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.|
AN EXHILARATING STORY AND A BREATHTAKING TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT. CHRISTOPHER NOLAN HAS STRUCK GOLD ONCE AGAIN.
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.