Tuesday 4 November 2014

Interstellar review

Interstellar (12A/PG-13, 166 mins)
Director: Christopher Nolan
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

There are very few directors out there who would be given a budget the size of Interstellar’s for a non-franchise or non-adaptation movie. But very few directors are Christopher Nolan, and this is 2014’s most anticipated movie, and has been since it was first announced.

It’s also been a fine year for Matthew McConaughey, and he caps it with the lead in this vastly ambitious sci-fi epic that’s two parts magnificence to one part frustration. He plays Cooper, a one-time pilot who is now a farmer, as are many people since a crop blight led to a world food shortage and turned many parts into a dustbowl.

But life has to go on in this near-future world for Cooper and his son and daughter. He’s all about the pioneer spirit, living in a world where he’s no longer able to use his skills, until he encounters a team of scientists led by Professor Brand and his daughter Amelia (Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway), They have a plan to leave earth in order to find new inhabitable worlds since, as Brand puts it, “mankind was born on earth, it wasn’t meant to die here”.

This sends Cooper, Amelia and another pair of astronauts on a two-year journey to a wormhole that’s been discovered near Saturn, and to whatever lies beyond that. That’s all you really need to know, because from this point in there are many thrills and surprises to be discovered in a film that’s all about what we leave behind for future generations. There are echoes of 2001 in its silent, balletic space sequences, as well as in some of the more surreal imagery that Nolan unleashes in the later stages.

A lot of the time it’s hard science, as actual rocket scientists come up with plans for how to save mankind. Questions of relative time may scramble the brain, but it’s done with the utmost sincerity and not without humour, which is a welcome touch. It’s not an action film, certainly not a single-minded one like Gravity, so that shouldn’t be expected, but when Nolan does throw some in, he runs with ideas and visuals that make for jaw-dropping sequences.

For all its spectacle though, it’s the immense force of the human drama that gives Interstellar its impact. The implications and the scale of what we’re dealing with here can be difficult to contemplate, and when it concentrates on its profound examination of humanity, it approaches brilliance.

In most regards, this is exactly what we should be demanding from our blockbusters. It’s conceived with intelligence and far-reaching intent and executed with immense skill, yet it never quite achieves that moment of transcendence that it seems to threaten for the first two hours.

There’s plenty of room for trimming in its much too generous running time, and Nolan throws into the mix the kinds of characters and plot developments you might expect from lesser filmmakers, undoing a lot of good work in a final hour that at times can be sluggish and ponderous.

So the year’s most anticipated film has turned out to be a good one, at times a very good one. But in the end does it really amount to much more than you might find in the very best episodes of Star Trek?


  1. Jennifer Croissant5 November 2014 at 14:42

    Paul, do you think "Interstellar" will go on to achieve legendary cult status with-in the genre like "2001" and "Blade Runner" ?.

  2. I don't think it will, no. It will have its fans, but I don't think it will be revered in years to come.

  3. I learnt a lot about wormholes and, while I can be entranced by the idea of saving the human race, I want a little bit of drama to go with it.