Interstellar

Director: Christopher Nolan.
Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, David Oyelowo, Topher Grace, William Devane, Mackenzie Foy, Timothée Chalamet, Collette Wolfe, Francis X. McCarthy, Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart.

“You might have to decide between seeing your children again and the future of the human race”

With consistent deliveries over the years, director Christopher Nolan has now carved himself a place among the Hollywood elite. His sophomore movie Memento still remains one of my top ten personal favourite films but it was his hugely successful Dark Knight trilogy and the teasingly elaborate Inception that most people identified with. As a result of these blockbusters, there was much anticipation upon the release of his Sci-Fi epic Interstellar. Many were so enthused that they were literally counting down the days till the film’s release. The anticipation was so huge that there was bound to be disappointment as few films can ever truly deliver on such a basis of expectation. Interstellar has become prey to this and I can honestly say that I wish I hadn’t listened to the naysayers and their feelings of deflation.

In the near future, Earth is on the brink of decimation from climate change – resulting in dust clouds, famine and drought. Humanity’s last hope comes in the shape of astronaut turned crop-farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) who leaves behind his family to join a small crew of scientists and explore a wormhole in the far reaches our solar system. Travelling through this allows them to investigate planets which may be capable of sustaining life and possibly pave a new beginning for the human race.

Let’s face it, Nolan has never been one to scrimp on ideas or refrain from challenging his audience. Trying to tie your head around Inception or Memento, for example, were hard enough but he manages to go even further with Interstellar – and on a even grander scale. Beginning as a family drama, Nolan builds his characters and their relationships with a touching sensitivity – that he’s not normally known for. As much as he’s been able to bring a realism to his imaginative and convoluted films in the past, he’s never really brought a deliberately paced, dramatic edge. He normally sets up his stall and gets on with it. Interstellar, however, shows him at his most restrained. He builds slowly and assuredly which, ultimately, add real scope to his overall vision. And that scope is astounding; he achieves the apocalyptic dread of a decaying earth before reaching for the stars and injecting hope and wonder. Of course, this is not before he forces you to get your thinking cap on and ponder the complexities of gravity, neutron stars, spinning wormholes, black holes and Einstein’s theory of relativity.

In order to ensure the film was scientifically accurate, Nolan enlisted the help of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne – who acted as a consultant throughout. His theories may be challenging but they only add to how impressive the film’s idea’s are and how they’re not merely grown from a Hollywood script – they actually consist of scientific possibilities. This alone, hugely contributes to Interstellar being more than your average science fiction yarn. True, these theories and possibilities can be hard to wrap your head around but by building three dimensional characters and having reliable actors to embody them, Nolan has enough behind his grand ambitions to make events believable and manages to explain a fair bit on layman’s terms. That being said, there are some questionable moments whereby we are offered a hypothesis on how love can transcend time and space. Admittedly, this is misplaced and clunky (even laughable) but the magnitude and scope of the film is so vast and ambitious that it’s easy to overlook.

It’s occasions like these, however, that resemble a maudlin, schmaltzier touch more akin to Steven Spielberg (who was originally planning to make the film). Where it benefits from a Spielbergian influence, though, is in it’s sense of wonder and adventure. Despite it’s heavy themes, Nolan never forgets to entertain and (like Spielberg) delivers a real visual spectacle that reminds you of just how magical and escapist movies can be.

The film does, admittedly, have inconsistencies but they were not enough to bother me. If anything, I found the whole experience to fit wonderfully together: Hans Zimmer’s marvellously emotive score echoes the ethereal work of Philip Glass and serves the film perfectly – bringing a real gravitas to the whole spectacle – and McConaughey, yet again, delivers a central performance of depth to a character that could so easily have been swamped with the big budget and special effects.

