Enter the wormhole...
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.