Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Running time: 169 minutes
Interstellar had a lot of pressure sitting on its shoulders when I went to see it as it was a combining two of my favourite things: theoretical interstellar physics and Christopher Nolan. But I was also a little cautious after The Dark Knight Rises, a film I gave a glowing review before the dust settled and I saw the flaws I failed to see. Seriously, I re-read that review and barely recognise my own thoughts; and it is a mistake I will not make twice. So though I was extremely hyped for Interstellar, rest assured during and after my viewing, I took the time to put my idolisation of director Nolan aside before I passed judgement. You know, like I’m supposed to do as a critic, and what I failed to do with Rises.
And after doing so: Interstellar is still an excellent, if imperfect, film.
Now Showing this week is Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan. Earth is plagued by drought, a lack of crops and extreme climate changes, and the human race is struggling to hold on. Society functions to a degree; where once there were engineers, scientists and artists there are now only farmers who do their best to grow any food they can. One such farmer is Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widower astronaut who has lost all sense of hope for providing a future for his two children Murph and Tom. But after a strange gravity anomaly inadvertently leads him to the remains of NASA, he is given the chance to embark on a journey through a wormhole near Saturn, where some previous astronauts have reported there are life sustaining planets in the new galaxy beyond. Leaving his two children behind, Cooper and a small NASA team take the fate of human kind into their hands, hoping that somewhere out among the stars a new home awaits.
Let’s leave it there for the sake of spoilers.
The lasting impact I had after watching Interstellar was just how engaged I was throughout it, as the film presents so many of the complicated concepts of space travel. The big one on display is time dilation, which is the variation in the passage of time for objects in different parts of space. Interstellar’s story is heavily tied to not just the end goal of the mission, but what said mission would actually cost for those involved. Much like Nolan’s last non-Batman film Inception, Interstellar is built upon a very complex idea but is presented in such a way that it is never confusing. I must say, the man has a talent!
In true Christopher Nolan fashion, the film is beautiful to behold. The true star of the film is the intergalactic vistas presented on screen, which are captured in epic wide shots that showcase the vastness of space. There are many moments of stillness where the spacecraft drifts across the screen that are awe-inspiring, particularly because they adhere realistically to the silence of space. And the film excels even more when it presents a visual representation of something human kind has never really seen, such as a wormhole. Such sights are jaw-dropping on the big screen. Much like last year’s Gravity, Interstellar makes space travel beautiful but terrifying.
As for the characters and story themselves, Interstellar does a pretty good job. The core relationship between Cooper and his daughter Murph was incredibly touching, if admittedly unoriginal. None of the characters in the film are stand-outs in the grand scheme of narrative fiction but the principal ones are well-rounded and well-acted, especially McConaughey’s Cooper and Anne Hathaway’s Ameila Brand.
The story on the other hand was mostly great. Breaking it down a little, I would say the parts of the film that take place out in space were excellent. The variation in the pacing, from the high-strung contemplation, crushing loneliness to the adrenaline fuelled planet visits, there was never a dull moment. But the Earth-bound introductory 40 minutes and the final 15 minutes were less than perfect. They weren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, except perhaps one aspect of the ending I shan’t spoil but suffice to say my suspension of disbelief only goes so far. However, the series of events that gets Cooper involved in the NASA mission are a little rushed. It was very much a “well, you randomly found us Cooper. How about you lead this future-of-mankind-at-stake mission? Just like that?” kind of moment; it felt too coincidental. Any other clunky sections of the intro were justified by the rest of the story, so that was my only real beef with the beginning.
But if that is all the issues I had in a nearly three hour film, I call that a winner. Interstellar’s length was not for one a second a drag, which is all thanks to how compelling the story is, how intellectually stimulating the concepts are and just how gosh-darn gorgeous it looks. Christopher Nolan is back in fine form, and while I wouldn’t say this is his best film (I still feel The Prestige holds that honour), I would definitely say it is one of the best films I have seen this year.
See you next time!
Tom fancies himself a space adventurer, even though his high school counsellor assured him he isn’t. Check out his real credentials here. And listen to his ramblings with fellow non-astronauts Jorge Tsipos and Adam Direen in their podcast Unnatural Selection.
Follow Tom on twitter: @tomdheath