It’s easy to write about a film that was a bit more average than you’d expected; it’s much, much more difficult writing about a film like this, without making it sound like you are just gushing through a stream of superlatives between cast names and plot points. What Christopher Nolan has done with Interstellar is give moviegoers an experience with the kind of intensity that sci-fi really calls for, settling into a similar vein occupied by Kubrick andLucas to bring the world it’s next truly great space epic. The general scope of this incredible film is immeasurable (literally) and it’s that kind of inordinate intensity that Nolan captures so brilliantly with a sense of showmanship and crowd-pleasing fidelity to fully deliver on the film’s initial promises.
The tone is kept dark throughout Interstellar, swirling methodically as we are slowly built up to the crux of our story. At 169 minutes, the film knows it can take its time playing around with an ominous introduction to the not-so-distant future of dwindling resources and desperation. The world has been swept and left in a frail state; corn is one of the last crops left and there are constant, massive dust storms warping the air. For ex-NASA test pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his two-child family this means that they simply must adapt to the changing climate and attempt to live life relatively normally. When his daughter – and obvious favourite – Murph (Mackenzie Foy) goes on about having her very own ghost things don’t seem to alarming, but when dust starts falling purposefully and giving away the coordinates to an underground NASA base, it becomes pretty obvious that Interstellar isn’t going to cater to unreasonable expectations of precision and scientific accurateness. Mysticism plays a big part in the film, and while some find it difficult to let go of their weighty demands of exactness, most will appreciate the extent the crew have gone to in order to at least seamlessly blend these inconceivable, fantastical elements into the gritty, realistic ambiance of the film.
The Dylan Thomas-loving Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) are the only working folk at this secret NASA society that matter in the film, and through patient exposition and some extraordinary tales, they recruit Cooper with a promise that this subsequent mission, to find and secure another inhabitable planet, is the last hope for humanity. It’s at this point where we are introduced to the real driving elements of the film and it’s ultimate greatness, the real raw human emotions that stay constant through time and space and are still the real big mysteries in a film that expands all the way to alternate universes. Cooper leaving his daughter for an undefined amount of time (knowing that it could be decades before he sees her again) is effectively heartbreaking given McConaughey’s capacity for such gut-shredding emotion. It’s these acting chops which Nolan takes full advantage of; his secret weapons being McConaughey’s tears and one of Hans Zimmers’most intense scores yet as the film starts to zone in on big emotional beats towards and what seems like a determination to give viewers a surprising sense of closure; surprising in the sense that we couldn’t possibly expect something full circle from a movie this expansive.
The lengthy middle of the film – once Cooper, Amelia, and two others get into space – is full with a dizzying amount of technobabble, so much so that the middle begins to rely too much on the beautiful panoramic interplanetary shots which Nolan necessarily uses 70mm IMAX film for. Juxtaposing our lofty ambitions – attached to Cooper and his crew – with the expanse that is the entire galaxy is a humbling and moving experience that Nolan has given us, making it all the more important to experience this for the first time on the largest screen you possibly can; with the loudest speakers possible.
With the introduction of Matt Damon as Dr. Mann we get an interesting – albeit – brief look at a degree of isolation that is as unfathomable as anything else in the movie. It’s here where we are introduced to the other, more negative elements of the constant that is human emotion and how damaging it can be irrespective of context, time, or space.
While the most ambitious scenes find a place in this middle, it’s towards the end, when logic is sucked into the stratosphere and replaced with a focus on visceral plot twists and affecting emotional beats that the movie starts to transform and overwhelm on an entirely different level. Whereas the first three-quarters of the film are so visually stunning to make up for any trace of lag, the last quarter of the film rests heavily on how sentimental you are as an individual. While things blow to the point of plot derision, Nolan and his beautiful cast build the emotional payoffs up so well that your reaction to Interstellar’s ending is a deeply personal one.
Nolan has used to length of the film to great effect, drawing on the talent of Hans Zimmer to work towards epic releases of pent up tension which makes Interstellar a film you need to give yourself over to. It may mishandle you a bit, and even make you feel sick, but it will set you back down onto your seat with a profound sense of self and a knowledge that you made it through one of the most emotionally satisfying films in recent memory.
Film Review Score: FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
DVD/Blu-Ray Features: Not reviewed. But watch this special behind-the-scenes clip to get you excited to the myriad of amazing special features available on the various editions of the release. It takes us into the making of the incredible dust sequences, which, in typical Nolan fashion, is as much “in shot” as humanly possible:
And then in this special feature we learn about how Nolan moved away from focusing on “futurism” into a more “adventerous direction”
Interstellar is available on Blu-Ray and DVD in Australia now.