Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, David Gyasi, John Lithgow, Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck, Mackenzie Foy, and Michael Caine
Plot: Earth is dying and the remains of NASA send a reluctant father into a wormhole to find a new planet for humanity.
Reviewing a Christopher Nolan film quickly becomes a routine of stating the obvious. There is a reason why the director can ask for $165 million for his latest pictures and not tell anyone much about it, other than the fact it involves space travel. The visuals are stunning, the emotions are hard-hitting and Nolan’s passion for humanity’s potential is always present. This we all knew we were getting when we bought a ticket to Interstellar. All I can do as a reviewer is confirm what we already suspected. Interstellar is just as good as we thought it would be.
While it doesn’t quite have the originality of Inception or the sheer brilliance of the Dark Knight trilogy, I do think Interstellar will find a treasured place in any Christopher Nolan box-set. There are just too many moments of sheer wonder. Once again, as it did with Gravity last year, space proves itself to be a source of unlimited beauty and danger. Certain frames of the Endurance, the space craft used to get between galaxies, are stunning. The planets are just as impressive. We saw in the trailers the shot of the massive tidal wave, crashing down on the tiny shuttle below. That is just as awe-inspiring as that small glimpse promised. The next planet is even more visually striking. It is Hoth, done by Nolan, as if he was writing for a Riddick sequel. The planet is your typical ‘what if everything was ice?’ staple of the Sci-Fi genre, but with that little slice of invention that updates the idea. Frozen clouds, oxygen that freezes your lungs. That set-piece connects neatly with its next big action sequence, the definite highlight of the movie. A chase sequence leads, introducing a new character into the game (to those who have seen Interstellar: well, well, well! Wasn’t that a pleasant surprise?), into the planet’s orbits and includes a docking sequence that drips with unbearable, yet delicious tension with a pay-off that will be talked about for days to come.
The casting is on the ball as always with a Nolan movie. Matthew McConaughey is the kind of actor that you have been waiting to see in a Nolan picture ever since he became the biggest name of the block. Again, there is no disappointment. McConaughey is the kind of actor you want to play the lead hero rather than the traditional Hollywood hero (that term must be getting close to defunct soon), because he just adds that extra layer of emotion to the movie. Like Di Caprio with Inception, there is just so much more power when your lead actor is willing to go that extra mile. The conflict about leaving home is always present with McConaughey and he is at his best, when he is calculating odds and solutions quietly. “Save the world, but risk never seeing my daughter again?” Speaking of the daughter, we get a double actress surprise with the character. I haven’t seen Jessica Chastain in any of the roles people have praised her on, so here was my first true encounter with her abilities. I was definitely impressed. Murph is a tough character to get right, stubborn to the point of unlikeablity, yet her morals are so set in stone, you end up appreciating her resilience. Even more impressive is the child actor, Mackenzie Foy who does all of this but without the repressed nature of her older self. It is an incredible performance and I hope Nolan revisits the actress, when she gets to an older age. She could be a good contact to keep in the phone book.
All of this makes it so much harder to discuss Interstellar’s flaws. Yes, it is not quite the movie of the year as we all expected it to be. Truthfully, it is that pesky three hour and fifteen minute mark that gets in the way. Every narrative point is necessary and there isn’t a clear place to cut it. Still, it does feel a little tiresome in the third and final act. Some of the concluding plot reveals are a little silly. They are not quite unbelievable and they pack an important message, but when you are checking your watch, you might not be in the right frame of mind to accept them. Also, the three hours, in some places, isn’t enough. Supporting characters aren’t as developed, making them glorified red shirts. TARS is meant to be this movie’s loveable sidekick, the wise-cracking robot, but he never feels as important to the story as Nolan wants him to be. The planets are also painfully under-developed. We only ever see a slice of them (a single wave, a few icy set-pieces), which might hurt Interstellar when it tries to break into the Sci-Fi hall of fame. In some ways, Interstellar is far too long and in others, it is nowhere near long enough. Maybe this should have been the second Nolan trilogy?
Final Verdict: Slightly bloated, yet Interstellar is still the visually awe-inspiring, entertaining powerhouse we all knew it would be.
Yeah, I’d agree with most of this! Some fantastic moments of wonder but doesn’t ultimately justify its runtime (plus: way too much exposition). Nice review.
Excellent review, Luke! I’m glad you clearly liked it (certainly more than I did. but so did everyone) but like that you did point out its flaws too.
Totally agreed. Not Nolan’s best effort, but even less than his best is really, really good. Thrilled to hear you enjoyed this, Luke. Great work!