Film Review: Interstellar

interstellarChristopher Nolan releases are now bona fide ‘events’ in a landscape of endless superhero reboots and stretched franchises, the unfortunate legacy of his own ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy. He’s an ambitious commercial movie maker who flirts with art, never underestimating the intellect of his audience and for that he should be applauded. I count myself firmly as one of Chris Nolan’s many fans. A recurring theme in his films, sans Batman, is time, and more specifically, its subjectivity. Interstellar takes this a step further by having it play a key role in the story, not just as a narrative device. To get the most out of Interstellar is to enter the cinema knowing as little about its plot as possible. Once your ears become attuned to the Southern, everyman drawl of Matthew McConaughey, it becomes clear that he’s a solid choice of lead as frustrated pilot, Cooper; a man born out of time whose ambition and thirst for discovery is matched only by his daughter’s, Murphy (the prodigious Mackenzie Foy), in a future where Earth’s population has eradicated the notion of hope and instead focus all efforts simply to survive on a planet running out of resources. An encounter with Nolan exposition stalwart, Michael Caine, leaves Cooper with a chance to save mankind but in doing so, leave his daughter behind him. The film wrestles with scientific logic and emotion throughout, exploring parallels between the two and suggesting that beyond our understanding, they may not be disparate entities. Given that emotion is at its core, it’s a travesty that much of it is treacly. Emotive scenes feel ham-fisted and overly pushy. I generally felt more connection with ‘TARS’ the sarcastic robot than any of the human characters, of which there were too few. This is a real shame because there are moments when the film explores the relativity of time in space and on earth with such fantastic clarity and clout that it left me genuinely choked. Unfortunately, this mid-film emotional climax also proved problematic, as I sat willing the film to reach such heights again. It strives to but never does. One of the causes of disconnect with the characters is that much of the dialogue between them is scientific exposition. This serves to draw you out of the film in two ways; through a lack of understanding at some of the complicated terminology, and by ignoring the fact that “the best” NASA astronauts shouldn’t be explaining such theories to each other, minutes before major assignments such as entering a wormhole. It all seems a little forced. Given that so much of the film is grounded in science, indeed physicist Kip Thorne is credited as Executive Producer, the final act seems like an obnoxious cop out that disregards much of what has gone before it and disappears up its own black hole. This is even more disappointing when the climax is set up to be a brave cinematic statement. It’s a huge disappointment and an unforgivable misstep given that for two acts, the film does so many things so right. The. Film. Is. Gorgeous. Blending impeccable visual effects with tactile production design, all captured on celluloid for a tangible yet otherworldly experience. Punctuating the beauty and extended panoramas that convey the vast airless silence of space, action sequences are gripping and visceral, utilising a church organ in an interesting and effective shift away from the usual Zimmer deep brass “bwahhhh”s. There is obvious affection for 2001: A Space Odyssey here; abstract sequences underpinned by classical movements in the score paying obvious homage to what is still considered the benchmark in science fiction. Seeing 2001 upon its release was a seminal experience in Nolan’s life and he has spent his career creating cinematic moments in his movies to instil a sense of awe and wonder. He achieves this in Interstellar on many occasions through sheer spectacle. A spacecraft drifting past the rings of Saturn. An ocean rising up to form an impossibly gargantuan wave. Even earth-based shots such as an early chase through cornfields leave the mouth agape. Nolan once again excels in putting the unimaginable on screen. The very definition of ‘movie magic’. Ultimately it’s an extremely frustrating experience. It’s thrilling, dazzling, well acted and ambitious, as all Christopher Nolan movies are. However Nolan’s films usually reward revisits and deep thinking. The logic of Interstellar simply falls apart. For a film that presents itself as intelligent, that’s a big problem. 7/10 James Hobson