundamental longing she feels for someone who by all accounts is lost, is more than just the answer to this particular navigational issue, but rather a broader solution; to all the puzzling metaphysical questions humanity has been saddled with for generations. That this intangible, impalpable basic component to the human psyche is the key to finding a new home for humanity. Brand, and by extension Nolan, fundamentally asserts that the most unknowable, painful and mythical element of the human condition; the powerful bond of human relationships; might in fact be the thing that will launch us into a new era; even our salvation.
This idea in the hands of a lesser artist would undoubtedly feel forced, cheesy and sentimental to a fault. But Nolan is a storyteller in tune with human emotion, one of the rare artists that can package these ideas in an equally profound narrative. That's the single best thing I can say about the film; as a cynic, I believed Nolan. I felt compelled to roll my eyes at Brand's speech, or the many powerhouse emotional moments before and after it; but something stopped me. Nolan's film is masterfully made, artfully composed and well developed; with the singular purpose to convey the power of love. To put such a heightened valuation on mankind's simple capacity to feel, to connect. So many elements are at play here; thrills, spirituality, science, wonder, fatherhood, exploration, ambition, intellectualism; all delicately tied together by a central theme of love. The one thing that makes us as a species great, that singular part of us that we can be unambiguously proud of, despite the limitless confusion and pain it can often saddle us with. But Nolan believes it will ultimately be our salvation, grounding the film in a hopeful spirit. The basic belief that love; and the resolute power it can compound our relationships with that when backed against a wall; we will be able to reach, grasp and connect with one another across space, time and seemingly impossible gaps because of it.
It's a beautiful, life-affirming vision that is rarely so well conveyed. Interstellar marks an evolution for Nolan, both thematically and stylistically. His films prior to this are so often based in trauma; about (usually men) overcoming interior and exterior fountains of pain; conquering these dark and dangerous anchors plaguing his protagonists. It could be said there are two halves to Nolan the artist. The first being the softie; emotionally addled and very, very sincere in his thematic arcs. And Nolan's other half is the clinical film-maker; rigorously creating well-rounded narratives and making the structure air-tight; despite the often chaotic stories he tackles.
Interstellar is arguably the most aggressive clash between these sides; a clash that is not always level. But the beauty of this film is how each side feeds into the other, culminating in a work that is by extension about the very similar collision between our conscious and unconscious selves, sleeping vs waking and our fundamentally rational and irrational sides, and the forces that drive each.
Interstellar doesn't shy away from the darkness of humanity, though, but rather asserts that our greatness is often born from our crudeness. The corners we back ourselves into, the holes we dig for ourselves; the true wonders humanity is capable of are find as we climb out of those holes, make our way out of those corners. The ending, in fact, is a perfect illustration to this ethos. On one hand, it's an attempt to quantify human emotion within a logical construct; reaching through time and space to find survival. If Kubrick sees humanity from an alien, observationalist perspective; Nolan fully embraces his humanity. He tries to show what we can be when we embrace the best of ourselves. Alternating between scientific and spiritual methods of articulating the connection between science and humanity.
Interstellar is so much of what film often strives to be. A journey in and of itself, an out of body experience that explores the depth of humanity through a science fiction lens, probing at those huge existential issue with broad and intimate strokes, unveiling some essential truths along the way. The brilliant contrast between Mann and Cooper, and the similar instinct that drives each but to very different ends. The deep and beautiful relationship between Murph and Cooper. The profoundly beautiful imagery, flawless film making and awe-inspiring ideas.
It's simply a film that reminds me of the power of cinema. I remember my first viewing, as I stumbled out of the theater and felt so profoundly small as I gazed up at the stars. Elated, inspired, enlightened...it was an unforgettable three hours in the hands of a master artist. Nolan's dreams are bigger than any I've seen, his vision more valuable and ambitious than any other. Sure, some flaws are apparent. But what do we go the cinema for? Ideas? Visuals? Beauty? We go for an experience, and Interstellar is exactly this. Few films possess the power this does, even fewer tries to. Films like these are why I love movies, and by extension, why I love life.