Added to which, at a running time close to three hours, Nolan, seemingly, doesn’t know when to stop. However, I didn’t want him to. Any clock watching I found myself doing was only a result of not wanting it to end. It’s visually spectacular and as much as I greatly admired Alfonso Cauron’s Oscar winning Gravity for it’s visuals, I thought it’s story was found wanting. Interstellar, on the other hand, is narratively dense and the overall film that Gravity wishes it was. That being said, Nolan (and his co-writer and brother Jonathan) came in for some criticism in terms of their (almost indecipherable) plot and the holes therein. Personally, I think the criticisms are a tad harsh. Can it be deciphered? Is it too complicated for it’s own good? Is it because it strives to be an intellectual voyage yet remain a crowd pleaser the reason it has split audiences? These questions are better left to the individual viewer but big budget spectacles, where they dare to challenge and entertain are hard to come by and on it’s ambition alone, Interstellar succeeds.Nolan’s epic odyssey is an old fashioned mix of grandeur, sophistication and entertainment. The frequency of his transmission wasn’t well received by everyone but, personally, I was fully tuned in.

Mark Walker

TriviaEarly in pre-production, Dr. Kip Thorne laid down two guidelines to strictly follow: nothing would violate established physical laws, and that all the wild speculations would spring from science and not from the creative mind of a screenwriter. Christopher Nolan accepted these terms as long as they did not get in the way of the making of the movie. That did not prevent clashes, though; at one point Thorne spent two weeks talking Nolan out of an idea about travelling faster than light.

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43 Responses to “Interstellar”

  1. Well I guess we’ve already established that we disagree on this one but I certainly didn’t hate Interstellar and it’s good that you liked it so much; it’s always a pleasure to read a passionate review. I enjoyed its scale and stunning visuals at times but, conversely, the circus around it at the time seemed too bloated for me. McConaughey does the likeable everyman very well but I guess something just didn’t click regarding the other characters.

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    • We understand each other on this one, bro! Personally, I thought the whole father/ daughter angle was a good one and Chastain had more to work with than most of the other supporting actors. The likes of Wes Bentley and Casey Affleck are underused but the film was too preoccupied with bigger things that I didn’t mind that so much. I went along with it and I do enjoy a bit of intelligent science fiction. This really hit the spot for me. One of the best of the year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely 100% agree with you Mark. Five stars for me as well. Many people were hung up on the inconsistencies but I can honestly say that they were so minor to me compared to the films greater portions. I was so engaged from the very start and found myself drawn more and more to what Nolan was going for. And I do like how he makes his own movies whether they’re small or Blockbuster sized. And if he does make mistakes there he is and not copies of movies we’ve seen over and over. That ambition and creative ingenuity is what I love about him.

    Interstellar was my favorite movie of 2014.

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    • I’m with you, man! I.Am.With.You.
      I absolutely loved this flick and who cares about minor faults here and there? In the grander scale of things they don’t matter a jot. Nolan’s vision is hugely ambitious and, in my eyes, he pulls it off. Such a great spectacle and even though it’s not my top film of last year, it’s definitely among them and I’d have to say, it was probably the most enjoyable of anything I seen.

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  3. I thought Interstellar was okay… a bit long and a bit all over the show.

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    • I didn’t feel the length at all Abbi. If anything, I wanted more of it. 3hrs wasn’t quite enough for me. It really struck a chord.

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      • I can totally see how it could have worked if it grabbed you from the start but it didn’t quite do it for me.

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      • To be honest, Abbi. I listened to those that were taking the film down a notch or two. I listened to their disappointment and gripes but I think that went in my favour. I expected to see its faults but they just never bothered me and I went along with the whole thing.

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  4. Y’know, I didn’t give this my highest rating after I saw it. A solid four-stars, though. However, like all Christopher Nolan’s, it pulls one back to it. Much like gravity. Demanding a re-screening. Daring you to see what you missed, or dismissed, in its initial viewing. Haunting you in that unique way of this filmmaker. Dammit, I know when I do, it’s going up in appreciation. I kick myself when I realize I didn’t watch it in IMAX when I had the chance, too. Wonderful review, Mark. Thanks for this.

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    • I’m kicking myself for not seeing it in IMAX too, Michael. If it ever gets another showing, I’m definitely on it.
      I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Such intelligent spectacles are hard to come by and Nolan certainly knows how to deliver them. I’ve not been this entertained with a big budget movie since Inception. This was as good as that for me. Wonderful stuff!

