Interstellar

Posted: November 10, 2014 in Movie Reviews

The intrepid explorers of Interstellar.

How far would you be willing to venture to save those you love? To what limit do you push yourself—–enduring hardships in the name of sacrifice and duty, only to have the bitter starkness of reality set in—–before your spirit splits like a rock in half? And, furthermore, at what point does your sense of duty become hazed with a shroud of utter despair and questions of dire uncertainty? Interstellar, a film from the great mind of director Christopher Nolan, doles these dilemmas to the viewer in a comprehensive and engaging way.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

In the not-too-distant future, planet earth has become overwhelmed with famine, drought, and extreme climate change. Food is scarce. Dust storms engulf everything. And humanity’s very existence is at a near extinguishing point. The answer to mankind’s survival: a manned expedition into deep space, accomplished through a wormhole—–a portal into another galaxy—–where three possible habitable planets exist for humanity to relocate and endure.

NASA (now reduced to a mere fraction of what it used to be) chooses Cooper (Matthew McConaughey——Mud, Dallas Buyers Club), a brilliant pilot and engineer, to helm this critical mission. With three other bold pioneers by his side, the group boldly ventures into the blackness of space. But on one world where hours turn into decades on earth, time is of the utmost importance as mankind lingers on a dying planet.

Also starring: Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, and Ellen Burstyn.

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 Christopher Nolan is truly a visionary genius. With masterful films to his credit such as Insomnia, Memento, The Prestige, and Inception, along with his Batman films Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has proven time and again that the terms “original” and “innovative” can be redefined in numerous and completely unexpected ways. To call Interstellar an “inventive” film would be like calling Niagara Falls “pretty”. It fits the description, but is a massive understatement.

Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi_Interstellar

The film deals with several scientific aspects; including relativity, wormhole theories, time continuum, and other theories that Einstein himself tried to quantifiably explain. Like every other Nolan film, it’s extremely intellectual. There are mind-boggling nuances and plot elements that will leave you speechless, and even a bit (or more than a bit) confused. As surprisingly accessible as the film is to the common viewer, there are complex scientific terms and scenarios.

Visually, the film is stunning. And I do mean that absolutely wholeheartedly. Nolan’s outer space will leave you in awe in a way that 2001: A Space Odyssey or even, yes, Gravity couldn’t accomplish. Physicist Kip Thorne served as consultant and executive producer on the film, ensuring that even the physics and appearance of the spaceship Endurance’s travel through the wormhole (a breathless scene) was accurate. And, since this is a Nolan film, every opportunity has been taken in placing the camera in as many real, physical locations and with as little green screen as possible.

These completely authentic sets and environments place you so prominently into the center of the action and the narrative that you become captivated, literally, with what’s happening on screen. With sound effects that rumble and shake the theater, you become engrossed. My only regret is that I did not see Interstellar in IMAX. But, having now seen the film, this viewing option comes highly recommended. Once the film kicks into third gear, the dramatic tension builds.

But one thing that works so effectively is the drama and emotion surrounding the human characters. The film focuses heavily on McConaughey’s character and his relationship with his daughter Murph (played in adult form by Chastain). While she adamantly insists that he not go, he tries to convince his 10-year-old daughter the importance of this mission—–without revealing to her that the world will indefinitely perish. “And who knows”, he tells her, “when I get back, you and I may even be the same age”. Following an afternoon on one potential planet, Cooper realizes that 23 years have elapsed on earth due to relativity. As he views a recorded message from his daughter, now the same age he was when he left, the tears of sorrow pour from his face, and you understand exactly why McConaughey has an Oscar sitting on his shelf.

Matthew McConaughey, Machenzie Foy_Interstellar

Hans Zimmer, now Nolan’s go-to composer, delivers yet another amazing and unconventional musical score. Without resorting to traditional strings and percussion, Zimmer accomplishes—–much like his work on Man of Steel—–a spectacular auditory experience. Except this time, a new instrument is thrown into the mix: the organ. Traditionally assimilated to something along the lines of a Tim Burton film, an organ is certainly not an instrument that would be considered suitable for a sprawling space epic. But, like 2001, this musical style and choice of instrument lends itself perfectly to the overall tone of the film.

About the only negative element that stuck out was a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, much like The Prestige: the film establishes itself in a realistic environment, save Tesla’s machine that can actually duplicate a human being. Obviously, this is not realistic. But so long as you bring that suspension of disbelief with you, it doesn’t matter. That’s why it’s called suspension of disbelief. It’s what makes us ignore the scientific fact that in real life the window in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon would give way under the extreme pressure of outer space. In Interstellar, all windows are correctly proportioned, but there is one scene close to the end (one that I will not explain for spoiler reasons) that makes you wonder, “Hmm. . . Not sure how realistic that is”, and will have you Googling “Interstellar explained”.

In a nutshell:

At its core, Interstellar is Nolan’s love letter to NASA and space exploration, something that this modern generation has never been able to fully appreciate and that the older generation has forgotten since the Apollo 11 landing. While not quite as inventive as Nolan’s more recent works, and while there certainly are head-scratching aspects to it, Interstellar is a prime example—–especially in the genre of science-fiction—–that not everything needs to be quantifiably explained. An undeniably masterful film, well-acted, brimming with emotional drama and complex detail on a massive scale. And like Inception, Interstellar must be viewed at least twice to fully comprehend its intricate and multifaceted story.

9.5 stars

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