Friday, 7 November 2014

Interstellar



Earth is no longer capable of sustaining humanity, with frequent dust storms and crops dying out, leaving humanity bordering on potential extinction. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former pilot who now resides with his children and father-in-law and works as a farmer, but soon him and his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) unintentionally uncover a hidden base, revealed to be what remains of NASA. Cooper is approached by Dr Brand (Michael Caine), who gives Cooper the opportunity to embark on a mission into space through a recently discovered wormhole in order to attempt to find other potentially inhabitable planets. Despite the protests of his daughter, Cooper joins the mission along with Dr Brand's daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and they set off for intergalactic space travel.

It's safe to say that Interstellar has received a relatively mixed response so far. I was lucky to be able to see this film in 70mm film the night before it hit mainstream release, and it is truly extraordinary. It's intelligent, it's sophisticated, it's absolutely breath taking. But, simultaneously, I now fully understand the mixed response. Interstellar is not for everyone. It is bold, and it is heavy. It goes a hell of a lot further than one would expect in an Autumn blockbuster; it makes Gravity's space ideas seem about as intelligent as a Michael Bay project. Yes, Interstellar is heavy going, and yes, it is exceedingly long, but it's all the better for it. I make it no secret that Christopher Nolan is my favourite director, but I looked at this film without bias. I left my respect for Nolan and his films at the door, and went in entirely open minded. And Interstellar blew me away.

Visually, this is masterful. Naturally, the space scenes are brilliantly photographed, but even the Earth based sequences are put together nicely. The film opens with a slow panning shot of a model spacecraft coated with a layer of dust; not only is this nice visually, but tells us a great deal about the mood and tone of the rest of the film. But, as expected, the outer-Earth moments are where this film excels. From the tidal wave heavy planet to the wormhole sequence, Interstellar is stunning. But, this beautiful photography is also as innovative as it is pleasing; Gargantua (the black hole) is the best visual interpretation of a black hole ever seen on screen, and Nolan actually shot the film without the use of green screen, which is an achievement in itself, really. The action sequences are reliably thrilling too, as Nolan's always are. Particular highlights being a colossal tidal wave on one of the target planets, and an emergency docking sequence in space that will leave you breathless.

But alongside the unbelievable visuals, Nolan has also crafted an intricate, heart wrenching story that soars across galaxies and through wormholes, yet never loses sight of its own humanity. We never forget that Cooper goes on this expedition to save his children, and that he does this for his family. We never forget the bond between Amelia and her father. This is very much a tale of parenthood and the relationship between parent and child; it now makes perfect sense why this film was code-named "Flora's Letter" during production, Flora being the name of Nolan's daughter. Whilst the story spans worlds and lasts a challenging 169 minutes, the emotion remains intact from beginning to end, and there are no dull patches. Nolan's script is crafted with such precision; for a film as big as Interstellar to never forget its origins and never lose its characters inside the action is astonishing.

It also helps that every actor on board is at the top of their game. McConaughey, post-Oscar, plays the lead role perfectly, and wonderfully incorporates the father nature into his new found pilot role. Hathaway and Caine are also reliably strong, but the heart of this film lies with Jessica Chastain, playing the adult version of Cooper's daughter, Murph. Her video messages to her father are heart-breaking, and Chastain copes incredibly well with some highly emotionally challenging scenes during the film's emotionally heavy final act. She carries the weight of the Earthbound script entirely on her shoulders, and she does so faultlessly. One of her final scenes in the film is so touchingly written, but with Chastain's input, becomes something truly beautiful. It would be amiss if she isn't up for the relevant awards come the season.

But among all of this, what I respect most about Interstellar is its ambition. Here, Nolan tackles space travel, time travel, worm holes, black holes, potential alien beings and the future/lack of a future for Earth and the human race. At just under three hours, Nolan not only gives himself ample time to tackle each of these in his own ways, but even bend the rules a bit. I think part of the mixed response to Interstellar is down to how much it plays around with what is commonly known to be scientifically accurate, which is understandable. Interstellar is a very brave film, but it is a Chris Nolan film. Nolan is one of very few directors these days who still takes risks, and still attempts to bring the old fashioned into the contemporary. He doesn't just please his audience, he challenges them. Interstellar is an incredibly big film, a lot bigger than anything years at the very least, but it handles it. Here's what you do. Go and see Interstellar on the biggest screen possible. Watch it, concentrate on it. Go home, process it, understand it. Then go back, and watch it one more time. You will not find another film so beautiful, heartfelt and intellectually mind-blowing all year. It's not for everyone, but if it's for you, it's an experience not to be missed for the world.

To Summarise: Mind-bending, innovative and thrilling, Interstellar is a sublimely smart blockbuster that is emotionally and visually beautiful in equal measure, thanks to Nolan's seamless direction.


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