“We’re explorers, pioneers – not caretakers” whistles Matthew McConaughey in Christopher Nolan’s return to the big screen with his first full blown sci-fi flick in Interstellar. The same could be said of Nolan himself. Not content with revamping the comic-book genre with the Dark Knight Trilogy or boggling minds in a summer blockbuster with Inception – Interstellar is his boldest and most ambitious project to date with a result that will leave a lasting memory at the very least.
Attempting to give a brief plot outline, as is usual with Nolan films, is troublesome for two main reasons: Firstly, revealing any of the perfectly plotted twists and reveals would be irresponsible and frankly annoyingly; secondly, it’s very difficult due to the complexity of Interstellar’s themes.
So without having to write ‘SPOILER ALERT’ – here goes nothing… The film is set in an unknown near future where the earth is on it’s last legs and is in desperate need of a double expresso shot. Crops, baring corn, cannot grow and giant dust storms are as regular as rain in Scotland. Discovery and exploration are no longer encouraged by society and agricultural sustainability is the only cause for concern.
Wading his way through the dirt and cynicism is former space pilot turned corn-farmer Cooper (Matthew McConoughey), who’s unwavering enthusiasm for exploration and science is passed on to his daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy). After conveniently stumbling across the coordinates to what remains of NASA, Cooper is persuaded by his former mentor, played by Michael Caine, to pilot a spaceship on a top secret interstellar mission through a mysterious wormhole that resides next to Saturn in search of a new place to call ‘Home’. Joining him is his mentor’s daughter, Brand (Anne Hathaway).
If you are expecting something big in scale, you won’t be disappointed. The space technology and visuals are exceptional and will rightly get compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The landscapes of the alien planets were filmed in Iceland which gives the film a grand and awesome feel while always feeling almost recognisable and never truly other-worldly (see some of our Iceland pictures from the set here). Aesthetically, Interstellar is stunning. It also unsurprisingly delivers buckets full of gigantic set-piece tension. There’s plenty of gasping and spectacle in fresh scenery for Nolan to play with here and he doesn’t let you down.
Conceptually the film will frustrate as it will fascinate. The director almost pushes himself and the film too far in trying to juggle higher-than-high-concepts of science and philosophy while Cooper tries to find his way back home. New dimensions and the future of mankind get bogged down in the time-space conundrum and the film’s pace suffers. That’s a major problem when it runs at a whopping 168 minutes.
However big this all sounds though, it’s also Nolan’s most personable piece to date. At it’s core, this is also fundamentally a father-daughter tale and will go some way to addressing the usual criticism of Nolan’s films that they lack emotional clout. But he casted well. Very well. And McConoughey is vital to the success of Interstellar. Without his grounded and sincere performance, the film would be in danger of forgetting itself. The film can often feel sentimental with exclamations about the “power of love”, but intimacy provides the film with it’s most memorable and genuinely heart-breaking scene where Cooper literally sees his family growing before his eyes due to unfathomable time-differences.
Performances from Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway are as you would expect; and Jessica Chastain delivers real heartache in what little airtime she has. Mackenzie Foy is also a star. A special nod should also go out to TARS the robot who, along with McConoughey, provides enough comic chemistry to ensure we all get a breather. The Hans Zimmer soundtrack also provides plenty of drone for you basshunters out there.
Nolan’s touch with humility may still be justifiably questioned after Interstellar but the film is still mind blowing in many aspects. The sheer amount of work on the concepts, writing and visuals deserve every bit of praise that comes it’s way. The last half hour may well provide too much for some to digest – but this is smart film making. The likes of which have to be applauded and shouldn’t be missed. And when all is said and done – the McConaissance marches on.
Interstellar Review: 4 Stars