Interstellar (2014)

Rating: B

Dir: Christopher Nolan
Star: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin

While there is certainly some spectacular speculative imagery here, with its wormholes, black holes, alien planets, robots and spaceships, what I think most stood out for me was that it’s still a very human story, with love at its centre. On a dying Earth, former pilot Cooper (McConaughey) is recruited for a last-ditch attempt to save humanity. This involves a voyage through a wormhole near Saturn, to scope out possible alternative habitats to Earth: once that’s found, Plan A is building an ark to transport the human race to the stars; if that proves impractical, plan B involves using frozen embryos to rebuild humanity from scratch.

He parts on bad terms with his 10-year-old daughter, Murphy, and unexpected time dilation on one of the candidate planets means decades pass with them being out of touch. Low on fuel, and facing unexpected treachery, Cooper is faced with breaking the promise he made to Murphy, that he would return. And even if he does, there may not be any future for humanity. It’s been a long time since McConaughey first made any impression on me, in Reign of Fire, and he has certainly matured as an actor. I was reminded on a few occasions here of his co-star in that flick (and regular Nolan collaborator) Christian Bale: they seem to have a similar ability to take characters who might not be likeable, and give the audience a connection.

That makes a huge difference here, taking what could have been just another space-ship gallop, and gives it emotional heart and punch. It’s not without flaws – at almost 170 minutes – it’s almost certainly too long, though I’d never go so far as to call it boring. It also borrows a bit too much from the astonishingly over-rated 2001, as well as from Contact (which also starred McConaughey, interestingly). However, this possesses no shortage of its own ideas, and is another spot on the map confirming the renaissance of intelligent science fiction at the cinema, and as such, both its existence and its popular success can only be welcomed warmly.