Soundtrack review: Interstellar

Simply put, Zimmer's soundtrack is Interstellar's connective tissue.

Interstellar, the most recent offering from acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, is a truly great sci-fi movie.

Huge, jaw-dropping galactic vistas; emotionally hardwired monolithic machines; gritty, uncompromising space suits, and stunning intergalactic travel: The Dark Knight director’s latest effort confidently ticks off everything on the science fiction checklist, making comparisons to Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – one of Interstellar’s more obvious inspirations  – unsurprising, but deserved.

Indeed, Interstellar is a great sci-fi movie, but, in the very same breath, it really, really isn’t. In fact – and please, bear with me here – Interstellar really isn’t a sci-fi movie at all.

I know you might think you love Interstellar because of its wonderful sci-fi elements, but I assure you, if that’s the case, you’re not looking closely enough. Just to be clear though, I’m not suggesting that they don’t play their part. That would be madness. 

What I’m implying is that Nolan’s vision of the future – a dying, dusty Earth that threatens to suffocate the human race, and the unexplored solar system that reaches out to save us – is, much like the audience itself, a passenger.

The real story, the one at the very heart of Interstellar, holds more weight than any of the beautifully realised planets, stars, and singularities that exist in Nolan’s new frontier. It’s the story of regret, it’s the story of love, and, ultimately, it’s the story of a parental bond severed by time, space, and everything in between. 

As Interstellar’s very own Dr. Amelia Brand quite rightly states, “love isn’t something we invented. It’s observable, powerful, it has to mean something. Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.”

Clichéd? Perhaps. True? In Interstellar’s case, undoubtedly.

After all, it’s the bond between Coop and Murph –  brought to life thanks to some heart-rending performances from Matthew McConaughey and the young Mackenzie Foy – that ties us to Earth, allowing us to feel the crippling weight of every millisecond that the crew of the Endeavour spends in the void, and, more importantly for us here at Side One, it’s a bond that allows Hans Zimmer to tug on our heartstrings with the pinpoint precision of a master puppeteer. 

Cooper and Murphy 2

Indeed, Zimmer’s soundtrack, largely performed on the glorious 1926 four-manual Harrison & Harrison organ that resides in London’s 12th-century Temple Church, effortlessly captures the all-encompassing nature of space, imbuing the movie with an unparalleled sense of wonder, and dwarfing viewers as they lose themselves in uncharted galaxies.

Soft piano cues flicker and dance around sweeping organ crescendos that threaten to overwhelm the senses, lending Interstellar the emotional weight and sheer raw power it needs to capture hearts and minds.

“Zimmer’s ethereal five-note melody haunts us, placing the film’s emotional core front and centre when we’re confronted with the improbable.”

As the film unravels and begins to stride away from science-fact into the murky waters of science-theory, we’re are asked to suspend our disbelief and, like the characters themselves, take a leap of faith. Zimmer’s score supports that narrative push, with the composer’s ethereal five-note melody haunting us, placing the film’s emotional core front and centre as we’re confronted with the improbable.

That subtle, omniscient melody – heard predominantly in tracks such as Day One, and S.T.A.Y – becomes our very own ghost. Its familiarity is a soothing, human presence, and as we’re jettisoned into the unknown, thrust towards Interstellar’s final, mind-bending scenes, it sparks: igniting emotional epiphanies both on-screen and off.

Simply put, Zimmer’s soundtrack is Interstellar’s connective tissue, and whether it’s the urgent ticking we hear in Mountains, reminding us of the importance of every second, or the giddy, exhilarating tones of Cornfield Chase, which tell us all we need to know about Coop’s thirst for adventure, the score is inexorably linked to those images dancing away on screen.

Nolan himself has said the very same thing, suggesting that out of all of their previous collaborations “Hans’ score for Interstellar has the tightest bond between music and image” that they’ve ever achieved.  

Well, guess what? I couldn’t agree more. Zimmer’s score truly is the lifeblood of Interstellar, and while I wouldn’t besmirch Nolan’s work by implying his movie would be a train-wreck without it, let’s be honest, it’d certainly be damn sight worse.