There’s a scene in “Interstellar” that is simple compared to the rest of the epic film, but it perfectly encapsulates everything that is right with this picture.

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) has just returned to his spaceship after visiting another planet in the hopes of finding a new home for people currently living on a dying Earth. The planet’s time worked differently from Earth’s (the effects of a black hole used by our movie’s space travelers and differing gravity) and Cooper and others have lost many years they could have had back home.

Cooper sits down to receive messages from home, messages sent by his growing kids. It’s been only hours for him, but his children have aged decades. We watch as Cooper sees his son become a man, fall in love, have a child, lose a child; he slowly breaks down in waves of first happiness and then ruin.

McConaughey pulls the scene off with a genuineness very few leading men possess today. It’s a scene that could help other actors showboat or show their limitations, but McConaughey’s heart and mind breaks in front of us, and we are there every step of the way.

 

It’s far from the only moment in the film with that level of raw emotion and intensity. Director Christopher Nolan and his writing partner/ brother Jonathan Nolan have a screenplay that has ambitions rarely seen in any art form today. However, what makes “Interstellar” work is that they ground and center this story with a heart. It’s that heart that helps us buy into the heavy and dense science of black holes and other strange phenomena convincingly thrown at us.

The Nolans never want to make the science the center of the film. Instead they want to use it to enhance the stories of humanity, good and bad.

There’s a father and his children. He knows the sky calls for him and that the world needs him as it is falling apart, but don’t his kids need him more? Especially his poor daughter, praying her father keeps his promise to return home.

Then there’s about an hour of the movie where a surprise guest shows up (most people know who the actor is, but maybe some don’t) and after enduring a big portion of film buying into the science of worlds and gravity and universes, we get the weakest in human nature shown to us. Humanity doesn’t change, no matter what planet you’re on.

It’s hard not to over-praise “Interstellar.” It looks better than any other Nolan film (which is saying something), has a collection of exciting sequences that can be watched again and again and truly bring you to the edge of your seat. Every actor is doing some of the finest work of their careers, and composer Hans Zimmer’s score is one of his best.

Some didn’t buy into “Interstellar” which may be because Nolan has been held to a very weird standard ever since the overpraised “The Dark Knight.” “Interstellar” is a movie with an ambition that very few artists inject into their movies now. That ambition runs from the most basic human relationships in the story to some of the more elaborate sequences to the complex scientific details laced throughout the picture.

Christopher Nolan does not shortchange audiences with his movies, and “Interstellar” is no different. With “Interstellar” he literally shoots for the stars. Luckily for the audience, his skill matches his high ambition.

The Blu-ray edition, available now, contains some of the better and more elaborate making-of docs that even casual watchers will enjoy. There’s also an IMAX film cell from a 70mm print of the movie.

“Interstellar” is worth the purchase price alone, but the packed and intricate set match this stunning film in quality and uniqueness.