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Interstellar – space epic explores 21st century anxieties

This article is over 9 years, 6 months old
It may resort to cliche and sentimentality in the end, but this flight of space fancy is refreshingly optimistic, says Dave Sewell
Issue 2429
Interstellar is out now
Interstellar is out now

There’s a rule rarely broken in films about the future—that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. 

Another is that to be taken seriously they have to be “gritty” and “dark”.

Christopher Nolan’s new space exploration epic Interstellar flies defiantly in the face of both.

Humanity struggles on in the face of ecological disaster—a living dustbowl wiping out one crop after another. 

And surviving has meant consigning consumerism and militarism to the unhappy memories of the elderly.

But the impulse to explore that impassions Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy/Jessica Chastain) seems to have gone the same way.

That is until a mysterious anomaly leads them to what remains of Nasa—a few scientists with one last spaceship who hope they’ve found hope in the stars.

Before long Cooper and his companions are off across the universe.

Their first stop is a world where the gravity of a black hole makes waves taller than mountains and decades pass in minutes. Their next steps explore the weird, wonderful future of human evolution.


In its scope and themes Interstellar owes a huge debt to Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

But 2001 made humanity’s future a cold and abstract subject. Interstellar is far more emotionally urgent. 

That’s both its strength and its biggest weakness. 

The actors and script ram home the painful dilemmas the characters face. They’re tested on behalf of humanity, as well as in their most intimate relationships.

It brings an immediacy to the questions that socialists also pose—where is society going and how can we shape it? However it resorts to cliche and sentimentality for answers.

Nolan makes female lead Emilia Brand (Anne Hathaway) neither a sex object nor a love interest. But this loses something as she’s given the sappiest, silliest speech of all.

Yet these flaws shouldn’t detract from a truly special cinematic experience.

Interstellar brings the best of 21st century special effects and social anxieties to a good old fashioned 20th century space opera—and that’s something not to be missed.

Interstellar. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Out now


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