Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” starts out as a 1930s-style dustbowl lament before launching us into outer space. The Earth is dying, with food running out, and only retired astronaut Matthew McConaughey can save it, by piloting a craft through a wormhole in search of a new home planet.
The mechanics of his recruitment by top scientist Michael Caine are obscure, and much else is both unexplained and inexplicable. Unfortunately, one has a lot of time to ponder this as we meander at a leisurely pace through admittedly stunning vistas with Cooper (McConaughey) and his fellow space travellers Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley and David Gyasi. Meanwhile on Earth, decades pass, and Coop’s daughter, Murph, resentful at his abandonment of the family, nevertheless goes to work for Caine.
Frankly, for long periods, “Interstellar” is quite dull. It is sustained by the performances - McKenzie Foy heartbreaking as the young Murph, who grows into Jessica Chastain; the visuals – as impressive as one has come to expect from the Nolan oeuvre; and Hans Zimmer’s Reich/Glass-inflected score. The robots are also entertainingly clunky.
High adventure is not on the agenda – it is quite a way into the running time (close on three hours) before we get some movie-style action, courtesy of an unbilled guest star, but this is a mere prelude to the climax, when things get truly mind-bending.
It is this hard-earned final stretch on which “Interstellar” hangs, and it is, indeed, spectacular, cleverly translating into visual terms the film’s themes: the human survival instinct, our need to explore and the desire for connection.
Certainly worth watching on the big screen, but take an energy bar.