“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Dylan Thomas’ battle cry of survival is such a raw and courageous statement for endurance, against all odds! All men must, in Thomas’ view, rage against the dying of the light, and curse and bless but fight and fight to live!
It is this sentiment and poem that form the premise and the repeated theme of Interstellar. It is what begs the asking of the question that this movie is built upon; if we accept that a person will instinctively rage to save those closest to them, are they able or willing to rage with as much vigour to save the entire human species?
We enter the movie in a world that we recognise. It is our world but something is very, very wrong. Man has grounded himself, decrying the entire space programme as an elaborate hoax perpetrated upon the Soviet Union in an attempt to bankrupt them. They have rejected machines and technology, not to an Amish level but in a ‘back to basics’ kind of way. Thick dust is covering the planet as massive sand storms become commonplace.
Earth is running out of food as crop after crop fails. This is typical of Christopher Nolan who knows that the easiest way to take an audience on an incredible, fantastic journey is to ease them into it by starting somewhere familiar. His movies never open with long rolls of text or narration, explaining the new political landscape, they get through the required exposition in easy conversation between characters that are like Joe Everyman and before you know you are immersed and on your way.
We depart from this familiar, doomed world in Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway’s company, with Michael Cain reciting Dylan Thomas to remind them, and us, how high the stakes are. They are on a mission to save humanity by relocating them to a similar planet on the other side of a wormhole. It’s a noble and spectacular mission but in writing this departure sounds like Star Trek. As much as I am a fan of all things Trekkie, this movie is not that. This is a very human telling of the very human instinct that inspired Thomas and drives people to dig deep down into places of courage they didn’t know existed to rage and survive!
In a world where technology has all but been rejected, a highly qualified NASA Engineer and Pilot is a relic of a bygone era. While McConaughey’s fellow farmers in the now ‘caretaker society’ appreciate what he can do to automate a Combine Harvester, they do not hold his exploits in space in high regard and see him as a reckless cowboy who is not helping his daughter by letting her read about trips to the moon in old text books.
When he and his daughter stumble upon Anne Hathaway and Michael Cain, they feel like they have met with like-minded people but what Hathaway and Cain’s characters are working on shocks and surprises them. They discover that the situation on earth is far worse than they could have imagined and that they may be some of the only people that can do anything about it.
You expect a trip into space but what happens after they leave could only come from the great mind of Christopher Nolan. The challenges that they face are grounded in science and reason, which makes the tragedies which befall them so much more real and emotional. At one point Anne Hathaway tells Matthew McConnaughey that he may have to, “decide between seeing your children again and the future of the human race.” He answers, in his lazy, comforting drawl, “We will find a way, we always have.” In the moment you hope, with him, that it is true but you also harbour the same doubts and fears he does.
This is a white-knuckle ride for survival, against impossible odds that plays into all the mortal fears that live at the core of every person; mortality, the fleeting nature of the time we have with those we love and that we will ultimately be at the core of our own destruction. Adrenalin pumps through your veins, in sync with the main characters, you find yourself holding your breath with them, shaking your fist at the injustices that they face, steeling yourself with their courage and ultimately breathing out, laughing, celebrating and wanting to hug someone near you!
Interstellar is a great movie! This is easily one of Nolan’s best and has definitely made its way onto my Top 20! In the end you are filled with hope and a renewed belief in the resilience, determination and endurance of the human spirit.
Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway are impeccable and when Jessica Chastain enters the cast, the level of impeccability rises to even further. A stellar cast, a formidable premise, immaculate storytelling, an all round, really, really good movie that stays with you and makes you want to recommend it to others.
Rent this movie if you are in the mood for a big movie that will blow your mind a little and lift your spirits a lot!