Sunday, November 9, 2014

Review: Interstellar

Interstellar marks the 8th feature film in the career of 44-year-old director Christopher Nolan. Following a remarkable run of back-to-back-to-back amazing films (The Dark Knight, Inception and The Dark Knight Rises), Nolan had a lot to live up to in his first outer space movie. Thankfully we can usually rely on the genius of Nolan and he totally delivered another incredible motion picture with Interstellar, a thrilling epic tale of pioneering and space exploration.

Matthew McConaughey (on a life-heater right now after winning his first Oscar and staring in True Detective) plays Cooper, a farmer in Colorado who along with the rest of the world is dealing with a food shortage crisis. Crops are dying and dust storms are becoming a common occurrence.  Cooper is a widowed father of two and through a chance encounter becomes involved with a team of scientists set on discovering a remote planet that can sustain life.  Michael Caine plays the leader of the braintrust, Professor Brand, who enlists his daughter (a rather low-key Anne Hathaway) and two other astronauts to join Cooper on the space exploration expedition. Cooper has a history of training with NASA so he's a natural fit as the pilot of the mission. After the team launches into outer space, the next two-thirds of the movie are a roller coaster ride in discovery and adventure.

Now there are a few key plot pieces I'd like to comment on but they can definitely be constituted as spoilers. So to keep those who haven't seen the film in the dark I will link to another post to comment on it. If you haven't seen the film come back later, if you have seen it, go ahead and click here.

Nolan does a great job of moving the narrative along. At 2 hours and 40 minutes the movie doesn't feel as long as it is. All of the space exploration scenes are beautifully shot and Hans Zimmer's powerful score ratchets up the tension. Scenes on the surface of the planets are stark and vibrant (a real location in Iceland was used for the bulk of the filming). The robot assistants in the film (T.A.R.S. and C.A.S.E)  end up being resourceful additions to the team of astronauts. Their simple rectangular design and fluid movements is rather unique as far as robots usually look in a sci fi film. Basically everything looks and sounds great in this movie and you just can't help but feel like you're along for the ride joining this group of pioneers.

Nolan explores themes of relative time shift that lets the astronauts age at a much slower rate than the rest of the people back on Earth. We see Cooper's son and daughter (Tim and Murph) age over time during the mission through video messages sent to the spacecraft as well as cut scenes back at home in Colorado. Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck play the older versions of the children we see at the beginning of the film. All of the acting is very good throughout the film but it's McConaughey who delivers the heart and soul of the movie. He is just a very likable actor at the prime of his craft and you end up rooting for him to succeed throughout the film. I was particularly pleased with the ending of the film which ties a few loose threads up and puts a fitting conclusion to the epic adventure.

This film is big and bold and needs to be seen on the IMAX screen.  I was fortunate enough to see it at the Air and Space Museum in DC, a fitting location for a movie that celebrates the pioneering spirit of space exploration. This is the best movie I've seen since Gravity (another space epic) and gets my first 5 out of 5 JR rating for 2014. Christopher Nolan cements himself as the best director working in Hollywood. Thankfully he's still relatively young and I feel we have a lot more to look forward to with his upcoming films.

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