Science fiction and Christopher Nolan go hand-in-hand. The director has always had a knack for exploring complex, cerebral stories from the eyes of a common man. Themes of hope, melancholy, and regret feature strongly in his movies, but the driving force is always love.
Perhaps most famous is Inception, where Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) wants to go back home to his children. His love for them is the driving force behind his actions throughout the film. However, Nolan’s space opera is the clearest example of the director’s devotion to this theme.
Directed and produced by Christopher Nolan, and written with his brother Jonathan Nolan, Interstellar deals with an apocalyptic future where crop blights and dust storms have ravaged the Earth. In a last-ditch attempt to save humanity, a group of astronauts travels through a wormhole near Saturn in search of a new home for mankind.
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“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt,” says former astronaut Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), revealing the foundation of Nolan’s story.
Speaking to his father-in-law, Cooper discusses his true feelings about humanity. As he sees it, we used to be a species of pioneers who took on the impossible and emerged victorious, who broke barriers and made the unknown known. But in Interstellar, humanity has lost its way. This is punctuated in a scene where Cooper learns that students are being taught the Apollo moon landing was faked in an attempt to bankrupt the Soviet Union.
Appropriately, Interstellar features an all-star cast, including Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, Christopher Nolan mainstay Michael Caine, and a young Timothée Chalamet. But arguably the most important character is Dr. Mann, another astronaut played by Matt Damon who’s already stranded out in space when Cooper’s crew stumbles upon him. Mann is supposed to be a national hero, but he quickly reveals his true colors when he tries to murder Cooper and steal his ship to get back home.
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Mann has completely given up on humanity, his faith challenged and shattered by years in isolation. He also knows a terrible secret about Cooper’s mission: It was never meant to work. Its only goal is to give humanity of sliver of hope as the apocalypse approaches.
Cooper’s love for his daughter won’t allow him to doom the people of Earth, while Mann, having no connection to anyone, is ready to let them perish. Cooper sees Mann’s selfishness as an act of cowardice. In the end, Cooper doesn’t hesitate to do what’s necessary, proving that he’s willing to fight for humanity’s life at the cost of his own.
In the years since its release, Interstellar has only become more potent. The threat posed by climate change is rising every day, and we are truly running out of time to save our planet. It will take an effort on the massive scale of Cooper’s mission to save the Earth. Hopefully, when the time comes, we’ll take Christopher Nolan’s most important message to heart: The only way forward is love.
Interstellar is currently streaming on Paramount+.