I am not a Christopher Nolan apologist. In fact, I'm usually among the first to point out his films' plot holes, contrivances, and overall self-seriousness. So when, during the very first days after Interstellar's release, I began seeing people complaining about the same things I usually complain about, I thought, Oh well, here we go again.
I still see all of Nolan's films, mostly to maintain my cultural literacy, but also out of genuine curiosity, as they are always packed with ideas - even though some of those ideas don't live up to their potential. And so I dragged myself to the theater - sorry, Mr. Nolan, I was unwilling to pay the extra three bucks to watch your movie in 35mm (who would've imagined that it would ever cost a premium to watch a movie projected the way movies had always been projected up until the last decade?) - and prepared myself to be mildly entertained and mildly disappointed, as usual.
But reader, I must confess: I wound up liking Interstellar.
Before I go any further, I have to say that it's always better to see a movie not knowing much about it beforehand - or at least only knowing the basics of the plot. This applies to Interstellar more than most, so if you're keen on seeing it, go ahead and read the rest of this review after you've done so.
In my case, I knew that the film was about the end of the world and about a team of astronauts, led by Matthew McConaughey, seeking out other planets where the remains of human race might find a new home. Obviously Nolan and his brother/co-writer Jonathan aren't the first to tackle this premise, but it's still irresistible to see it given the epic big-screen treatment. Of course, if you've seen the film you'll know that the Nolans have far more on their mind. And so Interstellar's first act is Spielbergian, then there's a healthy dose of 2001-style space ballet and some plot intrigue, and finally the whole thing winds up, well, rather Nolan-esque. (An extended scene at the end has Inception-like trippiness and introspection.)
The film is not perfect: For instance, a subplot involving McConaughey's son is clearly devised only to add suspense to a key scene. The character's motivation is unrealistic and the whole bit feels contrived. Also, some may find the physics that come into play during the space scenes to either be pseudoscientific nonsense or too perplexing to enjoy. I admit that I found a lot of it rather baffling, but I respected the Nolans' confidence in their ideas. This is some serious sci fi storytelling, and while there will be nit-pickers, I can't accuse the film of dumbing things down.
But why did I like Interstellar? Hans Zimmer's score has a lot to do with it. I'm not a fan of the composer's work, but his music is beautiful and adds so much to the film. And then there is McConaughey, whose natural warmth is very welcome. (The rest of the cast, including Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine, is just fine.) And I admired the Nolans' distinctive take on what the future might look like. They refuse to state just when this story takes place, letting the audience come to their own conclusions, based on a smattering of hints. (I'm guessing it's about 40-50 years in the future.) Finally, I found all those concepts about relativity and wormholes and such to be invigorating. Confusing, but invigorating.
Any movie this ambitious will surely let down some viewers. But it's also the tenderest of Nolan's films, and I was surprised to note that the director is capable of doing tenderness well. Above all - and I don't say this about many contemporary films - I think it's interesting enough to warrant a second viewing.