November 7, 2014 by Paul Curtin
Easily one of the year’s most anticipated films, visionary director Christopher Nolan’s latest mind-bending film is finally set for launch. Focusing on a more emotional story written with his brother Jonathan Nolan, whom he also co-wrote Memento and The Dark Knight with, Interstellar has all the makings of another Nolan masterpiece with an all-star cast of Academy Award winners and nominees… and for the most part, the sci-fi thriller lives up to its hype.
Clocking in at almost three hours long, Interstellar’s odyssey has multiple stops along the way, and Nolan and Co. have done a great job keeping the specifics of the story shrouded in secrecy up until now. Containing tons of crazy concepts and multiple twists and turns, the story even features shocking appearances from A-list actors not mentioned in any of the promotional material. Without a doubt, Interstellar will keep you guessing from beginning to end. On the surface Interstellar is a deep space thrill ride, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a beautiful homage to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey that’s filled with serious subject matter involving the power of love, the will to survive, and the mysteries of space and time.
As you can gather from the trailers, in a not-so-distant future the people of Earth are faced with extinction after unexplained events and a blight have caused massive dust storms and nitrogen in the atmoshphere continuously rising closer to deadly levels. The harsh living conditions have killed off almost all of the world’s crops aside from corn and are causing the dwindling human population to develop serious health conditions. With food now being the top priority, there are no longer massive governments, military, or billion-dollar programs devoted to space exploration. Instead, children are taught in school that the original moon landing was a hoax to bankrupt the Soviet Union, and they’re encouraged to focus on agriculture in order to ensure that the corn keeps growing.
Ex-NASA engineer and test pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a widower now living as a farmer/scavenger with his daughter, son, and father-in-law. “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars… now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt,” mutters Coop to his weathered father-in-law (John Lithgow). He’s not just trying to make sense of it all, but also echoing the Nolan brothers’ own thoughts on America’s current depressing lack of interest in space exploration.
After some odd occurrences in their house lead Coop and his daughter, Murphy (the perfectly cast Mackenzie Foy), on a hunt for answers, they wind up stumbling upon mankind’s last hope for survival. NASA is still operating underground in secrecy and is led by Coop’s old professor, Brand (Michael Caine), who explains that it’s only a matter of time before there’s no food left. Corn will soon stop growing and the clock is ticking. Lucky for us, Brand and the other scientists have discovered a new wormhole, conveniently placed by an unknown source next to Saturn, which they believe leads to inhabitable planets similar to Earth.
Being one of the world’s best pilots, Coop is given the chance to fly the final flight through this wormhole and save mankind. Of course, there are no guarantees as to what exactly they’ll encounter on the other side, leaving Coop with the fear of the unknown we all have and the even bigger emotional dilemma that he won’t be be able to save humanity or ever return home to see his family again.
Coop is accompanied by Professor Brand’s daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), scientists Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Romilly (David Gyasi), and a scene-stealing building-block robot named TARS (Bill Irwin) that surprisingly helps add just the right bit of humor by playing off Coop and fellow robot CASE. Nolan is known for his characters lacking that personal touch, and here he overcorrects the issue with melodrama that can at times hit hard and at other times be a bit too much.
With humanity being responsible for its own downfall, almost everyone has their moment of begging for forgiveness, and just as in his other recent award-winning performances in Dallas Buyers Club and True Detective, it’s McConaughey who showcases the greatest range of emotion and shines brightest while planet-hopping through the stars and witnessing years of time pass in an instant.
Although the cast of A-list stars is superb, it’s the literal stars that contribute most to making Interstellar feel special. The visual effects are spectacular, and Christopher Nolan’s choice to shoot the movie in 70mm film pays off here more than it has for him ever before. Known for using as many practical effects as possible, Nolan succeeds in making what you see onscreen feel real. Factor in the added scale when watching on a 72+ foot real IMAX screen, and the extra price of admission is a no-brainer that will have you forgetting all about the current trend of 3D and instead pondering the prospect of 5D.
Once again, Nolan has teamed up with Hans Zimmer to produce another mesmerizing and haunting score that takes cues from Kubrick’s classic 2001. Unfortunately, as with his last film The Dark Knight Rises, certain parts of the audio mix can be hard to hear with background noise and music sometimes overpowering the dialog of the characters. The booming bass of a spaceship taking off and shaking the theater is great, but Nolan really should get his hearing checked or hire another sound director for his next film so us viewers don’t have to worry about missing out on hearing vital information.
While not as visually sleek as last year’s best film, Gravity, or as haunting and daring as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Nolan’s Interstellar lands somewhere in between as a wonderful combination of the two. The result is an exhilarating psychological thrill ride that does its best to try to answer the mysteries of the universe and succeeds in creating a unique and entertaining experience despite being a bit convoluted at times. For all its scientific jargon on theories of relativity and astrophysics, Interstellar is surprisingly easy to follow along with.
Moviegoers will have a love-it-or-hate-it feeling towards the way in which the final act is handled, but as with any good sci-fi film, it’s more about the journey than understanding every single detail of how you got there. Most will end up running home to debate the complex ending’s twist, and with time Nolan’s ideas here will likely be considered brilliant just like Kubrick’s own distinct choices. Interstellar might be a step back for Nolan when compared to his best films, but it might also be his biggest accomplishment yet that still ranks as one of the best sci-fi films ever made. Either way, there’s no doubt that what Nolan has done here, like any true classic, will move the art of filmmaking forward. Interstellar gets 4.5 out of 5 stars (Amazing).
- Visually stunning
- Great performances
- Thrilling action
- Crazy concepts and twists
- Over an hour of 70mm IMAX
- Powerful score
- At times a bit too melodramatic and convoluted
- Controversial ending
- Audio mix makes some dialog hard to hear