In­ter­stel­lar

En­ter the worm­hole...

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Penny dreadful - Richard Jor­dan

Re­lease Date: OUT NOW!

12A | 164 min­utes Di­rec­tor: Christo­pher Nolan Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hath­away, Jessica Chas­tain, Casey Af­fleck, To­pher Grace, Michael Caine

“We’re ex­plor­ers, not care­tak­ers,” muses frus­trated pi­lot Cooper ( Matthew McConaughey) – a man born “40 years too late or 40 years too early” – near the start of Christo­pher Nolan’s In­ter­stel­lar. The same could be said for the di­rec­tor him­self. Not one con­tent to rest on his cin­e­matic lau­rels, In­ter­stel­lar sees Nolan voy­ag­ing into space – and full- tilt sci­ence fic­tion – for the very first time. The re­sult? Of­ten spec­tac­u­lar, some­times frus­trat­ing, in­fin­itely am­bi­tious…

As ever, at­tempt­ing to sum up Nolan’s labyrinthine plot­ting ( brain­stormed once again along­side younger brother Jonathan) is nigh- on im­pos­si­ble with­out spoil­ing the twisty, time- hop­ping nar­ra­tive and care­fully crafted re­veals. The film takes place in a near- fu­ture where the Earth is slowly with­er­ing, per­ma­nently cov­ered in a thick layer of arid dust that makes hu­man sur­vival at best chal­leng­ing, at worst nigh- on im­pos­si­ble. The pop­u­la­tion is de­clared a “care­taker gen­er­a­tion”, tasked with im­prov­ing sus­tain­abil­ity for their de­scen­dants, while no­tions of space ex­plo­ration and other means of sur­vival are ac­tively dis­cour­aged ( schools now teach kids that the

McConaughey ce­ments his A- list come­back

Moon land­ings were “faked” in or­der to desta­bilise the Soviet threat dur­ing the Cold War).

Try­ing to make sense of it all is for­mer pi­lot turned corn farmer Cooper, whose un­damp­ened thirst for sci­ence and dis­cov­ery are passed on to his head­strong daugh­ter, Murphy ( Macken­zie Foy). After a mys­te­ri­ous grav­i­ta­tional anom­aly points them in the di­rec­tion of what re­mains of NASA, Cooper is soon per­suaded by his for­mer men­tor ( Michael Caine) to pi­lot a top se­cret in­ter­stel­lar mis­sion along­side his own daugh­ter Brand ( Anne Hath­away), us­ing a mys­te­ri­ous worm­hole to ex­plore strange new worlds suit­able for the pos­si­ble re­lo­ca­tion of the hu­man race.

The plot may be higher- than- high con­cept, but Nolan keeps the world of In­ter­stel­lar ad­mirably and charm­ingly lo- fi. Ice­land lends its stun­ning nat­u­ral edge to the film’s alien land­scapes, while the tech – tak­ing cues from the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien – has a tan­gi­ble, old- school qual­ity to it, from the em­bry­onic hy­per­sleep cham­bers to McConaughey’s clunky, face­less ro­bot side­kick TARS. Ditto the movie it­self, shot on film in good old- fash­ioned 2D. It’s to Nolan and his visual ef­fects team’s credit, though, that he’s still able to push bound­aries de­spite this tra­di­tional ap­proach: In­ter­stel­lar con­tains with­out doubt some of the most in­ven­tive, im­mer­sive and ab­stract outer- space vi­su­als ever put up on the big screen.

De­spite the scale, though, this is a film about fa­thers and their daugh­ters, and it’s easy to see why Steven Spiel­berg almost took the di­rec­tor’s chair. If there’s one crit­i­cism usu­ally lev­elled at Nolan’s pre­vi­ous work it’s a lack of emo­tional heft – a com­plaint he goes some way to ad­dress­ing here. Still, you can’t help won­der if The Beard might have added an ex­tra layer of warmth to a fable that of­ten gets bogged down in ex­po­si­tion, try­ing as it does to make the space- time the­o­ries of physi­cist Kip Thorne – on which the film is based – ac­ces­si­ble to all, par­tic­u­larly when Hans Zim­mer’s score threat­ens to swamp the di­a­logue com­pletely.

Thank­fully, Nolan’s helped no end by the charis­matic McConaughey, ce­ment­ing his A- list come­back with a pow­er­ful per­for­mance that helps ground the grand pro­ceed­ings and pro­vides the film with its emo­tional core. Amongst all the space weird­ness and alien ter­rains, it’s one of his qui­eter mo­ments that proves the film’s small- scale high­light – a heart­break­ing scene in which ex­treme time dif­fer­ences mean he’s forced to lit­er­ally watch his kids grow up in front of him. It’s also his back- and- forth ban­ter with TARS – a for­mer mil­i­tary droid with a fiercely sar­cas­tic AI ( voiced by co­me­dian Bill Ir­win) – that lends the film some much needed hu­mour amongst the solem­nity of the mis­sion at hand.

Mean­while, fel­low Nolan new­bie Jessica Chas­tain and reg­u­lar

col­lab­o­ra­tor Caine pro­vide solid Earth­bound support with only fairly limited screen­time, and Hath­away adds a re­fresh­ingly down- to- earth pres­ence to the outer- space ad­ven­ture, de­spite be­ing sad­dled with much of the film’s eye- rolling, cod- philo­soph­i­cal mono­logues.

If there’s one area that Nolan is vis­i­bly more com­fort­able with, it’s tense, su­per- sized set pieces – and he more than de­liv­ers here. From a race against a gi­ant, sky­scraper- sized wave to some frosty fisticuffs atop a gar­gan­tuan glacier ( metic­u­lously shot to frame the com­bat­ants as tiny ants com­pared to the enor­mity of the icy mass they’re travers­ing), In­ter­stel­lar con­tains its fair share of heart-in-mouth mo­ments, the pre­vi­ously un­tapped cor­ners of space pro­vid­ing am­ple op­por­tu­nity to mine fresh, gor­geous spec­ta­cle.

And yet, de­spite his seem­ingly lim­it­less imag­i­na­tion, the di­rec­tor’s am­bi­tion ul­ti­mately threat­ens to get the bet­ter of him, par­tic­u­larly in the fi­nal stretch of the film’s bum-numb­ing 168- minute run­ning time. With high con­cept pil­ing up on top of high con­cept, Nolan’s steady grip on the plot loosens and gives way to more and more flights of fancy, as space- time co­nun­drums, new di­men­sions and, yes, even the sug­ges­tion of ex­trater­res­trial higher pow­ers col­lide in a dense ca­coph­ony of in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cultto- swal­low rev­e­la­tions.

Here again it’s McConaughey’s space- dad who saves the day, man­ag­ing to hold fo­cus – and em­pa­thy – de­spite the lu­di­crous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion around him. Could he fi­nally break the stale­mate be­tween sci- fi and Os­car? Ei­ther way, the McCon­ais­sance con­tin­ues...

Kip Thorne’s pro­jected method of space travel is used here and also in Con­tact – another Matthew McConaughey movie.

The old chest freezer desperately needed de­frost­ing.

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