By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Topher Grace, Wes Bentley, and William Devane.
The worldwide opening of a Christopher Nolan film is unlike anything I have ever experienced in the business. The man has a following that is as rabid a fan base as the inside of a veterinarian office which houses Cujo. Where I come down on Nolan is I have always maintained he is a fantastic visual director who knows how to use visuals to tell a story. The hype that surrounds his films does nothing to influence me one way or the other, because all it tells me is that the studio is doing its job. But after the screening of his last film Dark Knight Rises, a film that I gave a very qualified 3.5 out of 5 to but still maintain is his least thought out and most disjointed film to date, I went into Interstellar with a cocked eyebrow and a medium Cherry Coke that if I squeezed hard enough in dismay at a Dark Knight Rises style bit of hard headedness, would burst in my hand. Interstellar was a movie I had seen exactly one trailer of, so I had the benefit of walking in knowing nary a thing about it. I sincerely feel these two bits of circumstances contributed to an experience that I will not soon forget, and while I would hesitate to call Interstellar Nolan’s best film, it’s certainly his widest in scope, and before long I found myself surprised to categorize it among his most enjoyable.
Hype is an interesting creature in that it dies once a movie projector containing a film people already proclaim to be the best movie of the year starts rolling. Unlike most Nolan films, which go to great lengths in showing a man or series of men beaten down either physically or emotionally by life, I was happy to be taken in by the aesthetic he establishes in Interstellar. While the film’s advertising –and Nolan himself- has taken great strides in trying to convince people this is a blended mix of Kubrickian tropes and Cuaron’s Gravity, I am here to say it is not. Calling Interstellar the offspring of 2001 would be akin to calling Inception a sibling to James Bond. The similarities are narrowed down to the way certain set pieces are used. Ironically, I would compare it to Contact, McConaughey’s earlier space odyssey, before any of the other two.
Make no mistake. Interstellar is a stunning film to look at. The already oft spoken discoveries scientists have made due to the research effects artists did to make the film are stunningly apparent on an IMAX screen. The film doesn’t spend more time in space than on the ground, or vice versa. Nolan keeps the film on a level playing field, and does a nice job of not getting us too used to one set piece. I would call the balance of each 50/50, and this balance makes Interstellar into an extraordinary piece of linear storytelling.
Like most Nolan films, Interstellar spends the majority of its first leg on exposition. Now exposition is something that Nolan gets dinged on a lot –by me included- so this was actually the section of the film I was dreading most. For the most part, Nolan pulls this trailer smoothly behind the truck, moving us along without a hint of the self-importance or morose atmosphere that a lot of his other work contains, and I would honestly say the script writing of Interstellar –done by Nolan and his brother Jonathan- results in some of the best original storytelling Nolan has done his entire career. Of course, the fact Steven Spielberg originally hired Jonathan to write Interstellar for him should not be lost in the shuffle, and I do not think I would be out of line by saying the story’s surprisingly sentimental moments were not an accident.
As much as the first act was an effective bit of exposition, I was just as surprised to see how much of the last leg of Interstellar is kinetic action. By now, Nolan has mended the fences of critics who used to criticize his direction of action. But it was still an ambitious proposition to have a film that a little more than halfway through relies so much on action and explosions to get to its 170 minute finish line. For the most part, this stuff is phenomenal, and a big highlight for me was a particular scene involving ‘a wave.’ Trust me, you will know when you see it.
I hesitate to get into what Interstellar is about because of the fact that the discovery of its story is what enhances the film’s experience to its highest points. What I will say is the movie revolves around the relationship a father has with his daughter, and how far someone would go in order to save their daughter. Somehow someway, an interplanetary wormhole comes into the mix and factors into discoveries that the two make about themselves. What I enjoy about this story is that Nolan realizes he is not good at establishing love stories, so he decided to go after that of a father and daughter. It is fantastically drawn out, and I would be lying if I didn’t say there was a wet spot or two under my eye by the end of the film.
That is not to say any one performance stands out. Yes McConaughey, last year’s Oscar winner who is coming off what is arguably the best year any actor from any generation has ever had, gets the job done as Cooper. And Hathaway, once again returning to the Nolan-verse, does a good job in her role of Brand. But one thing which should be said and is readily apparent about Interstellar is that this is a movie which is not reliant on whether the performances work or not. Its most awe-inspiring moments are done by its effects artists, and some of what makes the film work so well is Nolan has put so much talent both onscreen and off, that the viewer doesn’t even think about whether the talents of Caine, McConaughey, Chastain, and Hathaway are at their best, because we know that we are in good hands.
As many shots as I have taken at Nolan since Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel –I don’t care what anyone says, his fingerprints are all over that film- I am in reverse mode here. In an era of film when most movie goers are looking forward to when the next comic book film will be released, there is something to be said about a film which is as much of a technical –marvel- that Interstellar is. Sure there are legs of it that drag and there are a few lines of dialogue Hathaway utters that made me do a bit of an eye roll. But as long as you put all thoughts of self-importance away and sit down to enjoy the ride this science fiction film takes you, you will have a good time at Interstellar. It may also cause you to give your daughter a tighter hug than usual before she goes to sleep tonight.
Review – Interstellar