Interstellar Review

Posted: November 12, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

*There are no overt spoilers in this review, but this is the kind of film that is best gone into blind. interstellar-teaserposter-fullWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I’m generally not too fond of the question, “What’s your favourite film genre?” It’s not that I don’t enjoy genres, the problem is I don’t like only selecting one, or limiting films to a type of classification. I’ve seen great films from all kinds of genres, and great films which either can be classified as one thing, or have trouble being classified at all. However when people ask, I tend to answer science-fiction. This is in part because “sci-fi” can be such a broad label. Alien and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for example, are both science-fiction films, but they have little in common. More importantly, science fiction films have the potential to really explore deep ideas, and there can be a great sense of wonder to these types of films. From the get go, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar seemed like a film of such ambition. All of the marketing was able to generate awe, and what little I read spoke to the grand goals of the film. Now Interstellar has finally arrived to much hype and anticipation.

In the near future, the Earth begins to lose its ability to sustain human life. Food has become scarce has fewer crops are able to grow and dust storms have become a common problem. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former pilot who is now a farmer, and is a widower and father of two young children. His main goal in life is to provide for them. Through a strange anomaly, Cooper discovers a message giving co-ordinates to a secret facility. This facility turns out to be the remnants of NASA. Led by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), they have a plan to travel through a wormhole near Saturn and explore potentially habitable worlds. That way the human race can survive beyond Earth. Feeling he was led there for a reason, it is decided Cooper should be the one to pilot this mission, accompanying several other scientists including Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway). Cooper is reluctant to go as it means leaving his children, but he is convinced that this is humanity’s last shot at survival. He agrees to leave, which causes great strain on his young daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy).

Within the first few minutes of Interstellar, I found myself transfixed. The futuristic vision of Earth alone is wonderful and would have been enough to sustain a film all its own. The brilliance of the future comes from the subtlety of it. At a glance, it really doesn’t look all that different from the contemporary world. But look a little closer and a little longer, and the details start to emerge. The notion of the world collapsing due to a blight which causes a food shortage is a very interesting and realistic idea, as is the way humanity deals with it. Society doesn’t break down and people don’t become violent animals either. Instead, humanity stubbornly continues in denial, unable to accept that extinction may be around the corner. It’s a refreshing take on a dark future which is not dystopic nor utopic. It merely presents humanity doing its best to survive. Once Cooper arrives at NASA, there is some wonderful and inspiring material regarding the possibility of survival amidst the stars. Some interesting plot details are revealed and the story begins to really take form.

Much as I love the material set on Earth, it is once Cooper and the others venture into space that Interstellar truly begins to excel. The details of their voyage are treated in a realistic fashion and I really enjoyed the general exploration. There’s some great stuff regarding where they should travel first and how they should go about it. I really enjoyed the processes depicted and was reminded of Danny Boyle’s criminally underrated film Sunshine. It is in this section that the plot makes several twists and turns, many of which completely change the film, all of which are highly interesting and effective. I won’t say too much, as a lot of the film’s success comes from simply seeing things unfold, but suffice it to say these turns are riveting. The film also isn’t afraid to get very weird and philosophical near the end. I don’t think it works perfectly, but it’s extremely ambitious and unique. Most big-budget blockbusters wouldn’t dare go to such unconventional material, and I applaud the Nolan brothers for having that courage. I should also mention that once the film moves to space there are several exceptional set-pieces. Some of these are exploration based, some are on foot, and some are in space, but all of which are fantastic. Interstellar may be heavy in ideas and philosophy, but those seeking thrills will not be disappointed.

Running through the film are some key emotional storylines. The central one is the relationship between Cooper and his daughter, which works very well. All three actresses who play Murphy (Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain, and Ellen Burstyn) are great and bring an appropriate mix of love, intelligence, and a sense of anger and abandonment to the part. It’s also worth noting that despite being played by three different actresses, the relationship between Murphy and Cooper feels genuine and heartfelt throughout. McConaughey is still riding high and while I doubt he’ll be getting much awards consideration for his work here, he does deliver a very emotional performance and creates a very sympathetic character. The rest of the cast is also very strong and do their part to bring the emotion to the forefront of the film, particularly Anne Hathaway who is up to her usual high standards. I really enjoyed the emotional side of the film and was wrapped up in many of the scenes. Having said that, the film has a tendency to lay things on a little thick. Some of the things it suggests about love in particular is pretty damn silly.

On a technical level, Interstellar is an exceptional achievement. The visual effects are consistently great and made better by the fact that many of the effects were accomplished practically. All of the spaceship material looks great and the way space is shot is very good as well. There’s also some interesting visual material such as the idea of travelling through a worm hole. Additionally, the production design is very impressive. The various ships all look great, the futuristic Earth is subtle but well-realized, and the alien planets are very well designed. Some may be disappointed by how minimal the planets look, but it serves the style of the film and its plot. There’s also some really creative robot designs which serve as homage to the Monolith and HAL from Kubrick’s 2001, while still being effective and unique in their own right. Hans Zimmer also delivers one of the best scores of his career. It’s emotional, at times loud and intense, and most importantly captures the film’s sense of wonder and imagination. It’s also used to brilliant effect.

Many have compared Interstellar to last year’s Gravity, which makes sense given that both are recent films which try to depict space in a mostly realistic and plausible manner. It’s an apt comparison, but in the long run the real comparison is going to be to Inception, Nolan’s first original science fiction film. Of the two, I’d say Inception is clearly the better film as it is more or less perfect. Interstellar certainly isn’t perfect. A few elements don’t really work, there is some clunky dialogue, and Nolan’s better films come together a lot smoother. Having said that, the sheer ambition of Interstellar makes it hard to deny. This is a film bursting with ideas, and one that is impeccably crafted too. No, it’s not perfect, but in its best moments, it’s some of the best cinema I’ve seen in some time.

A

Comments
  1. reel411 says:

    interesting. i thought its ideals on love is what makes it most breathtaking. there’s so much human failure and humans theorizing what they can’t possibly know, that it’s nice to see them meet on a level that is most human: love. it’s the one thing that makes the most sense in an otherwise overwhelming — but breathtaking– film.

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

    Great review :D

  3. […] Flixchatter review The New York Times review PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews review […]

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