Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Interstellar

My first Christopher Nolan film was his debut feature, the utterly compelling Memento from 2000, the film that essentially played out backwards and featured a protagonist that had regular bouts of memory loss. It was an incredible piece of movie-making, and once Nolan followed it up with 2002's Insomnia, for me it cemented his skill as a film maker. Whether Nolan was delving into the Batman universe with his caped crusader trilogy, or tapping into the world of lucid dreaming with Inception, pretty much everything he has put to film has been a success. But every director must trip up eventually, right? It happens to them all: Steven Spielberg had 1941, Ridley Scott had G.I. Jane and M. Night Shyamalan had Lady in the Water, The Happening and The Last Airbender. Poor, poor M.Night. So after around 15 years worth of highly praised films under his belt, does Nolan's latest project add to his pile of achievements, or does it fall by the waist side into the fabled “no director's perfect!” category. Unsurprisingly, it's a complete success. Slight spoilers ahead!


Directed by Hollywood's golden child Christopher Nolan and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Interstellar, a fantastic sci-fi that at times comes across like a companion piece to Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey. Interstellar is set in 2062, and it depicts a world not unlike our own, but it's a world that is on the brink of dying out. Crops are failing worldwide, and with the likes of NASA apparently being a thing of the past, the focus of humanity has pulled away from the stars and their future, down to Earth and their sheer survival. Taking care of a failing farm is ex-NASA pilot Cooper, and he lives and works alongside his young son and daughter, Tom and Murph. After Murphy tells her father that a ghost is pushing the books off her bookshelf, Cooper quickly realises that the books are being pushed to the ground in a certain order- Morse Code. The message is a location, and after Murph and Cooper decide to locate where the “ghost” is directing them, it leads them to a secret  NASA base. It seems that NASA isn't so extinct after all, and Cooper eventually joins the Lazarus Mission; a mission that will send a crew directly into a wormhole to a distant galaxy, and hopefully give humanity a chance to find another habitable planet. NASA is aware of Murp's “ghost”, but they deem it to be a message from extraterrestrials, and view the sudden appearance of a wormhole as a helping hand from this external force. I don't want to say too much without giving much away, but needless to say, Interstellar's story is fantastic, and as it was with Inception, it really demands the viewers attention throughout.


Interstellar isn't Christopher Nolan's best work, but that's not to say it isn't great. The strongest aspect of Interstellar are the performances. However, while a good deal of the performances here just do a decent job, two of them are truly outstanding, namely the efforts of Matthew McConaughey (Cooper) and Mackenzie Foy (young Murph). There was once a time in which many, including myself, saw McConaughey as some pretty boy hell bent on starring in every romantic comedy ever. You can't blame us really, as he kinda really was that guy. Still though, in recent years he's somehow magically become a powerful and brilliant talent. His role as Cooper here is believable, moving and genuinely inspiring. With his love for his children weighing against the fate of humanity, that struggle within Cooper brings the character to some interesting places. There's an especially heartbreaking scene in which Cooper is watching video messages from his young children while on the mission. However due to time differences deep in the far reaches of space, his children gradually age between each video, which makes for a scene that will bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened cynic. Mackenzie Foy's take on Cooper's young daughter Murp is just perfect, and her character remains a focal point of Coopers from the second he leaves Earth until the final minutes of the film. When Cooper leaves Earth it nearly destroys Murph's life, but with their connection so strong, their love for one another, to quote Anne Hattaway's character, “transcends dimensions of time and space." This is so true for Cooper and Murphy, and McConaughey and Foy both make us believe this.

Another aspect of Interstellar I loved was the visual design. A lot like the classic sci-fi films of the 80's, Interstellar doesn't go crazy with the CGI, but instead goes down the route of practical effects. It's very noticeable too as the space scenes have a very tactile, real and tangible feel to them. Even the two cube-like robots onboard the ship were created piratically, the highly memorable TARS and CASE. It's a testament to how Nolan has achieved his success, as with countless films solely relying on soulless CGI during post-production, Interstellar creates as much as it can in the real world. From outstanding lonely space scenes to the absolutely jaw-dropping docking scene, Interstellar looks incredible. This praise also extends to Hans Zimmer's soundtrack too, as while I was getting sick of his rather samey soundtracks over the past few years, with Interstellar he has reinvented himself. With variants of electronic music and church organs blaring from the film, this isn't the Hans Zimmer you were expecting.


The only downside in Interstellar, like with most other Nolan films, is the insistence on having characters explain certain plot points. They even did the typical scene in which when a scientist is explaining what a wormhole is, he picks up a piece of paper, draws two points on it and says, “what's the shortest distance between these two points?”. You know that scene right? That over overdone scene in which he folds the paper and touches both points together. I know not everyone knows what a wormhole is, but shit, Event Horizon did that exact scene. Also, I know a lot of people bitched about the “love transcends dimensions of time and space" scene and how hokey and lovey dovey it sound, but hey, I thought it was nice. It had genuine heart behind it, which I couldn't say for the last 10 films that Hollywood have made.

Overall Interstellar is a fantastic film. It's thought provoking, meaningful, adventurous, expertly designed and, ultimately, nudges us to gaze back up at the stares and perhaps consider it to be our true destiny. I loved it.

Interstellar gets a time bending 4/5.

★★★★☆

Denis Murphy

Interstellar at CeX


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