Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is an information-heavy, plot-thick movie that at times may feel like a lecture on Quantum physics and other sciences of the sort, but is, at its heart, a story about the love and connection between a father and his daughter that requires you to sit forward and use your imagination rather than sit back and watch passively.
Similar to 1997s Contact, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is a cosmic mystery that builds and builds to a dramatic last third, taking its time to get there while posing many philosophical and scientific questions along the way. Much of the science that is spoken in the film is heavy on terminology and can be a bit hard to follow, but I can't fault the film makers for that. In fact, I praise the brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan for not pandering to the lowest common denominator of audiences by dumbing down their theories and quandaries. Instead they give us a film that has a slight air of dissertation, while still maintaining an ability to connect to audiences by having their "scientifically profound and intelligent" characters make notions of the human nature (with the metaphysical notion of 'love' being a key factor) so that we can feel the dramatic nature of their situation.
Interstellar is a film that will benefit from multiple viewings. It is long and poses many questions, much of which adhere to the unfolding of the story and have initial payoffs, if you pay attention from the very beginning of the film onward. Matthew McConaughey is fantastic once again in what can be considered a new version of himself - an actor who was once labeled as a "Hollywood hunk" but is now becoming one of Hollywood's leading men (much like the transformations of Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio before him). His performance as a widowed father, trying to care for his family in a Dust Bowl-addled version of the future (a time frame that is not specifically spoken, but I presume is around the year 2050), is award worthy and emotional. He is chosen by what remains of NASA as the only man to pilot a ship into a distant black hole in order to find a new home for the human race in response to the slow decay of the planet Earth.
And with that, I will speak no more of the actual storyline. The film marvels at the unknown, building toward a conclusion that we anticipate but can not predict. There are a few loose ends in the middle of the film that add drama and tension that I felt initially were a bit unneeded (especially with a surprising cameo that results in a situation that comes completely out of the blue), but again I feel future viewing will change my mind on that notion.
What worked extremely well for me was the last one-third of this near three hour film. Where many questions were posed and interpersonal conflicts explored, the conclusions builds to one hell of an emotional wallop. Mixed with Hans Zimmer's best score since The Thin Red Line, the ending of Interstellar is a welcome handful of both tear-jerking and the uplifting. The Nolan brothers seem inspired in a way by the structure of writer Damon Lindelof (creator of the television show Lost and Ridley Scott's Prometheus, both of which I was a fan) in that many questions can be asked, and not ALL of them have to be answered. Much like the crew's own personal discovery, the audience goes along for the ride, with the keen-on-detail members posing questions of their own. Unlike Prometheus (or even 2001: A Space Odyssey with which it has been most closely compared), Interstellar DOES answer many of its questions yet still leaves the air of the unknown on the table for people to talk about for years to come.
Interstellar is a strong film, heavy on information to the point of cranial overload, but emotionally powerful in its last third enough to forgive the hard-to-follow moments of the science of space travel and Quantum physics. Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Michael Caine both give powerful performances, and the rest of the cast (especially Jessica Chastain) fill out well. What stood out the most to me was the script by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan (intelligent almost to a fault) and the musical score by Hans Zimmer. Let the film soak in during the credits, and plan on seeing it twice.
A lot was said about the film's Oscar and box office potential, and how its length and intellect-heavy script would effect it. In my opinion both factors will work for AND against it, with many people discovering the power of the film long after its release after choosing to avoid it at the theater. While I don't think the film will win Best Picture, I do think it is technically proficient enough to pick up some recognition for its impressive visual effects and sound design. And Hans Zimmer's score is the best work he's done since the late 90s.
My final initial thought is this: If you are the kind of person who hated Contact because there weren't "aliens" at the end, then you probably won't like Interstellar either. That also makes you a damn moron, as well.