Matthew McConaughey is far out, and I’m not taking about the “Dazed and Confused” star’s penchant for playing the bongos naked. Well, yeah, there’s that too, I guess.
In director Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” McConaughey pilots a spaceship through a wormhole near Saturn in search of a new home for our species.
Nolan’s near-future is grim. Earth is drying up and dying. The world no longer needs engineers, it needs farmers. McConaughey’s widowed character Cooper was once the former, now the latter.
From the great beyond, his daughter receives messages from dust streaks she decodes into coordinates (shades of Nic Cage’s “Knowing”) that the two follow to a secret government facility where a skeleton NASA team headed by Michael Caine operates.
Caine recruits “Coop” to fly off with Anne Hathaway. I gather very little arm-twisting was required.
It is the pair’s goal to return to various outposts prior expeditions established in the hopes that one proves a viable resettlement option. Nolan takes great care to school us in the metaphysics of relativity. Specifically that time in space is much shorter than time on Earth. In other words, in the time it takes us to watch this this longish 170-minute film, (spoiler alert) Matt Damon head-butts McConaughey on some distant planet.
Nolan is no stranger to crafting tightly woven tales that don’t insult our intelligence. In the 2010 mindbender “Inception,” the director traversed layers of the subconscious. Here, he bends time and space and uses gravity as a communications medium. (Marshall McLuhan would be so proud.)
The storyline is intriguing and the cinematography as good as anything in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity.” Unfortunately, the cast add very little. McConaughey does most of the heavy lifting, but he’s turned in better performances (see sidebar). Hathaway’s character lacks depth and there is no chemistry between the two, which made the ending (which I can’t reveal) perplexing for me.
Nolan does make brilliant use of silence. Violent scenes in deep space absent a score were especially effective in the limited-release 35mm version of the film I screened where all you could hear was the nostalgic whirl of the projector and the couple behind me wondering if they closed their garage door.
To borrow McConaughey’s trademark catchphrase, “Interstellar” is not great. It’s just “ahl-right, ahl-right.”