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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Interstellar | Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Topher Grace | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
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Interstellar | Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Topher Grace | Review

Black holes and wormholes and space, oh my!  Sound familiar?

Although containing elements of Dorothy’s quest to get back to the safety of home, Interstellar begins as a quest to get away from home.

In the not-too-distant future, Earth is dying of blight, brought on by humankind’s centuries-long exploitational pillaging and polluting.  Dust storms plague farmers whose crops have been reduced to nearly subsistence level.  The very last crop of okra – ever – has been harvested.

Former NASA test pilot, father, and current farmer “Coop” Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) grows corn in the middle of perpetual airborne dust that settles on every surface, in every bowl, and unfortunately, in lungs that need air to breathe.

His children, Tom (Timothée Chalamet /Casey Affleck) and sharp-as-a-tack Murph (Mackenzie Foy/Jessica Chastain/Ellen Burstyn) are motherless, cared for by Coop and his father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow).  The family is tight-knit.  Life is as good as it can be, under the circumstances, one of which is that Murph is convinced that a ghost is haunting her.

Coop is skeptical until the dust in his house starts to take shape in the form of Morse code, leading him and a concealed Murph to find a secret NASA base led by one Professor Brand (Michael Caine).

Long story short, and it is a loooong, loud story, Coop is talked into accepting a mission, (part of the larger Lazarus Mission) to find another habitable planet (out of three) inside a wormhole, where pioneer astronauts/scientists/explorers have been conducting research.  Time and gravity and quantum physics get in the way of his relationship with Murph, who begs him to stay, and their goodbye ends badly.  

Coop blasts off on the spacecraft Endurance with a crew that includes Professor Brand’s own daughter, Amelia, known simply as Brand (Anne Hathaway) physicist Romilly (David Gyasi) geographer Doyle (Wes Bentley) and a metal, walking “M” of a robot named TARS.

There’s a Plan A (evacuation) and a Plan B (repopulation).  The three possibly viable planets are named after the scientists who’ve landed there: Miller, Edmunds, and Mann.  The Endurance sets out to make contact and attain data.  Wouldn’t you know, a light-sucking Black Hole named Gargantua sits on the edge of one of them?  Hey, finding a new home in never easy.

Coop and Brand clash over logistics and things don’t go as planned, which is an understatement almost as big as Gargantua.  Coop and Murph are estranged.  Precious time passes on Earth due to planet Miller’s gravity (one hour = seven Earth years).  Some people age; others don’t.  Some people cease to exist.  Some harbor secrets, misunderstandings and misguided loyalty.  

Meanwhile, the Earth becomes more toxic to living organisms, and Coop’s family members disagree on what to do about it.  Professor Brand makes a confession.  Coop’s fuel reserves are low.  

I’m only just scratching the surface here, determined not to give away spoilers within the complex relationship webs that interconnect within the larger picture of human extinction and space/time continuums.

Although a spaced-out McConaughey may be nothing new, the in-space actor does a marvelous job of portraying the fearless but conflicted Coop.  Hathaway is refreshingly intrepid and dedicated as Brand.  Chastain is quietly effective as the Earthbound Murph, alternately bitter and hopeful.

The portrayal of Dr. Mann is a surprise.  Hint: the actor’s been affiliated with an Affleck before.  Topher Grace makes a brief appearance as a physician.  It is always a pleasure to encounter John Lithgow.

Director Christopher Nolan’s (Inception) co-wrote the script with brother Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight, The Prestige), injecting more heart than expected in exploring familial ties with the same intensity used to gather planetary data.  One drawback is that…

Hans Zimmer’s rumbling soundtrack frequently overpowers important dialogue, vexing in this case because exposition is so crucial to the viewer getting “onboard” with the crew of Endurance and its maneuvers, many of which defy logic unless you’ve grasped EVERY word of time/gravity physics that you manage to hear.  And possibly, even then.

Still, the film is worth seeing as an adventure, as a cautionary tale, and even as Celine Dion, Luther Vandross, and Huey Lewis used to sing, a tribute to “the power of love.”

The stars are in alignment on this one.

 

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