Movie Review #902


Premiered in Los Angeles, California on October 26, 2014. Premiered in London on October 29, 2014. Premiered in Buenos Aires on November 4, 2014. Limited release in the USA on November 5, 2014. Wide release in the USA on November 7, 2014. Adventure/Sci-Fi. This film is rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language. Runs 169 minutes. American-British co-production. Director: Christopher Nolan. Written by: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Matthew McConaughey, John Lithgow, the voice of Bill Irwin, Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, Michael Caine, the voice of Josh Stewart, Casey Affleck, Jessica Chastain, Topher Grace, and Matt Damon.


By Alexander Diminiano

Preface: Every word of this review is SPOILER-FREE.

Call it a paradox, but “Interstellar” works as such an exhilarating science fiction movie because it’s so well grounded into the reality of its near-future setting. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer. That’s what he does for a living, at least now. He had once worked as a test pilot for NASA, but that changed when America faded into an agrarian society. Naturally, it’s assumed that the administration is defunct, but Cooper is led to discover otherwise. NASA has been operating privately for years, and they’ve even brought back data from a series of manned capsules aptly named the Lazarus Mission, and have found the presence of a wormhole orbiting Saturn. They want to follow that mission with the Endurance mission, a further exploration of the wormhole which they want Cooper to pilot.

Matthew McConaughey’s role as Cooper builds on the success he’s created recently with “Dallas Buyers Club” and True Detective. His performance is quite accessible. Piloting this mission means leaving his family, and god only knows for how long. Years after he has left, his daughter Murph still resents his absence. This role is a welcome return for Jessica Chastain, who hasn’t been in a major motion picture since “Mama”, released in the earliest weeks of 2013. Though it’s really a comeback from her Oscar-nominated performance in “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012). Her performance highlights the emotional drama in “Interstellar”. If her performance as the thirtysomething Murph doesn’t earn her a nomination, as well, then the Academy must really not like science fiction.

This is an ensemble cast that we can really, really appreciate. Michael Caine has been a regular for director Christopher Nolan since “Batman Begins” (2005), and he’s still as good as new. His recitation of Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night” stands out as one of the most memorable moments of the film. Matt Damon shows up later on in the movie; since this has been one of the most talked-about pieces of “Interstellar” for several months leading up to the film’s release, I won’t spoil anything. Veteran actress Ellen Burstyn adds an extra element of reality to the movie as an older Murph. She shows up in what appears to be documentary footage. These scenes were shot for the purposes of “Interstellar”, but director Nolan also employs footage from the Ken Burns documentary “The Dust Bowl” to explain an ecological disaster that led to the agrarian society depicted in the film. The only true letdown is Anne Hathaway, who, like Chastain, gives her first performance in almost two years. Hathaway has worked with Nolan before on “The Dark Knight Rises”, and the results were stellar. Her next movie was “Les Misérables”, for which she won an Oscar, before taking a year off. Her performance in “Interstellar” is solid, but seemingly not enough.

Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography takes the story of “Interstellar” into account on a grand, epic scope. It’s quite often like watching the Hubble take to the big screen. Most theaters are projecting the film on either 4K Digital or Digital. Of course I would recommend seeing “Interstellar” in the former, and if you have an IMAX theater nearby, then by all means, see it there. But even seeing the film in standard Digital projection (the most commonly used format nowadays), I was blown away.

“Interstellar” surrounds its audience in a colosseum of sound. The audio mixing here is a furious, audacious feat. Every nuance of sound is around us, not merely in front of us. The experience is incredible. If you’d rather save a few bucks and see this at home in a few months, then you’d better hope you’ve invested in a home theater somewhere down the line. It goes without saying that the music is also great here. Hans Zimmer’s score is his fifth with Christopher Nolan. This collaboration couldn’t possibly go wrong. Zimmer’s music sounds like a reinvention of his “Inception” score, which sounds like a simple idea, but the results are just as exciting.

Where last year’s “Gravity” was a one-act play set in the final frontier, “Interstellar” is a space opera at a “Lawrence of Arabia” caliber. Like “Inception” and “The Dark Knight”, Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” practices filmmaking as equal parts narrative and poetic. It’s told at a length of 2 hours, 49 minutes, and entertains thoroughly. At times, the movie feel like back-to-back episodes of a TV series. But I don’t know of any network that would plan for something this ambitious, let alone carry those plans out so extraordinarily.


