Sci-Fi, 169 Minutes, 2014
Smart sci-fi has seen something of a resurgence in the past few years (let’s just forget how stupid “Lucy” and “Prometheus” were). People seem more willing to actually think about the stories and so production companies seem more willing to fund them. Of course, the fact that this particular movie is from a guy that’s made gajillions (yes, that’s gajillions with a “G”) of dollars could also have something to do with that.
Christopher Nolan [IMDB] has yet to do a bad film, so it may come as no surprise that this isn’t a bad film either. Nolan’s genius lies in his ability to simultaneously focus on the details while exploring an ever widening scale. That he often does this across multiple intertwined threads makes his work all the more impressive.
Like his 2010 masterpiece, Inception [IMDB]. this film also traces multiple timelines through the same events. Where that film created a fantasy of layered dream worlds, this pushes hard science with relativistic space travel, time dilation and cryonic hibernation. Time can be tricky and this movie revels in that fact.
Resources on Earth are all but exhausted. Monoculture farming, rampant use of fossil-fuels and an anti-science backlash have all but consigned humanity to a slow, choking death. When a frustrated pilot, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey [IMDB]), discovers that a cloistered group of scientists is working to find a new home for the species, he signs on to the mission even though it means leaving his family behind.
The mission will use the last of Earth’s spaceborn resources to explore several potential new homes while sending data about a nearby black hole back to Earth. The team on Earth will attempt to solve the problems with an experimental gravity drive using that data. If they are successful, thousands of families on Earth may be saved; if not, the mission team is equipped with a last ditch opportunity to create a human colony using archived genetic material.
The two stories intertwine at radically different paces. Cooper’s daughter (played primarily by Jessica Chastain [IMDB]), resentful of her father leaving, grows to become the chief researcher on Earth. Cooper and his team explore the available targets and struggle to overcome relativistic realities that radically alter their perception of time.
The intricacies of the plot are amazingly deep and will likely spawn hours of post-viewing conversation for those that care about such things. Those that really care may want to plan ahead and have a whiteboard handy. For those that would prefer to keep their sanity intact the movie is packed with all of the action and spectacle that fans have come to expect from Nolan.
Every aspect of this film represents a team at the top of their creative game. The story is layered and deep without being cloying and the action is solid and inventive without being allowed to dominate. This is nothing less than a modern classic of science fiction.