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  5. Five stars for me, too, Mark. Great review! I’m glad for Nolan. I liked this so much better than Gravity.

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    • Great to hear you’re in the positive camp, Cindy. I’m actually really quite surprised that many didn’t take to it. I wouldn’t say it comes under the underrated umbrella but there are many people who I thought would take to it and didn’t. It’s a marvellous adventure story and much better than Gravity! Nolan can feel himself very unlucky not to get some awards recognition here.

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  6. Hi Mark, glad to hear you love this movie so much. I REALLY wanted to love it, given that I love much of Nolan’s previous works. It was good but far from perfect and not as emotionally-engaging as I had hoped. I might give it another look at some point though, surely the visuals are astounding!

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    • I have to say, Ruth… I thought this would be right up your street. I’m very surprised that it didn’t deliver for you. I did find it emotionally engaging and that’s what surprised me the most about Nolan’s approach. It was a sweeping near Sci-Fi masterpiece in my eyes and one that I reckon will be more appreciated in time – when the hype surrounding it dies down. 🙂

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  7. Boom. Brilliant film, man. You’re right about the inconsistencies but they were far from taking away from how much I enjoyed it.

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    • Sonic Boom, my man!! Who cares about small niggling details when the overall film is so astounding? This was a an excellent adventure yarn (with a brain) and the type of film that not many are willing to make. Nolan deserves the utmost credit for his work here. It was like Inception in space!

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  8. I think Interstellar is having an identity crisis: It feels like a Paul Thomas Anderson film in regards to how badly I need to see this one again! Hahah. It’s got so many damn ideas going on, big, profound ideas that strike at the heart of what humanity is capable of (both negatively and positively).

    I also think I need to explain my stance on this in terms of the rating I gave it. I gave it a 7/8 which is by no means a low score, but given the hype (and I am completely in agreement that this film was up against a tidal wave of epic proportions in terms of anticipitaiton) I was really REALLY wanting to give it the full marks. The elements that brought it down were the moments spent ruminating on how love might be the one thing that can transcend time and space. *Rolls eyes.* We’re totally in agreement on that point, it felt perilously cheesy. I also found a few moments that set up how McConaughey stumbled upon a dying-out NASA pretty underdeveloped. As much as I loved the outer space sequences (and oh boy were they wondrous, I felt like a child again sitting through that wormhole part) I felt the film actually needed to have more development on the ground.

    In the end those might all stack up to be nitpicks of one of the most grandiose films of the last decade. It’s going to be interesting comparing the end results of it with Star Wars later this year.

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    • 7/8 isn’t too shabby at all, man! That’s a good rating and understandable considering the flaws you mention. I too didn’t like the love transcending time and space deal. Man, it just jarred whenever that got mentioned. Still, I overlooked it as the whole experience was astounding. Couldn’t agree more about feeling like a kid again. That’s exactly the effect it had on me too. I haven’t felt that from a film for a long time and it’s probably the major the factor that led me to a 5 star rating.

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  9. YAAAAAAAAAAAAY! I am so glad to hear that you enjoyed this one so much Mark! Personally, I loved it, and I acknowledge the inconsistencies, but they did not detract from the movie overall. I cannot wait to see Interstellar again. I was so happy I got to see this in cinema, it was amazing – just made me wish we had an IMAX theatre here. Wow.

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    • Woo Hoo!! Another Interstellar fan. Like you (and many others who enjoyed it) I was also able to overlook the inconsistencies. Of course it had some but really they matter very much. The film was so huge in terms of its story and ambition that it overshadowed it’s minor faults. I didn’t get to see this in the cinema but, man, I wish I had!

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  10. I didn’t have an issue with the length of the film, and I loved the visuals & scientific side of it all. I was entirely engrossed until the whole sequence with Matt Damon – not just because I thought he was atrocious in it, but his character & his part in the plot seemed totally ridiculous and thrown in to give it a ‘generic action’ sequence. Took me right out of the film & it struggled to reel me back in unfortunately, which made me look quite cynically at the whole third act.