20 thoughts on “Interstellar

  1. Personally, I don’t think Spielberg could have pulled off the film–it seems more like a project for Christopher Nolan. I thought Anne Hathaway was good (better than The Dark Knight Rises), but comparatively to Les Miserables, she is not as great. After thinking it over, Jessica Chastain truly impressed–I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t get nominated, and quite frankly, disappointed. I believe Interstellar has what it takes to get nominated for Best Film (don’t worry, I know it won’t win). If it does get nominated, it will be the acting, cinematography, score, original screenplay, and the directing that will get it there. Great review–really enjoyed your take on it! (I absolutely agreed on the fact Interstellar needs to be seen in theaters. Honestly, I think it was better than Gravity).

    • I’m still pretty curious about how Spielberg would have done it. It definitely would have been under two hours, and it would’ve been more of a father-son movie than a father-daughter movie. Beyond that, I’m pretty much clueless.

      I just didn’t see much going for Hathaway here. The dialogue seemed kind of unfit for her, and her performance was solid, but in my opinion, it wasn’t as great as her quasi-Catwoman in TDKR, and it definitely wasn’t as “stellar” as her Fantine in Les Mis.

      I’m with you as far as Chastain is concerned. I’ll be so mad if she doesn’t get nominated. Come to think of it, does she even have that much competition this year for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar? Tilda Swinton in “Snowpiercer” comes to mind almost immediately, but I can’t think of anybody else for the life of me.

      I’m not too sure about Best Film. Definitely a BAFTA nomination for Best Film, and perhaps a Golden Globe nomination, but the Academy unfortunately does not seem to like science fiction at all. Still, it’s a possibility. Inception got a Best Picture nomination, along with about eight or nine other nominations. But on the other hand, Nolan’s next film TDKR got absolutely no nominations. Possibly because of the movie theater massacre associated with it, but it’s still pretty surprising.

      Glad you enjoyed my review! And yes, Interstellar definitely needs to be seen in theaters. In this case, bigger is definitely better. I agree, it’s better than Gravity.

      • Anne Hathaway wasn’t given the best material: they clearly knew who their strong actors and actresses were. Her playing Fantine in Les Mis was almost mesmerizing, and in TDKR, I feel her performance was good, but honestly–I just didn’t like her character as much. Had she been given better material in Interstellar, she has the chance of being nominated. I thought she did the best with the script given to her.

        Like I said, it doesn’t deserve a “Best Film” award at the Oscars. That being said, films with outstanding cinematography, a good score, good acting, and a good original script usually get nominated. Like you said, Inception did get nominated (in Inception’s case, it was a slightly better film, however). I see a Golden Globe nomination as a definite possibility: 10 movies have the ability to get nominated, 5 Dramatic, 5 Humerous. Then again, the films with good acting good direction, a solid screenplay, and a good score sometimes don’t get nominated (Blue Jasmine? Still surprised that film wasn’t nominated, other than the scandal against Allen)

        There isn’t really much competition (yet) against Chastain. I’m pulling for her. As for the rest of the film, I see a cinematographic win in Interstellar’s future. It’ll get nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Supporting Actress. Unless it gets nominated for Best Actor (with McConaughey’s win last year, it’s a slim chance, but then again look at Streep) and Best Film, that’s about it. It’s personally one of my favorite movies, but from a critical standpoint, it’s definitely not the best.

      • I’m also glad Spielberg didn’t direct the film…I think the film needed to be as long, and needed to have the father-daughter relationship (where would Chastain be?) it possessed. Christopher Nolan has an art with sci-fi’s and long movies. I’m glad he combined both again.

    • “probably my favourite science fiction film in years”

      Wow, you really liked it!

      Now I have three questions for you:

      1. What did you think of “Inception”?

      2. Do you think you would have enjoyed it so much if Spielberg was directing, as were the original plans?

      3. What did you think of “Gravity”?

  2. […] “Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” practices filmmaking as equal parts narrative and poetic. It’s told at a length of 2 hours, 49 minutes, and entertains thoroughly. At times, the movie feel like back-to-back episodes of a TV series. But I don’t know of any network that would plan for something this ambitious, let alone carry those plans out so extraordinarily.” Cinemaniac Reviews. Full Review […]

  3. I was enthralled by the scientific first half. But by the 2nd half the physics devolves into mysticism. The initial set up that was driven by the joy of space travel becomes a superficial meditation on love. It’s still an enjoyable film, but easily ranks as Nolan’s least captivating picture – which is still good.

  4. For a while, I have been tweeting Jessica Chastain how excited I was to see her in here (and she usually favorites those Tweets). And what do you know? I loved this movie. It was truly a beautiful little experience in IMAX. Great review you’ve got right here. Although I’d be one to say that #11 on the IMDb Top 250 is still a little too high up.

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