An Adventure That Stretches Beyond Space And Time
Thanks to Roadshow Films we had the chance to see Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar‘ prior to its Australian cinematic release. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself.
Director Christopher Nolan is renowned for his intelligent story lines, but his ninth feature film may be one of his most mind-bending stories yet, and also one his longest at almost three hours length. This space epic starts off in mid-west America in a near future where food shortages and thick dust storms engulf most the earth, and it has become very evident the planet will soon be uninhabitable. Matthew McConaughey plays a widowed, former aerospace engineer and pilot turned corn farmer named Cooper, who is trying to raise his teenage son Tom (played by Timothée Chalamet and Casey Affleck) and daughter Murph (played by Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain) with the assistance of his father in law (John Lithgow). Strange gravitation forces direct Cooper and Murph to the nearby hidden NASA base, where the ex-pilot is reunited with his former NASA professor Dr. Brand (Michael Caine). He asks Cooper to pilot a mission to a wormhole they have located near Saturn, in order to find a new viable planet that can accommodate humans. Debited with the task to save mankind and his family, Cooper leaves his children to lead the Lazarus mission with three other astronauts, including Brand’s own daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), and two former military robots, the most talkative of which is known as TARS.
This is where the adventure, complexities and amazing ride all begin. The space travel scenes and particularly the scenes on the possible new planets are truly exciting and feature Nolan’s most fantastic use of the IMAX technology since ‘The Dark Knight‘. For the scenes on the first planet alone, it is worth the extra effort to see the film in IMAX or the largest screen at your local cinema to take in the true massiveness and ambition of the production. This is where the story also starts to become overly complicated and scientific, with lots of physics and time relativity explanations thrown out every few minutes. One hour on a particular planet is the equivalent to seven years on earth, a mind-bend on time chronology that belittles even ‘Inception‘. But it doesn’t really matter if you don’t understand any of the theories or reasons, as these are usually explained by a hidden whiteboard, a make-ship diagram or a video message from earth.
There are very obvious references to Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, widely known as Nolan’s favourite film of all time; but there are also similarities with ‘Signs’, ‘The Right Stuff’ and even ‘Aliens’. You cannot help but expect something to fly out of a corner during some of the quieter space craft scenes. While some of the very complicated theories will be lost on most viewers, the film’s space theories are quite based in fact, since these are based on writings from theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who also acted as an executive advisor on the film.
Nolan’s past works have all been quite dark and often featured bitter main protagonists; with ‘Interstellar’ the director and his brother Jonathon, his long-time writing partner, have written a more emotional and in some ways more accessible story. One of the main themes of the films is the relationship between fathers and daughters. Unfortunately the emotion falls short and the script fails under the many ideas it needs communicate, back -and -forthing between science, more science, then longing and guilt. One particular monologue from the younger Brand about love falls flat despite its strong attempts to tug on your heart strings. The truly emotional scenes are the ones where Cooper watches his family grow up via video messages, and the impact of these scenes is fully because of McConaughey’s performance. The scene solidifies the McConaissance of the actor’s career, who no longer needs to rely on taking off his shirt in a film.
In addition to the length of the film, the biggest hurdle the film is the wave-high expectations. No other director today puts as much confidence in the intelligence of his audience or has singlehandedly reinvented the suspense-noir genre like Nolan has. Therefore audiences have come to expect a flawless film experience from the celebrate filmmaker. Nolan is often likened to a modern day Hitchcock, for whom an academy award has also eluded. ‘Interstellar‘ is a truly amazing feat of film making, and there are very few other directors that could have pulled this off, if any. Yet ‘Interstellar‘ probably won’t be the film to break the British filmmaker’s Oscar drought. It does deserve to earn a nomination in the nine best picture category, especially since this category was expanded to nine after the Academy omitted to nominate Nolan for ‘ The Dark Knight‘.