Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar (2014)

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McConaughey didn't like the thought of a baked bean eating contest while they were in the ship.
McConaughey didn’t like the thought of a baked bean eating contest while they were in the ship.

Twitter Plot Summary: Matthew McConaughey heads out into space in order to find a habitable planet for humanity after Earth starts falling apart.

He’s been putting out quality films since day one, but it took the release of his Batman trilogy for Christopher Nolan to hit the big time and start making thought-provoking science fiction films for a wide audience. Interstellar is not a film that exists without reference to the lauded history of science fiction cinema. Contact, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Silent Running, and many, many more. Indeed, it often embraces the history of big concept science fiction whilst branching off and being its own thing.

Never one to do things by halves, Nolan and his team limited the amount of green screen work and went to the effort of both building extensive sets and miniatures, but also to display the things taking place outside the ship’s windows on set rather than compositing them in afterwards. This leads to a very tangible feeling to every action, you can almost feel the bumps, the bruises, the effects of gravity and time on the characters. Gravity and time prove to be central to the narrative and are important concepts discussed at length.

The near-three hour running time flies by, engaging you from start to finish. Nolan has an uncanny ability to generate tension in his movies, and Interstellar is no different. There will no doubt be times where you find yourself unconsciously gripping the arms of your seat, the outcome of that particular scene probably obvious but that’s besides the point. Hard science is hardly the most engaging of subjects for a general audience, but here it’s handled deftly and, some logical inconsistencies aside (such as explaining to the pilot how wormholes work mere moments before they fly into it) it’s frequently boiled down to basics and therefore makes perfect sense. Of course, let’s not dwell on the pods the crew freeze themselves in to make the long journey – that way madness lies.

That was one impressive burst pipe situation.
That was one impressive burst pipe situation.

But not all of it works quite as well. Casey Affleck is criminally underused, his character popping up for a couple of sequences as a stubborn farmer and never given the opportunity to develop. The story, too, is one that will never be considered as original, plot points being easily telegraphed in advance. The narrative is typical of the Nolan brothers, offering a tale that loops round and answers some of its own questions without being overly convoluted. It lacks the depth and nuance of the likes of Inception but is carried by the family story that lies at its centre. This is in no small thanks to Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain who are excellent as always, bringing emotional depth to the character’s motivations that is, sadly, lacking from much of the rest of the production. Anne Hathaway has a few moments to make her own, but this is really the story of a father and daughter separated by time and space. The robots, for once, don’t fall into the conceit that in science fiction they are always evil – TARS and CASE are excellent additions and are a particular highlight. And as for Michael Caine, much like Anne Hathaway he gets a couple of solid scenes to call his own, but otherwise doesn’t have all that much to do.

It’s perhaps not Nolan’s best film as a result, but all of his trademark touches are there and if you are a fan of his previous works then Interstellar will still hit the spot.

Score: 4/5

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