Director Christopher Nolan revealed this interesting tidbit about his collaboration with Hans Zimmer on “Interstellar”s score: “I said, ‘I am going to give you [Zimmer] an envelope with a letter in it. One page. It’s going to tell you the fable at the center of the story. You work for one day, then play me what you have written.’ He was up for it. And it was perfect. He gave me the heart of the movie.”
This is the key to understanding “Interstellar.” It’s not just about science and humanity’s next step forward. It’s not just an epic stretching across time and space. Neither is it just an awe-inspiring directorial vision from one of Hollywood’s best storytellers. The fable at the heart of the movie is a love story between a father and a daughter.
It’s the not-too-distant future, and Earth is dying. Crops are failing after years of climate change and bad choices. The atmosphere threatens to choke us all. The human race doesn’t have any options left – except for a far-fetched escape route into space.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a failed dreamer. He was on track to become a pilot for NASA, but that was before he flunked his training. Now he settles with being a farmer and a single father to his children while watching the world slowly dry up. However, a mysterious message gives him the coordinates to a secret NASA base, where they convince him to pilot their next mission. The destination is the other side of a relatively new wormhole.
Saying anything else about the plot would ruin the movie. But it’s not a spoiler to say that the relationship between Cooper and his daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy), drives the entire story. Nolan has been criticized for a lack of emotion in his films. “Interstellar” flings that idea into the outer corners of our universe. Several scenes left me in tears due to the powerfully written father-daughter dynamic. In my opinion, Nolan reaches the apex of his creativity because of the added emotional element. He mixes the epic with the quiet, emotions with cold reason, and somehow finds humanity in between.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t problems with the film. The sound design was executed poorly in some scenes and left me unable to hear the dialogue. A change of pace at the third act’s beginning felt off balance with the rest of the story line. Perhaps the most infamous part of the movie was scientist Amelia Brand’s (Anne Hathaway) “Love is the one thing” speech, which will sound corny to most viewers. Some will question whether the ending makes sense (though as a sci-fi fan, I loved it).
There are bumps in “Interstellar,” but to focus on the small blemishes and not see the breathtaking full picture would be a mistake. It boasts a bold, formula-defying vision that is uncommon in studio blockbusters today. The visuals are astounding and won an Academy Award. Zimmer’s score is without a doubt his best and most spiritual work yet. McConaughey’s acting wonderfully helps the audience connect to the story. And none of it would have been possible without Nolan’s extraordinary directing.
This movie is beautiful, epic, flawed, and unexpectedly emotional. I am confident that film critics and movie-goers alike will regard “Interstellar” as one of the decade’s best and as Nolan’s masterpiece.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.