Interstellar

Film Review – Interstellar

***

Directed by: Christopher Nolan.

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Mackenzie Foy, Bill Irwin, Timothée Chalamet, Casey Affleck & Matt Damon.

***

Christopher Nolan wanted Interstellar to be the modern day equivalent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and in many ways he succeeded. Interstellar is an epic sci-fi drama packed full of tension, emotion, visual brilliance, and mind-bending science (unless you’re a scientist, I guess). In the end Interstellar only fails to rival 2001 because it borrows so many ideas from Stanley Kubrick’s film. Nonetheless, Interstellar is an outstanding experience that will leave you contemplating its many questions and dilemmas for quite some time.

Would you give up life as you know it for a chance to save the world? Would you abandon your family forever, if you thought it might allow future generations to survive? How would you cope with losing decades of your life in moments? What would you do if you were faced with the uncompromising loneliness of space? These are all questions that Interstellar poses, and forces lead character Cooper (Matthew MacConaughey) to agonise over.

Family man
Cooper is asked to give up everything in order to try and save the Earth.

With the Earth’s crops decimated by disease, time is running out for the next generation of Earth’s population. After discovering a localised and unexplained space-time anomaly with his young daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy), former pilot Cooper finds himself being asked if he’s prepared to abandon his young daughter and son (Timothée Chalamet) in order to pilot Earth’s last functioning space vessel in a bid to preserve life as we know it. Cooper’s mission is a hopeful, yet ultimately desperate, last-ditch attempt to find a new world for people to colonise on the other side of a wormhole, seemingly placed on the edge of the solar system by a higher power.

Professor Brand (Michael Kane) plans to use the time that it’ll take Cooper and his crew, which includes Brand’s granddaughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), to find a new Earth wisely. Brand’s plan is to solve a seemingly impossible equation that will allow him create a centrifugal ship capable of transporting Earth’s remaining population to the new world. Cooper, Amelia and the rest of Endurance’s crew need to explore three planets orbiting a supermassive black hole on the other side of the wormhole, in order to establish which is the most suitable for human life to continue on. Three astronauts have already visited these planets, on one-way missions years earlier, and Cooper and his crew must decide which of these planets could now be the most viable new home for Earth. Cooper leaves on his mission, which devastates his daughter Murphy (portrayed by Jessica Chastain when she’s a grown-up), despite his promise to one day return.

All of this happens relatively early on in Interstellar’s 169 minute running time, and there are plenty more heart-wrenching moments to come as Christopher Nolan explores time, space, and ultimately, humanity; our potential for love, anger, deceit, and loneliness. It’s all portrayed brilliantly within Interstellar, with no single cast member shining, but only because everyone performs excellently. All the emotions feel completely real, and once you get past his mumbly-American tones, Matthew MacConaughey proves beyond doubt that he’s a talented leading man. It’s impossible to deny that the real beauty of Interstellar lies in its casting, with the actors and actresses showing the horrors that a lifetime (and more) in space could have on those departed and those left behind. As mankind looks once again to the frontiers of space, with a mission to Mars a possibility that would see those sent having no hope of returning to Earth, Interstellar asks a poignant question: what cost does the quest to conquer space pose to our humanity?

Space
Interstellar examines space, time and other dimensions.

The second part of Interstellar’s beauty comes from its art direction. Interstellar is a visual treat, with the blackness of space, the swirling colours of the wormhole, the cold alien words, and much more, all showing off the stunning presentation and excellent visual effects. Sound direction follows suit, with Hans Zimmer’s beautiful, and at times hauntingly rousing, score enhancing each and every moment. There’s a reason Interstellar won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Visual Effects, a BAFTA in Best Special Visual Effects and a Golden Globe for Best Original Score in a Motion Picture.

For all this beauty, Interstellar is not without criticism. The 169 minutes running time makes Interstellar a long film, which will put some off. Personally, for the story Interstellar is telling, I feel this long running time is justified, but there’s no denying that overall Interstellar has short peaks of action and long, suspenseful troughs of downtime. Some people will inevitably find this frustrating, especially early on when the film struggles to pick up any discernable pace, and towards the end when things suddenly wrap up very quickly when everything is at its most confusing.

Equation
Following Interstellar’s plot can, at times, be about as easy as trying to solve the equation in the above picture.

Interstellar is also very derivative of its main influence, the aforementioned 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nolan unashamedly borrows 2001’s heavy focus on AI (albeit in a different way), as well as replicating the main theme in Kubrick’s film, namely the exploration of the origins and meaning of life, and the role of any unexplained higher powers in this process. Interstellar and 2001 also share other similar underlying ideas, including examining the way space exploration tests what it means to be human and to have humanity. It’s not a big problem for Interstellar, as Nolan does enough to ensure Interstellar carves out a path of its own, but it’s hard to ignore that at times Nolan’s film feels a lot like a prettier version of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Interstellar is confusing. This isn’t a criticism, but it is a warning. You can’t watch Interstellar if you’re not prepared to pay attention, think things through, and possibly come away baffled. This is trademark Nolan, with Interstellar replicating those head scratching moments of ‘dreams within dreams’ from Inception, this time through the exploration of time, space and multiple dimensions. Things aren’t left quite as inconclusively as they were in Inception, but you’ll still come away with an itch that can’t be scratched without a sequel, which deep down you’ll hope is never made. Interstellar is definitely a film to watch more than once.

New Earth
Finding a new Earth seems like a daunting, lonely and unforgiving task in Interstellar.

Interstellar is one of those rare films where all of the elements come together to create a special experience. Rare as they are though, this is pretty much typical of a Christopher Nolan film. Whilst Interstellar may not manage to be quite as original as it could be, there’s no denying that this intense, emotional and beautiful space journey is one worth taking.

***

Images from https://www.facebook.com/InterstellarUK

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