Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Wes Bentley, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, David Gyasi, Michael Caine, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck and Ellen Burstyn.
A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.
Film: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship celluloid. It’s mission: to survive amongst the ever-growing digital age around it, to boldly go where many have gone before, but few venture to anymore. It’s strange to think that the filmmaking that got us to this very point in cinema history is close to extinction, but perhaps not as quickly as some think, especially if the director of Inception, Memento and The Dark Knight Trilogy gets his way. Interstellar, his latest multi-layered, multi-million dollar epic takes us to the far reaches of the universe through the magic of film is to be admired, and is perhaps his riskiest undertaking yet.
On the menu this time are works-holes, black-holes, space, time and relativity, all mixed together for Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi opus about the end of our home planet, and the need to seek out new life amongst the stars as a group of intrepid, brave astronauts led by Cooper (McConaughey) and Brand (Hathaway), utilise the latest technologies to try to exploit a worm-hole that will allow them to cross the universe to find habitable planets so that the human race can survive. But time isn’t on their side, as for every moment they spend amongst the stars means months, sometimes years pass on Earth and as the resources start to deplete, so too does their last hopes of survival.
Like the film itself, Nolan knows no bounds: a filmmaker who has earns the trust and respect of both audiences and the studios with enthralling, intelligent fare that has allowed him to reach a position of creative power, where he could spend $200million on filing a two-hour recital of the phone directory and people would turn out in droves. But that creative freedom comes hand-in-hand with pressure, the pressure to dazzle us time and again with new, challenging works that keep us on the edge of our seat and our brains stimulated. Interstellar, it could be argued, is the first time that Nolan, and his brother Jonah, show the faintest struggle to meet those lofty heights.
It is undeniable that Interstellar is a wonderful accomplishment, and is undoubtedly one the best films of the year, but what stops the film from being labelled a true masterpiece is its own lofty ambitions. For the first two hours, the film is exceptional: Nolan’s precision and care is on show again as we race through crop fields, out-run dust clouds and ascend into the never-ending void of space. Ably supported here by new photographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (the master photographer behind the spellbinding Her), Nolan is on typically ambitious form, with scope to spare, dazzling us into submission, as he tends to do.
But spectacle is nothing without character and story, and at the heart a father/daughter love story. Fuelled by their shared love of physics and science, amidst the still hard-hitting loss of Mum. It is their bond that holds firm throughout, delicately and beautifully played by McConaughey and the superb Mackenzie Foy, that even with light-years and space continuums between them is still the real fuel that thrusts the film into orbit.
That said there is a fierce battle going on in the deep recesses of Interstellar between the math and the emotion core, for which the Nolan’s want you to embrace fully, even if they bludgeon you a little too much at times to embrace love. For the most part, the balance between the two is perfect, summed up nowhere better than when Coop catches up on his video messages from home, now back up with over two decades worth as his older children (now Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck) cling desperately to the notion of him being alive and returning to them. Devastatingly real, you really feel every tear dropping from McConaughey’s eyes as he yearns to hold Murph in particular one last time.
But for all the talk of relativity, universes, dimensions and time, for the final decisions of our brave astronauts to come down to “the one thing that transcends time and space” feels cheap and somewhat lazy, almost negating everything wonderful that has set us on this path into the dark unknown for the sake of an uplifting culmination. The Nolan’s has done it before mind you, but never has it been as clunky and misjudged than in Interstellar’s final third, especially as the lead up and subsequent imagery are so spectacular.
Interstellar is not a perfect film, nor is it quite the masterpiece some have proclaimed it to be, but in terms of scale, scope and spectacle, Nolan has once again produced something the likes of which we have never seen before to this degree. Thoughtful, engaging and epic, it is another example of a filmmaker at the height of his powers, fully embracing films as both an art form and a source of true entertainment. Is it his best film? No, but such are Nolan’s ambitions to take us on original, almost never-ending journeys into the unknown that he manages to lure us down the cinematic worm-hole to see what he will come up with next.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★