Film Review: Interstellar

Our Rating

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaugheyMichael CaineAnne HathawayMackenzie FoyWes BentleyTopher GraceCasey AffleckJohn LithgowEllen BurstynBill IrwinMatt DamonJessica Chastain.

Plot: Planet Earth is dying and resources are quickly running out. NASA calls upon ex-astronaut Cooper (McConaughey) to pilot a ship through a wormhole in space to search for a new home for the human race.

Review: Christopher Nolan has been arguably the most influential and original director in Hollywood over the last decade. He has continuously produced smart, thought provoking spectacles such as Inception and the Dark Knight Trilogy. His latest and most daring project has been much anticipated by even semi-regular cinema-goers. Nolan’s sci-fi epic could well be the most breathtaking, awe-inspiring and exhilarating cinematic experience audiences have been treated to since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, even if cracks are evident beneath its seemingly flawless surface.

This is not a film solely about space and the possibilities that may lie ahead for mankind. Interstellar takes an interesting look at human beings, digging into ideas about the selfishness and selflessness of humanity. This is a film about family, more specifically the relationship between father and daughter, something that is highly connected to Nolan’s personal experiences. The father/daughter relationship is established to tear jerking effect early on in the film when Cooper has to say goodbye to Murph (Mackenzie Foy gives an extraordinary performance that will see her shot into stardom despite limited screen time) before he leaves for his mission, a mission that provides no definitive answers about whether or not he will return.

The comparisons to Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001 are there to see throughout the film. Nolan doesn’t hide the fact that 2001 is a huge influence on him as a filmmaker, claiming 2001 and Star Wars to be two of his most important cinematic experiences as a child. Even the robots in the film seem to be a direct descendant from Hal, albeit a slightly less crazy version, but no less humorous. The influence of 2001 is most evident when Interstellar starts to explore the possibility of the existence of more complex dimensions beyond our physical experience.

Interstellar is a visual masterpiece. The sheer scale and scope of every shot is breathtaking. Nolan had to find a new DP for this project with longtime collaborator, Wally Pfister, now involved in directing his own projects. Nolan chose, Hoyte Van Hoytema, (Let the Right One In) who has managed to create some of the most overwhelming visual landscapes ever seen on the big screen. From gigantic waves to the emptiness of space, every shot is simply breathtaking. Interstellar is possibly the most mesmerising visual project since 2001: A Space Odyssey and makes last year’s Gravity look like it was created on some guy’s computer in his bedroom. Interstellar has to be seen on the biggest possible screen, preferably Nolan’s favourite 70mm IMAX format.

Matthew McConaughey in his first role since receiving his Academy Award for Dallas Buyers Club is at his charismatic best as the typical American hero, Cooper. McConaughey reduced a full theatre to tears during a scene as he watches 20 years’ worth of video messages from his kids, whilst he only ages by a couple of hours. His charisma is a huge part as to why he works so well in this role. He is supported by a star-studded cast that includes veteran Michael Caine (Dark Knight TrilogyInceptionThe Prestige), Anne Hathaway, whose portrayal of a driven scientist conflicted with her own feelings is perfectly judged. Also, Jessica Chastain manages to keep the emotional connection with the audience that was laid down brilliantly by Mackenzie Foy, who plays the younger version of Chastain’s Murph. These performances have helped to create Nolan’s most emotional film to date, which is, evidently, something that has been missing from his previous projects. With Interstellar, Nolan has created a film that is both raw and heart breaking.

If you look deep into the film, past the visual brilliance, it is evident that Interstellar has flaws. One problem is the huge amount of scientific jargon that is used. Nolan spends time over explaining simple concepts while purposefully leaving you bewildered by more complex ideas involving theoretical physics. At times this leaves you feeling detached from the film, struggling to keep up with its complex plot. For this reason, audiences will find Interstellar Nolan’s least accessible film. However, co-producer, Kip Thorne, who is a theoretical physicist, has stated that the wormhole and black hole that are featured in the film are mathematically realistic.

The script is one of the main problems of the film, mainly surrounding the dialogue. This is nothing new in Nolan films. It was evident in Inception with the laughable line, “So, his subconscious has militarised.” There are a couple of moments where you find yourself suppressing a laugh, especially when Cooper is told by CASE that docking the ship is “impossible” only to have Cooper reply, “No, it’s necessary.” Dr. Brand’s (Hathaway) speech about love being the only thing that can transcend space and time is an all too obvious way of reinforcing the film’s main theme. This is a flaw that Nolan has been better at in the past, and we expect him to have more respect for his audience’s intelligence by not shoving the message down our throats.

The biggest and most infuriating flaw of the film is that of the climax. I can’t recall ever being more disappointed with the last 20 minutes of a film than I was with Interstellar. Again this goes back to the problem of making blockbusters for Hollywood. Production companies want a ‘Hollywood ending’ and that is exactly what Christopher Nolan has given them. If Nolan could have taken one more lesson from Kubrick, it should have been about endings. While 2001 allows the audience to work out the meaning and the events, Interstellar does the opposite. We are subjected to a 20-minute sequence of spoon fed information that we don’t need to see, and in certain scenes it is almost ridiculous. Without these last 20 minutes, Nolan could well have created a true masterpiece of the sci-fi genre.

Nolan has again turned to Hans Zimmer to supply the score for this film, and on this performance it is in no doubt that there is no one better out there for producing a score that has the ability to almost overshadow a film on its own. Every sound is incredibly loud, causing the most tense scenes to become borderline unbearable while you cling to your seat in fear of being lost in deep space. As the images of space appear on screen with incredibly shot planets in the background, it is the silence at these points that makes the shots even more beautiful. The calmness of floating through nothingness takes over your senses and brings serenity to the film amidst all the chaos.

Interstellar’s last 20 minutes overshadow what is an incredibly smart, emotional and breathtaking ride through time and space. This is disappointing, but there is no denying that Nolan’s new film is a hell of a ride and is by far the biggest film he has ever attempted. Audiences will leave the cinemas blown away by the visual spectacle that they have been treated to, but what could have been an absolute masterpiece will show bigger cracks with repeated viewing. Still, this is an excellent blockbuster that will do well in the special effects categories come awards season, and it should be taken both as a benchmark and as a lesson for future Hollywood blockbusters.

[Edited by Brent Minderler]

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