    Definitely one of the better blockbusters I’ve seen in ages, but it should have been much better had that one part of the plot been changed or omitted.

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    • Personally, I didn’t mind Damon’s appearance, Cameron. I can see what your getting at, though. The films tone certainly shifted a gear when he arrived onscreen but I went along with it and actually enjoyed the darker element to the story. For me, it was just a great all round adventure story. Flawed but nonetheless enjoyable.

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  11. Great review, Mark. Glad you enjoyed this one! : ) I was one of those naysayers… Lol. I’m sorry! ; )

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  12. Really pleased you liked this one so much mate. I thought it had a few plot contrivances but I absolutely loved its ambition. 2001 is a big film to compare it to, but it definitely has ideas that are up there with it.

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    • It certainly had a few contrivances, Chris but, like you, I loved its ambition and managed to overlook any faults it had. 2001 is an undoubted classic but I struggle to think of another science fiction film that had dared to go to similar lengths. We’ve had some great ones over the years but Interstellar really went big!

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  13. I remember watching this again in IMAX after my initial review and took to it more second time around. I still have issues with the film but visually it was unsurpassed last year. Very pleased you loved this mate. It certainly comes through in your review.

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    • I’d love to catch this on IMAX, my man. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for another release. Great film and I really haven’t had that “big” movie experience for a long time. I’m not one for blockbusters normally but this really done it for me.

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  14. I’m glad you saw the positives of this one. Yeah it was flawed in a few places, but the massive scope of the movie and the way it looks is so fucking good!! I saw it before I read anything about it and loved it. One of the best looking movies in recent memory, and I am not a fan of Nolan either.

    Good write up man!

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    • I’ve always enjoyed Nolan’s work, Jordan. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of superhero movies but Nolan’s work on Batman is some of the best I’ve seen from that genre.
      Memento and Inception blew me away, though, and now that Interstellar has arrived, I’m back on his side. I’m kinda glad that he’s turned his back on the superhero stuff and I’m hoping to see more of this type of imaginative and intelligent filmmaking. I loved this flick. Such good fun!

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      • T’was great fun and great to look at too. I loved Memento and The Prestige, and for a superhero film his efforts annoyed me the least, ha 😉 Certainly a massive talent, I’ll be interested in what he does nxt for sure. I also respect him for having the balls to make such a movie, in an era of franchises and superheros

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      • It’s shard to find another director with the same ambition as Nolan, Jordan. I’ll admit I’m not a big superhero fan and I wasn’t overly keen on The Prestige but Memento, Inception and now this are all 5 star movies for me. When he goes for it, his ambition really pays off.

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  15. For roughly half the picture, the ideas feel organic as they effortlessly support a real respect for the wonder of the cosmos. But by the 2nd half the drama becomes more ponderous, the tone more solemn. Physics gives way to mysticism.

    It’s not a bad film, but it’s Christopher Nolan’s least captivating picture. It doesn’t seem informed by the director’s vision. It’s more like the 2nd greatest work that M. Night Shyamalan directed.

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    • I see what you’re saying here, Mark. It does change it’s stance in the second half but I really didn’t mind that at all. I found it very captivating and went along with the marvellous extravaganza. Ambitious for sure. And even flawed but it was such great entertainment that I couldn’t resist it.

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  16. I really need to get around to seeing this film. I was procrastinating on it for so long that it fell through the cracks for me. Your review has me jazzed to catch up with it.

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    • I also procrastinated on this one, Courtney. I regret it, though. I put it off mainly due to the mixed responses and trusted my fellow bloggers. I was wrong to judge it solely on that basis, though. Maybe my expectations were lowered but that served me well. I ended up loving the film. Get on it, man!

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  17. Nice review Mark. I much preferred this over Gravity as well. Sure some parts of the film are a bit unfocused, but I loved the overall vibe and feel of the picture.

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  18. […] is that Villeneuve has done his homework on this. Much like Christopher Nolan’s approach to Interstellar, Villeneuve extensively ensured the film’s scientific ideology was accurate by enlisting the […]

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