Mitchel Waite © 2020

Interstellar [2014] Review

We’ve reached “one year from now” that closed the teaser trailer for Christopher Nolan’s epic sci-fi space voyage, Interstellar. Unfortunately, we had to wait the old fashioned way on Earth time rather than finding a wormhole to the end point. I went into an opening night screening and came out 166 minutes later a different cinema viewer. I walked out the cinema with my jaw in my hands. When I finally managed to regain cognitive motions, the first words to escape my mouth were, “F***. Me.” Interstellar and its themes are mesmerising, epic and down right beautiful.

Naturally, there be spoilers ahead.

I’m a huge fan of Nolan’s work. Outside of The Dark Knight trilogy my favourite Nolan film is The Prestige. How far are you willing to go to be better than your rival? I feel that’s a consistent theme throughout his work. With The Dark Knight it questioned what extent we would go to triumph over terror. Interstellar questions what lengths we would go to for survival. I was worried that the hype would ultimately be too much with Interstellar. However, it’s another ambitious and cerebral film with its visuals (somewhat) grounded in reality, primarily by avoiding CGI whenever possible. The future isn’t stylish and grandiose but instead utilitarian and worn out. As expected, this isn’t a standard film about saving the planet. Interstellar follows in the ambitious footsteps of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is an epic space voyage to places thought beyond human reach, and Matthew McConouhguy is the explorer. Along with the amazing TARS to help him (question: when will we have the action figures!).

What I love ultimately about the film is that it’s a story about a father wanting to preserve a future for his daughter and keep his promise to return home to her (not to sideline the son or anything). There are some loose parallels to Inception whereby Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Cobb, just wanted to return home. He was willing to do what is necessary. It’s a testament to the human spirit. Then there’s the question of when Cooper and Murph will reunite. The closing scenes left a lump in my throat and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. It was both somewhat tragic and optimistic at the same time. Although I would have liked to have seen more of a reunion between Cooper and Murph. She’s had two father figures leave her (the second being Professor Brand), I felt that the emotional envelope could have been pushed a little more here.

Interstellar is a film that asks a lot of questions; some existential and some moral, returning a lot of satisfying answers and leaving the right things ambiguous. Nolan never spoon feeds the audience unless he must; interpretation is the key. That’s the genius of his films. He trusts the audience to think for themselves, and thankfully the studios trust him. I’ve read, spoke with and heard people frustrated by the plot holes and scientific accuracy. Then there’s the others who I simply have no time for; before I could even fully open the door when leaving the screening, someone instantly brought the claws out for Anne Hathaway (“You take that back!”). At the BFI IMAX too, I thought they could screen these people out at the ticket desk. I’ve always been fascinated when science fiction films play with timelines and intersect them, much like Lee Smith’s editing. Interstellar has a field day with this and plays with relativity, wormholes and the 5th dimension. Even a week after viewing it I’m still contemplating the theories of the overall timeline. I don’t always need a film to provide me with defined answers of where the characters end up, just the sign posts will do. I can take it from there…

Matthew McConaughey shines and hits the right notes as a father and a space pioneer. The McConnaissance is still in full swing. Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck and a well-cast John Lithgow (from 2001‘s follow up, 2010) all bring their A-games. A real stand out is Mackenzie Foy (young Murph), who really excels in a heartbreaking scene when she asks McConaughey “when” is he coming back. A pleasant surprise was to see Matt Damon emerge from cryosleep as Dr. Mann, “the best of us.” I thought it was a clever idea to introduce a big name actor at this point of the film to keep engagement high.

Needless to say, Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack is another superb entry into his epic discography. His scores are characters in their own right. There are a couple of other tracks used in the trailers too that are of equal standing, and I mistook them for Zimmer’s until I read the track listing fully. Unfortunately Nolan’s long term Director of Photography, Wally Pfister, was away working on his own directorial debut, Transcendence. Hoyte Van Hoytema created some beautiful shots, maintaining that real and gritty look that is associated with Nolan’s films. The special effects are really something too, and the scope of them is on par with Kubrick’s 2001 (‘relatively’¬†speaking, see what I did there). Big, bold and epic space movies have unfortunately been absent from my box office showings. Some have come along, such as Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, but these have been few and very far between. Maybe this is a result of studios remaining safe in the Marvel effect, who knows. It’s difficult not to mention it again, but I’m glad that I’ve been able to experience this generation’s A Space Odyssey.

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