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Cinema in Focus: ‘Interstellar’

3 Stars — Thought-provoking

Interstellar is classic science fiction. As is often the case, a catastrophic disaster falls upon humanity and it is human ingenuity and scientific advancement that provides the solution. Additionally, this new level of human ability promises to take our species to new levels of evolution as we strive to conquer the forces of gravity and time that have bound us in the past.

Directed by Christopher Nolan and co-written with his brother, Jonathan, the complexity of this tale mirrors their Academy Award-nominated film Memento and Christopher’s Inception. Similar to these films, the Nolan brothers enjoy teasing ideas to their ultimate and sometimes conflictual conclusions.

The setting resembles the dust bowl days of Oklahoma, but the dust seems to be a global condition. Having abandoned technical or scientific progress in order to feed those humans who are left, a talented astronaut, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), is now a farmer. Having lost his wife, Cooper cares for his precocious daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy as a child, Jessica Chastain as an adult and Ellen Burstyn as an elderly woman), and his son, Tom (Timothee Chalamet as a teen and Casey Affleck as an adult).

Through some fascinating events, Cooper is led to a secret NASA operation that the government has hidden to save humanity. It is their hope to find a new world in which humanity can find a new start. In charge of this operation is Professor Brand (Michael Caine), who is mentoring his daughter (Anne Hathaway) to be a part of the colonization.

In classic form, the story is filled with tension at all levels. Not only do Cooper and Brand boldly go into an unknown universe through a black hole, but the tension with which they struggle is the relativity of time and the unknown quality of gravity. It is this union that makes this a powerful film that engages both the mind and the nerves.

The larger question of whether or not there is an intelligence beyond us watching over us often enters into science fiction tales. It does so here but in ways that are as surprising as they are engaging. There are also some fascinating affirmations of the importance of love in the world that needs science to survive. A longer film that may not be as appreciated by those who are not science fiction fans, this is another Nolan classic.

Discussion

» One of the difficulties with suggesting that we can control time is that it is difficult to keep the linear logic in line. Do you find the use of time in this film consistent? Why or why not?

» The relativity of time as impacted by the black hole creates difficult personal decisions for Cooper and Brand. What would you have done if you had been in their situation?

» The drive to survive is used as an evil within the film. Do you find this drive to be evil? Why or why not?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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