Review: Interstellar

Christopher Nolan takes us on a journey into deep space, throws out his thoughts as to whether he managed to crack infinity

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Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway
Running time: 169 minutes
Rating: ★★★★★

Christopher Nolan has never been one to go halfway when it comes to his films. Be it budget, plot, casting, blockbusting, or confusing, Nolan has a definite method behind his grandiose and rather prolific filmography. He’s a director where nothing is impossible to look at, or in, or around. His immersions and interests become ours. And with Interstellar, it’s kind of hard to be much more engrossed.

You’ve always had to think when you’re watching a Nolan film, and Interstellar does expect you to pay attention for its full 169-minute runtime. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), father and ex-NASA pilot, stumbles across the remains of NASA after the world has fallen to disrepair and is convinced, in a last-ditch effort, to travel through space in order to find a habitable planet for the human race. Seems simple enough, but then a lot of time manipulation happens and that is so complex that it’ll be too difficult to explain.

Let’s just say that this film is one to watch to be understood. In the same way as Memento, you’re just not going to “get it” if you don’t experience it.

And, truly, this film is an epic experience. It’s a veritable explosion of visual pleasure, the soundtrack is amazing, most of the acting is spot-on, and the mind-bending plotline is so much so that it actually seemed plausible.

Some of the best visuals arise, probably quite obviously, from the scenes in space. From when the team launches there are some astounding sights, most notably the wormhole and travelling across an event horizon. It’s difficult not to be transfixed by the stretching and manipulation of images of other galaxies and stars. But that’s not all; the production values of the scenes inside spacecraft are staggering, and the weathering of older craft looks totally realistic. The slightly strange worlds they visit are not completely alien but simple, believable environments that create a sense of fact within the fiction.

And the sound work exemplifies this realism. While you are treated to a wonderful orchestral soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, which can be haunting and creepy, tense and atmospheric, or epic and fast-paced, Nolan’s most formidable and powerful tool in Interstellar is his use of silence. In realistic synchronization, some of the most memorable moments is only when the diegetic sound of the stillness of space is lurking within the scene. One particular moment sent most of the audience jumping two inches off their chair, which while humourous, actually embodied the shock and awe the displacement of the silence caused.

Some of the performances were perfect for this sort of genre as well. Matthew McConaughey doesn’t just play some adventurous hero, but as a hesitant, scared, and loving father with strong, emotional connections to those he loves. Jessica Chastain is wonderful in the role of Murph, Cooper’s daughter, managing to portray resentment, misunderstanding, and forgiveness near seamlessly but always realistically. Unfortunately, Anne Hathaway was slightly underwhelming. She was in no way bad, but she didn’t particularly shine in the film. This goes well along with Michael Caine, who plays, you guessed it, Michael Caine in a Christopher Nolan film. Yet to decide whether this is a good or bad thing, but Caine’s acting chops weren’t really worked much here- and that’s just disappointing.

This all pales in comparison, however, to the story- the convoluted, annoying but brilliant story. As mentioned earlier, this is a film that requires your attention, and for the full 169 minutes. It takes swerves and is quite typically like a space adventure film. But then, right in the last hurdle, it falls into the Nolan trap of trying to twist your brain into new, interesting shapes. This is the first time that he might actually get away with it fully though. Unlike Memento and Inception, it’s not going to leave you scratching your head. It will blow your mind, but if you are attentive you actually may be able to make sense of it all, and leave with quite the feeling of satisfaction afterwards. Plus, when it comes to the time-bending stuff, it actually manages to be more comprehensible and digestible than Doctor Who, so congrats, Nolan.

While people will make comparisons with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Nolan’s film is on a completely different level; not higher, just different. This isn’t a film just about space or stunning visuals. Interstellar manages to tell a story that could be completely ludicrous, but it’s not. It does tell the tale of an epic journey, but it’s not just the journey; it’s about the characters and their emotions and how the two intertwine and function alongside the plot, and with Nolan’s direction, they’ve managed to merge masterfully, and in doing so, created a lasting filmic memory.

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