Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Interstellar

As a wise man once said, space is big. Really big. Christopher Nolan's latest blockbuster shows us just how mind-blastingly, frighteningly vast space really is, but also manages to anchor its cosmic vistas in a very simple, very human story of love and loss.
In an unspecified near future the human race is starving and suffocating as we use up the last of our resources and watch our crops wither and die in a global Dustbowl. Former NASA pilot, widower and father of two, Cooper ( Matthew McConaughey ) receives a mysterious message that prompts him to abandon his farming life and sign up for a last, desperate attempt to save humanity. As part of a small crew of scientists and explorers, Cooper blasts off into the endless reaches of outer space, to pass through a wormhole into a new galaxy and, hopefully, to find a new home for humankind. The biggest problem with this mission is relativity: travelling at impossible speed across the universe and skirting around the awesome gravitational force of the new galaxy's black hole ( "Gargantua" ) means that time passes far quicker for the astronauts than it does back on Earth. Cooper may save his species but lose his family...
I'm not the greatest Christopher Nolan fan  -  I found his Batman movies too joyless and the likes of Memento and The Prestige were obviously well-made but didn't drag me back for repeat viewings  -  however, I loved Inception so I was interested to see how he'd tackle the move from inner to outer space.
Interstellar, as it turns out, lives up to the hype. After a first act which establishes the relationship between Cooper and his family and illustrates the seemingly hopeless plight of this depleted Earth, we are then catapulted into deep space. The word "awesome" is seriously overused these days ( and I'm certainly guilty of that ) but this film reclaims the meaning of the word and dazzles us with epic, beautiful images as the crew of the Endurance embark on their impossible mission.The immensity of the universe overwhelms us  -  the spaceship is reduced to a tiny speck, floating serenely past Saturn's rings or plunging into the maelstrom of the wormhole. From a water-covered world, to an ice world, to a mind-boggling trip through the black hole and into higher dimensions, Interstellar is a true successor to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey...
But, whereas that groundbreaking 1968 movie was intentionally unemotional, Interstellar wears its heart on its metaphorical sleeve. Cooper is constantly aware throughout the mission that the chances of being reunited with his children are slipping away as the time-dilation effect of deep space travel separates them by decades. McConaughey is totally convincing as the man-out-of-time ( literally ) who is caught in an impossible situation, and there's also some lovely, subtle work from Anne Hathaway as fellow crew-member Dr. Brand; and luckily their relationship develops realistically while not descending into trite Hollywood obviousness. Cooper's most important relationship, however, is with his daughter Murph as played by Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain and Ellen Burstyn at different stages in her life. His guilt at leaving Murph behind and her anger at this perceived betrayal drive the plot along as much as the exploration of brave new worlds. ( Cooper's son, as played by Timothee Chalomet and Casey Affleck, gets far less attention. ) There is also an appearance halfway through the story by A Big Name Actor which came as an unexpected but welcome surprise, his character adding another element of risk to the already tense story.
Things get very metaphysical and emotional towards the end but you feel that the characters have earned the extra-dimensional Deus Ex Machina that provides the resolution. And, after almost three hours of nail-biting tension and apocalyptic visions, the audience has earned it too. Ultimately, behind all the cosmic spectacle and dire prophecies, this is a very optimistic and humane movie with the Right Stuff...
"Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here."

4 comments:

Kid said...

Interesting to read your review. One of my pals saw the movie and found it completely underwhelming, so I'd decided not to bother watching it if I ever got the chance. However, maybe I will now because of your thumbs up.

cerebus660 said...

Of course, these things are subjective but we thought it was great. I'd recommend seeing it on the big screen while you have the chance - it will definitely lose something on TV...

Tomas said...

Great review, Simon! I've not seen it yet. Like Gravity, I can imagine it needs to be experienced at the cinema as it was intended. Did you get the iMax experience?

cerebus660 said...

Hi Tom! No, we didn't see it at the Imax. ( Do you mean the one in Cheltenham? I didn't even know that was open yet. )We actually saw it at the smallest screen in the Gloucester Cineworld... but it still looked amazing.
Hope you are well, mate.

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