As sci-fi and science geeks alike we were always going to give a relatively positive review of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, but the truth is that it’s well worthy of the praise it’s picking up following its cinematic release. Ridiculously ambitious in its content, subject matter and scientific framework, the movie is a smash hit of a space adventure that is crammed right up to the fifth dimension in drama, tension, thrills, acting might and mind blowing visuals.
Released at the big screen and in IMAX on the 5th November 2014 in North America and then on the 7th in the UK, it’s a mental leap of a film that blurs the line between science fiction and science fact as it utilises the laws of physics and scientific theory as the framework for every element of the film. It’s also got the feel of classic sci-if movies like 2001: A Space Odysee and Solaris, giving it a lot of impact when it mixes in with more modern day digital effects.
Director and co-writer, Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises), has done an exceptional job of pulling together what amounts to three hours of space exploration adventure and scientific analysis into a thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking movie. It’s well paced and each scene is brilliantly constructing to make it feel like everything you’re seeing is real, while still being futuristic and mind-bending.
Written with the director’s brother, Jonathan Nolan, the story is a vast and sweeping sci-fi epic that starts out on a slowly dying planet Earth as humanity try to manage their rapidly depleting resources and cling to their very existence. A blight has struck all crops, leaving just corn with a chance of growth, rainfall reduced dramatically and the landscape has turned into a parched and unsustainable dust bowl that has forced most men into the farming trade in a bid to grow enough food to keep humanity alive.
One such farmer, former NASA pilot and widower, Cooper, succeeds as best he can with his corn crop using his engineering skills to boost his farm’s yield. However, when strange disturbances lead him to a secret NASA facility out in the middle of nowhere he suddenly finds himself on a mission through the folds of space-time to look for salvation for the human race in a new planet home in a galaxy far far away.
It’s inevitable for the plot progression for this kind of storyline to feel far-fetched as times, but the reality is that Interstellar manages to make work for the most part. Almost everything that you might be inclined to question – the choice of a planet in orbit around a massive black hole called Gargantua, the seeming presence of higher beings guiding their every move, the potential of five dimensions – all have their explanation before the film comes to its far reaching end.
Apart from the frozen clouds, which the developers have been open in their artistic license for, the only point not really covered well enough is he science behind the end of the earth. We’re not sure there’s enough to back this up entirely, with limited scientific reference to the blight and its impact on the planet, plus no real explanation for why plan is to send escape vessels off the planet instead of working a cure for the blight.
There are also elements of future technology that are difficult to palette initially too, like the sleep stasis pods and the box-like robots, TARS and CASE, but they win you over in the end with an element of wit and the brilliance of more advanced special effects. The robots in particular may look a little ridiculous from the outset, but when you see them at their best, you kind of start to warm to them, which turns out to be a very clever plot devise.
The cast puts in some pretty solid performances that adds to the believability of the storyline. Matthew McConaughey plays the interstellar space traveller, Cooper, with convincing ease, building on his recent form in Dallas Buyers Club and adding action into the dramatic mix. Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) puts in a good stint as Amelia Bland, the science officer on the mission, and there’s an impressive appearance for Matt Damon (The Monuments Men), who plays Dr. Mann, a researcher on one of the potential replacement planets for earth.
Michael Cane (The Dark Knight Rises) puts in one of his best recent performances as the wizened old scientist behind the plan to save humanity, Professor Bland, Amelia’s father. It’s also good to see John Lithgowback in such a prominent role as Donald, Cooper’s father-in-law. Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain make for a great younger and older Murphie, Cooper’s daughter, and the same can be said of Timothée Chalamet (Homeland) and Casey Affleck as the younger and elder Tom Cooper, his son.
Bill Irwin and Josh Stewart (The Dark Knight Rises) deserve pretty big shout outs too as TARS and CASE, the slightly sarcastic, 90% truthful boxy robots that bring just a little humour to the film without making it silly.
The cinematography is sublime with every shot in the film set to near perfection. A lot of effort has gone into the camera positioning, screen angles, lighting and scene construction, which all contribute to making Interstellar such a great sci-fi adventure. Cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema (Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy (2011), Bond 24), is well worthy of a lot of the praise, alongside the Nolan brothers, as is editor, Lee Smith (X-Men: First Class) whose cutting room floor must have been filled with wonder during post production.
It’s complimented by some real eye candy CGI and special effects that are as close to faultless as is possible in cinema right now. It’s subtle and understated at times, which only adds to its impact when a CGI wave comes ones out of nowhere, or the space-ship approaches the event horizon of a worm hole or a space station starts to spin out of control into the slow draw of the outer edges of Gargantua’s gravitational pull.
If that isn’t enough, the music is genuinely epic, sounding like it’s the accompanying echoes of the most important moment in the history of mankind, which it sort of is in the context of the storyline. Hans Zimmer (12 Years A Slave) has done a very cool job of matching music to mood, sentiment and even gravity, constructing a modern-day sci-fi score masterpiece.
In short, Interstellar may not be the right film for everyone, but for sci-fi fans it’s a blast of shining light from a distant and brilliant star. If you’re not that keen on this type of film you’ll probably struggle with our review score below, but for everyone else this is a must see at the cinema and probably the kind of film you’ll end up watching more than once to get your tiny minds around all of the concepts that have been brought together under its shiny, space-travelling hood.
Interstellar review: 4/5