Interstellar Review

Posted: November 9, 2014 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

The opening shot of director Christopher Nolan’s new sci-fi epic Interstellar is of toy models of rocket ships gathering dust as they lay forgotten on bookshelves, relics of a time when there was more hope in the world, and it’s a shot that subtly grabs you while also being rather telling. Not only do those dust-coated rockets foreshadow the civilization in this film that’s had its dreams and future crushed by the crippling reality of nature and/or destiny, it’s not hard to conclude that the somber image also maybe represents the mostly forgotten ideals of Hollywood to push boundaries and go to new places. With Interstellar, Nolan — who has become one of the best modern day film directors — intends to reawaken that desire for discovery, and his appropriately-themed film does just that in spades. It’s experiences like the one I had while watching Interstellar that remind me exactly why I love movies in the first place. It’s about wanting to be transported somewhere exciting, to feel like you’re going on a journey to somewhere incredible that you don’t want to leave, and Interstellar is a film equally powerful enough in both scope and pure, raw feeling that it accomplishes that feat.

The setting is a future where a blight has put our species on a path for extinction. Unrelenting dust storms have gradually depleted our natural resources to the point where the human race is barely getting by as it is. Food is the last remaining commodity, and even that is dwindling fast, with corn being the only remaining thing in that regard, but not for much longer. A rural, widowed farmer named Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), also a former NASA pilot, can sense the end coming but chooses to remain as hopeful as he can for the benefit of his two children and father-in-law (John Lithgow). That sense of hope is renewed aplenty, however, after Cooper gets his hands on a mysteriously-downed surveillance drone, which sets off a small chain of events that leads him and his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) to an underground facility, but not just any underground facility: NASA. There, Cooper encounters Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a former colleague who reveals to Cooper the existence of a wormhole located in the vicinity of Saturn, as well as the plan to mobilize a crew to travel through it and search the uncharted territory on the other side for viable options to relocate the human race. Brand convinces Cooper to pilot the mission, traveling with the professor’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and physicist Romilly (David Gyasi) and geographer Doyle (Wes Bentley). Cooper’s decision to go — for years, as the journey takes the crew to unknown new planets — causes he and Murph to part on bad terms, and it’s a decision that hangs heavy over both their heads, especially years later on Earth when Murph has grown into an adult (Jessica Chastain) and is trying to follow in her father’s footsteps.

As I sat in the theater, mostly staring in marvel at the IMAX screen on which I saw this film, three comparisons to other highly-lauded science fiction films came to mind: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Robert Zemeckis’s Contact. Interstellar is very much in the tradition of those films, wherein all of the more lavish and extraordinary aspects of the story are firmly in support of the emotional proponents that essentially drive the film, especially as they relate to the characters. For all of the vast and sheer scope on display in this film, Interstellar always remains an intimately personal affair, and as a result, it’s all the more engrossing. The comparisons this movie will most commonly draw are ones to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and to be frank, as much admiration as I have for that film, it never felt like a story I could get emotionally involved in. Interstellar, on the other hand, doesn’t have that issue. If the big ideas and ambitions of Kubrick’s sci-fi opus were combined with some really emotionally resonant drama — ideas and ambitions that are fascinating but which I don’t consider myself well-read enough on scientific theories to even attempt to try to dissect — then the end result, I think, would look something like this.

In fact, it’s safe to say that Interstellar is Christopher Nolan’s most unabashedly sentimental film to date, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; not at all. If you’re someone who objects to emotional manipulation that can come off as in-your-face, then be warned, because there’s plenty of that to go around here. A few weeks ago, I criticized The Judge for being a rather egregious offender in that regard, but the difference between that and Interstellar is that Nolan’s film takes the time to carefully construct character relationships that are strong enough where when the time comes for them to be faced with tragedy and distress, those moments carry real weight and conviction rather than feeling like strings being pulled to get a reaction. Christopher Nolan and his co-screenwriter/brother Jonathan do this by first establishing a future that’s not too elaborate, but rather grounded and focused on the stakes involved. This relatively smaller canvas in comparison to other doomed future scenarios allows for the more emotional angle the filmmakers are going for, and it serves to enhance the bigger aspects of the film. There were quite a few times throughout where I was on the verge of tears, and yet I never felt like I was being hit over the head with sentimentality. In terms of offering an experience that isn’t driven solely by excitement, I’m pretty sure Interstellar has the edge over last year’s Gravity.

This is also a result of the acting, which is stellar (no pun intended) across the board. Just because he’s fresh off an Oscar win, it’s clear that Matthew McConaughey isn’t content to merely rest on his laurels, as he gives another riveting performance as Cooper, possibly among his best roles to date. McConaughey brings a lot of nuance to the part and makes Cooper not only a very sympathetic character, but also one we can easily root for. There are many major dramatic beats for the character that McConaughey just hits out of the park. Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi and Wes Bentley all provide equally strong work, Hathaway in particular and especially in some one-on-one scenes towards the end. But perhaps the real revelation of the cast is young Mackenzie Foy, who can be utterly heartbreaking as the young Murph. The scenes in the first hour that build the father-son dynamic between her and Cooper are very strong and are another reason why the film works so well emotionally. Also really effective is Jessica Chastain, who continues Foy’s great work as the adult Murph and is just as great.

Christopher Nolan keeps his status as one of the best modern-day directors going with how he directs this film. Nolan has always strived to do as much practically as possible, and while I’m not sure how he pulled off the outer space scenes (not the planet sequences) with that mindset, those parts are still impressive nonetheless. Specifically, there’s a sequence a little over two hours into the movie where I was simply in awe. It’s an action sequence of sorts, reminiscent of something in Inception, but the way Nolan brings together imagery, a feeling of excitement and music for that portion had my eyes wide and left me practically on the edge of my seat while I felt giddy, for lack of a better term. Speaking of the music, Hans Zimmer once again has teamed up with Nolan for the score, and he delivers something quite unlike his usual stuff. Zimmer primarily uses what sounds like a church organ as his instrument of choice this time around, and while the score definitely partakes in bombast (which I actually like in scores), it can also be quieter during the more character-driven moments. The use of the organ actually adds to the “space opera” feel, and I loved it. Nolan just seems to have a knack for knowing how to pull together all of the necessary elements for a successful film, and with Interstellar, he may have crafted his most ambitious film to date … and it pays off.

This isn’t fanboyism talking, this is genuine excitement for the work of a major talent who knows how to make extremely worthwhile mainstream fare. Interstellar marks an invigorating accomplishment for Christopher Nolan, whose credits already included The Dark Knight and Inception, and he’s certainly proven himself worthy of being among the stars. Go. See. This. Movie.

****/****

Comments
  1. reel411 says:

    yeah, pretty much every scene with Murphy had me on the verge of tears. It’s such an overwhelming sci-fi experience. not perfect but the emotional arc is breathtaking

  2. Great review! I also really enjoyed this one.

  3. I really liked this film, probably my favourite science fiction film in years. The concept was right up my alley.

    Great review Mike :D

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