The films of British-American writer/director Christopher Nolan are nothing if not ambitious. From his early, strikingly complex amnesia tale Memento to his reinvention of superhero mythology through The Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan has constructed movies the way architects and engineers build skyscrapers — in the most thoughtful, methodical and fail-safe manner possible. The content of Nolan's films always seems intellectually rigorous, even when it's based on a comic book, and his methods reach a new peak with Interstellar. What could be more ambitious and all encompassing than deconstructing time and space?
Interstellar stars Matthew McConaughey as a former test pilot called back into service to travel to another galaxy and save mankind from environmentally induced extinction. It's a truly epic work of science fiction and one directly inspired by the work of celebrated theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who co-developed the original idea for the film and serves as executive producer. He is the steward of hypothetical outer space phenomena like wormholes that make Interstellar's story possible. Shot in widescreen on 35 mm and IMAX film, the movie's gorgeous visuals intentionally recall pre-digital sci-fi classics such as Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The screenplay has enough low-key expository chatter to sink two movies, but Nolan's brisk pacing saves the day and allows an experience that seems far shorter than the film's nearly three-hour running time. Interstellar balances all the science with a human element by focusing on the relationships within the story's two sets of fathers and daughters. Issues of parental responsibility and betrayal permeate the film and add depth. Neither art film nor action spectacular, Interstellar draws you in with the sheer force of Nolan's vision.
Interstellar is far from perfect — some of the metaphysical musings at the end of the film seem half-baked, and it's too quiet and contemplative overall to be everyone's cup of tea. But you're going to have to see Interstellar if you want to understand the state of large-scale movies in 2014. How's that for ambition fulfilled?