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After spending several years in social services, Nicole has finally followed her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. In addition to her work for The Hudsucker, Nicole is also a staff writer for Womanista. An avid comic book fan, BBQ aficionado, professional makeup artist and first-time mom, Nicole can be found exploring Kansas City rich history when she's not blogging about suburban life at Suburban Flamingo.

Love, Time, and Black Holes: A Review of Interstellar

Last Friday night I went to the movie theater. I grabbed some somewhat over-priced snacks, found the IMAX auditorium, located my comfy, leather recliner-style seat, and settled in to watch Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated Interstellar. Clocking in at nearly three hours long I knew that it was going to be a long movie. What I didn’t realize is that those three hours would stay with me far, far longer.


Image Credit: Warner Brothers

The plot is pretty straight-forward: Earth is in dire straights due to some seemingly ecological disaster that has left mankind struggling to grow enough food. Science and technology has been all but abandoned save for what will help grow food. Nearly everyone is a farmer now and is growing the only crop that is still surviving, corn. There are also massive, terrifying dust storms and a dystopian push for revisionist history in the schools. Specifically, kids are taught that the lunar landing was fake and that man and space never happened. But it did. And a test-pilot-turned-farmer named Cooper remembers. He’s trying to do the best he can to provide for his two children, son Tom and daughter Murph, as well as his father-in-law, Donald even as he feels ill at ease being bound to Earth. His young daughter has a scientific mind like her father’s, so when she reports that a ghost is knocking things over in her room Cooper tells her to prove it scientifically. Following a massive dust storm Murph and Cooper discover that coordinates have been left in the dust that settled on the floor. When they follow those coordinates they find a secret NASA facility that is working on a way to save the world. It seems that some years ago a wormhole opened up near Saturn and has allowed astronauts to pass through in the search for habitable planets. The plan is simple-seeming: Cooper and a team of astronauts and scientists will pass through the wormhole to investigate three possible new homes for Earth. While they are investigating, Professor Brand will continue working out an equation that will allow him to transport the Earth’s population to the new home. There is also an alternate plan that, once the team finds a suitable new home, they will proceed with a population bomb of fertilized eggs to start humanity anew. It seems like a solid, albeit last ditch plan, but it does come at a price: Cooper will be gone with no way of knowing when or if he will return. It’s a difficult choice, but ultimately he chooses to go in the name of saving the world and thus his children.

I could get deeper into the plot, but that would be spoilers and more than that it wouldn’t capture the visual scope of this movie. Yes, Interstellar is a movie with a story, but in this case the story is far more than the actors and the plot. It’s everything that fills your eyes and the wonder that invades your senses as you ride along with the crew through the wormhole and into another world. With Interstellar I came to see a movie, but the child in me ended up slipping the bonds of Earth to achieve her dream of going to space. That is what is so beautiful about Interstellar. Nolan does an incredible job of juxtaposing the fear and dread of why the heroes are leaving Earth with the beauty and wonder of space. Isn’t that in some sense what all adventure and exploration is, the fear and the wonder?

The images of Saturn are breathtaking. The trip through the wormhole is chaotic and exquisite. And the views of the black hole that looms large in the new galaxy are so gorgeous it is almost easy to forget that we think that what enters a black hole never leaves. There are two planets that we get to see as well, both of them possible new homes, that are exquisite and terrifying. The planets, named for the three explorers who went ahead of out heroes Miller, Mann, and Edmunds, represent our only hope and when the first two turn out to be less than hospitable their environments relfect the emotions of the crew. Miller’s planet is water-soaked and riddled with massive killer waves evocative of the tears and grief the crew feels as part of that mission. Mann’s planet, the planet believed to be our best chance, ends up to be stark and frozen, an icy abyss of fear and the desperation of the situation by the time the crew reaches it.

Science also plays a large part of this film, specifically relativity. Time is every bit a force in the film as gravity and is almost a character itself in the film. The further from earth and specifically once they are through the wormhole and in the realm of the black hole the weirder time gets. Time moves much slower for Cooper and his crew than it does for those left on Earth. People can argue the accuracy of the science in this film all day (and should, it’d be a fun way to spend a day) but even Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out that no other film has captured Einstein’s Theory of Relativity so visually. As for the scene at the film’s climax it is absolutely a little trippy and does come across as more than a little convenient not to mention that we have absolutely no idea if the science would work as it does in the film, it also gives an incredible visual of something that we often forget: our world is not just three dimensional. We live under the constraints of time and it informs our world in such a way that we really do live in a 4D world. Kip Thorne, who served as adviser on the film, did an incredible job of both making the great questions of science accessible as well as sparking the mind to ask more.

All of this beauty and curiousness would be moot without the human story being told and the actors really bring that to life. The cast is not huge, just a handful of characters, but the film is very well acted. Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper is both man aware of his responsibilities and boy with the wonder of the world as the farmer and father who leaves Earth to save the world and, most especially, his children. He does a very good job of presenting the stoic duty that just barely contains his paternal instinct. Anne Hathaway as Amelia Brand does a great job of portraying the restraint of science both in balance and at odds with the irrationality of the human heart. Michael Caine plays a smaller role as her father, Professor Brand, and is a delight as always. Caine has mastered the role of supporting character whose work as support sometimes mean knocking it all down. The real acting star of this film is Jessica Chastain as the adult Murph. Chastain doesn’t actually say a lot in the film, but the way she moves through the stages of grief through to the excitement of hope is incredible. She does more with her eyes than words could truly convey and her physicality in the role of a daughter left behind is impeccible.

The film has flaws. The length, while not something that I personally had an issue with, could be a detractor to those not as taken by the grandeur of space. And while the film is raw and realistic in IMAX where you can feel everything that the heroes feel as they careen through space there are more than a few times that sounds of the adventure get in the way of the often too-contrived speaking. Then of course there is the character, Romilly, played by David Gyasi, who really deserved more than what he gets in the film. On the whole, though, the movie is incredible and inspiring. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head and I suspect I’m not the only one.

Bottom line: Interstellar is a perfectly and brilliantly flawed film that makes you both question the universe and greater appreciate Earth. Definitely see this one in theaters, preferably on IMAX if you can. It’s a feast for the brain and the eyes.

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One Comment on “Love, Time, and Black Holes: A Review of Interstellar”

  1. fahmixopowo November 15, 2014 at 5:49 am #

    Reblogged this on INVIGORATIVE X.P.W.

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