Right off the top, Interstellar is no small statement, either in time or what it attempts to say. It runs a full 169 minutes, not quite three hours, and while it might have been able to give its testimony in an edited form, I seriously doubt it would be the same film or have the same impact.
On the surface, it is what you’ve seen in the previews and trailers. Our Earth is exhausted, fatally damaged by human mistakes and natural disaster. A physicist played by Michael Caine asserts that while humankind was born on this planet, it was not meant to die on it. The recent discovery of a wormhole in the proximity of Saturn and subsequent exploration reveals the possibility of new, habitable planets in an equally new galaxy, plus nascent technology which would allow a mass emigration to those new worlds. Yet to say that was the sum of the movie would be like saying that All the President’s Men was the story of a break-in at the Watergate.
Interstellar is first and foremost about the human condition, at its best and its worst, under the most ordinary conditions and under those where the word “extraordinary” strains to qualify as an adequate adjective. It’s about the implications of traveling through the stars, particularly as regards the considerable impact of relativistic time and separation on those who leave and those who stay behind. Certainly it wants to convey the psychological consequences of all of the above and the characters’ attempts to deal with and ameliorate that fallout. Perhaps most of all, it is about optimism, the clear optimism Christopher Nolan has about the human race and what he thinks is possible under the extreme conditions his opus is set in, even if in some places that positivity flies in the face of the laws of physics.
As you might expect, the film is visually stunning. The cinematography is excellent; its special effects work seamlessly where you would expect them to, and in at least one instance, they create a “world” so far removed from our experience that only imagination could provide a map to it. Accompanying the visuals is an amazing soundtrack by Hans Zimmer which is nothing like any of his previous work, nor of any other film in recent memory. Audio effects are occasionally almost painfully loud, in at least one instance shocking in their realism, and generally do a brilliant job in aiding with conveying the reality of a story which, for the time being, remains fiction.
Mr. Nolan could truly be said to be reaching for the stars with Interstellar in multiple senses. Whether he was successful or not with his audience will be determined with the reaction of the individuals who view it, as is the case with any movie.
As for me? I want to see it again.