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Published on November 10th, 2014 | by Brad

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Interstellar – A (Spoiler-Free) Film Review

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The arrival of a new Christopher Nolan film is always an exciting time, for me. His previous work speaks for itself, and particularly post-Dark Knight, he has become the premiere blockbuster film-maker of our time. He’s a filmmaker who believes in shooting as much as possible in frame, whilst embracing and maximising the visual possibilities of digital effects. He makes grand, spectacular blockbusters about complex ideas, and uses them to tell simple, intimate, emotional narratives. I’m a fan, I think it’s fair to say. So I went into Interstellar on Friday predisposed to liking the film. I was not disappointed.

Interstellar tells the story of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA test pilot and engineer in a future where the Earth’s resources are near-exhausted, and mankind has regressed to an agrarian society. Once a man who looked to the heavens, Cooper is now forced to scrabble in the dirt, and his frustration is palpable. Like everyone else, he’s now a farmer, living with his son Tom, daughter Murphy and step-father Donald (the ever-reliable John Lithgow). Mackenzie Foy, the young actress who plays Murphy, gives a wonderful, heart-breaking turn. Early on, father and daughter discover a gravity anomaly which leads them to NASA, still operating in secret on a plan to find humanity a new home, away from our dying Earth.

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The way they intend to do this, as exposited by a combination of Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway and Wes Bentley, is to travel through a wormhole which opened up forty-eight years ago just near Saturn. As Cooper is a pilot, and everyone else there has only ever flown in simulators, they implore him to fly the mission for them. They are to fly off and find a habitable planet, whilst back on Earth, Caine and his team will work to prepare the human race to leave.

That’s as far as I’m going to go with the plot. I’ll be back at a later date with a spoiler-heavy review, where I offer my thoughts and speculations on what’s going on, but I want you all to discover it first. Interstellar is a film which demands to be seen, and seen in cinemas on the biggest, loudest, IMAXiest screen you can find. Christopher Nolan is a master of his craft operating at the peak of his powers, and it’s a joy to see such a talented artist at work. Interstellar is the most epic in scope of all his films so far, and yet it’s also the most intimate in its story; this is a film about a father and a daughter, and their love stretching across the stars.

As one comes to expect, on a technical level, Interstellar is immaculate. This is the first Christopher Nolan film not to be shot by Wally Pfister since Following (Pfister was busy making Transcendence), and his are large shoes to fill; fortunately, Hoyte Van Hoytema (Let the Right One In, The Fighter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Her) is more than up to the challenge. Interstellar is a treat for the eyes, whether we’re looking at acres of sweeping cornfields, frozen clouds, or the event horizon of a black hole. Van Hoytema will next be seen stepping into Roger Deakins’ shoes for Bond 24, and I guarantee a gorgeous looking film.

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Other, more regular collaborators with Nolan up their game to another level. Hans Zimmer’s score is epic, as one typically expects, but totally different to his previous work. Out go the strings and the big drums, in come organs, synthesisers, a little bit of choral work, and a lot of dissonance. It’s a strange, alienating sound, as well as some of the most heart-poundingly tense music you will hear this year. Production Designer Nathan Crowley and Visual Effects Supervisor Paul Franklin, and their teams, have created the most incredible world. There is no green-screen in Interstellar. The views out of the spaceship windows were created before production started, and projected onto large screens surrounding the sets and models. It’s utterly immersive, and space looks quite beautiful.

Interstellar is, at its best, a celebration of human ingenuity and achievement. It takes great joy in our pioneer spirit, and expresses disappointment in our continued capacity for ignorance and selfishness. It’s a film which places great faith in its audience’s intelligence, whilst not falling into the trap of being too clever. It’s about exploration, innovation, theoretical physics, love, abandonment, despair, loss, longing, loneliness, the joy of discovery and the fear of death. It’s a great movie.

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Recommended viewing:

If you liked Interstellar, you may also wish to consider;

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
  • Contact (Robert Zemeckis, 1997)
  • The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1983)
Brad

Brad

Consumer. Scribbler. Occasional drunkard. Nice beard, though...
Brad

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