Published on November 10th, 2014 | by Allan Brown13
Movie Review: Interstellar (2014)
Running Time: 169 minutes
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, Matt Damon
Mankind was born on earth, but was it meant to die here? So asks Christopher Nolan in his latest mind-bending, science fiction epic, that transcends both time and space. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Interstellar.
Set in the near future in a time of desperation and struggle, the earth and its remaining inhabitants are caught in the grip of an airborne plague known as The Blight, a disease that threatens to drive the few remaining natural food resources to certain extinction, as the very survival and future of mankind hangs by a thread.
But when a strange anomaly drives retired test pilot Cooper to a restricted airbase, he learns the discovery and presence of a wormhole orbiting nearby Saturn may hold the key to the survival of mankind. Chosen (by a now top-secret and privately funded NASA) to pilot a desperate interstellar mission, Cooper is forced to leave his children behind on a dying Earth, as he and a gallant team of scientists including Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Romilly (David Gyasi) , Doyle (Wes Bentley) and two obelisk robots named TARS and CASE, venture into the great unknown in a last bid to save the human race.
As with Spielberg and Kubrick before him, Nolan represents the blockbuster auteur of a generation. He like the previously mentioned, use the grandiose and epic scale of a blockbuster film, to weave high concept, enigmatic ideas around deep thought provoking questions on society, and the world we live in today. These more profound questions and ideas – that are more commonplace in smaller independent pictures and personal projects – present a more meaningful and satisfying cinematic experience, and one that goes way beyond just visual spectacle. As a result, Christopher Nolan (along with a selective few) presents a glimmer of hope to the blockbuster, which too many – me included – is in a perpetual cycle of repetition and mediocrity.
With writing like this, dialogue exchanges are just as dramatic, emotional and intense as the visual spectacle that surrounds them.
Interstellar is the directors 9th picture, and could well be his most ambitious, most reflective, and most exhilarating film to date.
On the surface the film is a high concept non-linear space adventure, but that premise quickly opens into something much deeper. It boldly dances with the cold and complex themes of philosophy, space science and morality, but roots them deep within a compelling and heartrending narrative of a father and child separated by the fold of time and space, but whose parental desire and eternal love propels them to exceed both.
As Stars glisten in the distance and planets fill the black void with colour and wonder, the vast vacuum of space draws you in to all its infinite possibility, as we pay homage to first time Nolan cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, who delivers one of the most jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring visual delights since Gravity. Nolan again uses CGI sparingly – preferring to build physical props for the actors to work with rather than green screen – and Hoytema blends the physical with the computer generated to seamless effect. Visceral planetary sites from the stark ice barren desert location, where glacial clouds hang from the sky creating a tense and imposing claustrophobia, to the flood plain planet, home to colossal tidal waves, not only act as visual references but force us to re-question what we define as habitable.
Although penned by both Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, with gravity, time, relatively, space and augmented realities in the balance, astrophysicist Kip Thorne was on-board as chief consultant and executive producer from day one, in a bid to deliver a professional realism that was as close to fact, as today’s scientific data allowed.
Matthew McConaughey anchors the film with another captivating performance as Coop. His stripped back non showy performance – as is with all the cast – allows McConaughey to give it his all, showcasing just how much acting range and ability he has – and boy does he deliver.
In one of the film’s most moving scenes, Coop who returns to the main ship after a disastrous venture to a nearby planet, discovers his brief departure was longer than he expected. We in devastation as Coop catches up on 23 years of recorded messages, from his children to a heart-rending realisation.
The rest of the cast all present equally compelling, non-showy performances. Indeed, there are no big heroic speeches or winks to the camera here. Nolan has secured the film deep in realism, and as the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, most dialogue exchanges are for narrative progression only. However, with writing like this, dialogue exchanges are just as dramatic, emotional and intense as the visual spectacle that surrounds them.
Hans Zimmer’s score not only compliments Nolan’s vision, but lifts everything it touches with astonishing effect.
To accompany the visual wonderment and emotional drama on display, comes Hans Zimmer’s fifth score with Christopher Nolan, delivering – like it was ever in doubt – another breath-taking audible experience. Zimmer’s score not only compliments Nolan’s vision, but lifts everything it touches with astonishing effect. Tension is built to an almost unbearable level, emotional scenes become profound and everything in between dances under another haunting original soundtrack, from the incredible score master, Hans Zimmer.
It could be argued that some characters aren’t given enough screen time to make an impact or fully connect like Topher Grace’s Getty, while other major players like Casey Affleck’s Tom , drop out of the narrative without conclusion or any acknowledgement. This begs the question, is there a longer cut out there, and was Nolan under the cosh to strip the run time back by the studio, resulting in some characters being stripped bare?
In the end, Interstellar presents an incredible cinematic experience. It effortlessly marries the visual artistry of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the heart and intimacy of Steven Spielberg’s early work. And while the film delves into the complex science of space, relativity, alternate dimensions (that presents a real chicken and egg scenario) and most prominently, our place in the universe, if we strip all that back, we are left with a heart-breaking story of a family torn apart by vastness of space and time, but whose inherent bond, drives them to overcome both.
Summary: Thrilling, thought-provoking, challenging and deeply moving. Interstellar is not only Nolan’s most ambitious project to date, but perhaps his magnum opus.