Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014)

The latest film from Christopher Nolan (The Batman Trilogy, Inception) is sure to be, for many, the most anticipated film of the year. This is especially considering the marketing tease of epic intergalactic exploration, the fact that it is shot in a combination of anamorphic 35mm and IMAX 70mm (and will be projected in both formats), and brings in the man behind the McConaissance. This may be Nolan’s most ambitious film yet, as he attempts to balance an intimate existential story about the power of love and its ability to bind humans and families together across time and space, with credulous scientific hypothesizing about cosmic physics and a challenging mission to save the world. At the same time it is his most intellectually wobbly, narratively goofy and surprisingly forgettable.

As fascinating as Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s ideas are, and as impressive as the former’s vision as a director is, this doesn’t hold up to even modest scrutiny. Failing to grasp how the startling final act revelations work is not a deal-breaker for me, but I can’t forgive the mediocre writing that plagues this film, in spite of its substantial visual artistry and the stunning depiction of unexplored regions of deep space.

Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widowed engineer turned farmer, is living on an Earth that is slowly becoming increasingly environmentally devastated and uninhabitable. He is living on his farm with his late wife’s father (John Lithgow) and his two children Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) and Tom (Timothée Chalamet). He is grooming Tom to follow in his footsteps, while the inquisitive Murphy shares his love for engineering. Following a serious dust storm, which frequent the area and are worsening, Cooper and Murphy are led to mysterious coordinates by a strange (but easily accepted) gravitational anomaly in Murphy’s bedroom. She believes she has a ghost, but something has definitely been messing about with her books.

They find themselves at a top-secret NASA base run by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway). As it happens, a wormhole has been discovered near Saturn that can connect widely separated regions of space-time and act as a portal into another galaxy. Brand proposes that Cooper join his team of scientists on a voyage to find a humanly habitable planet in a parallel galaxy. Cooper struggles with the decision to leave his two children – Murphy is especially unforgiving, given the fact that he cannot promise a return – but he eventually decides to join Amelia, Doyle (an impressively bearded Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi) and a robot called TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) on the mission.

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