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Interstellar

November 6, 2014

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Cooper: This world’s a treasure, but it’s been telling us to leave for a while now.

Christopher Nolan is a director who knows how to put butts in seats.  After directing one of the best cinematic trilogies and inspiring countless filmmakers to step up their game in terms of entertainment, his name became a trademark of its own.  Nolan has taken a bold step forward with Interstellar, a space adventure that is technically gorgeous but lacking in certain facets.  Matthew McConaughey headlines this nearly three hour exploration with an extraordinary supporting cast to bounce off of.  Interstellar is certainly ambitious enough, even if it doesn’t thoroughly live up to what one would expect from Nolan.

In essence, the plot is quite simple.  I’ll try my best to give out as little information as possible.  It’s a good idea to go into Interstellar knowing as little as possible.  It takes place sometime in the future on a dying earth.  The current generation of children are said to be the last of their kind.  When Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) stumbles across a top secret NASA base, he is recruited by a group of explorers (Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Wes Bentley) to find a planet habitable to live on.

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Matthew McConaughey has been having one hell of a decade.  His redemption began in 2011 when audiences saw his true acting chops in The Lincoln Lawyer.  Cut to two and a half years later and the man has an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club and a leading role in a film by one of the America’s best directors.  He also starred in The Wolf of Wall Street and was one of the leads in HBO’s True Detective.  He’s arguably at the height of his career.  Needless to say, he is fantastic in Interstellar.

Anne Hathaway is second in command as Brand, giving a serviceable yet forgettable role.  Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain are both solid as Cooper’s older children.  Michael Caine is typical Michael Caine, and there’s a huge lack of Morgan Freeman going on here.  There are also brief moments with Topher Grace, Wes Bentley, Ellen Burstyn and John Lithgow.  Everyone turns in solid, albeit unsubstantial performances.  It didn’t seem like they had personality outside of the their written roles which detracted from the overall enjoyment.

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Unfortunately the outlandish story overshadowed the talent on display.  With a stronger script and tighter storytelling, this could have been one of the best sci-fi flicks of all-time, but it becomes jumbled and confusing around the halfway mark.  Too many ideas are thrown around that just seem to be the result of an overblown script.  The most touching instances come from the warmth of a father-daughter relationship that is evident between Cooper and young Murph.  The relationship between these two are the high points of the film.  Nolan has struggled in the past with directing solid emotional scenes, but he really hits the right beats here. 

Interstellar is a beautifully designed film for the most part.  There are moments that are pure spectacle; the space traveling sequences are enthralling to watch and are really well imagined for the most part.  The spaceship docking scenes in particular are encapsulating.  But it’s a Christopher Nolan film, so it bleeds of self-indulgence and foolish decisions that inevitably leads to situations magically fixing themselves.  There are several unnecessary Hollywood tropes (“love conquers all”) that made the affair less relatable.

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This is composer Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan’s fifth time collaborating, and the score is just as epic and momentous as one would expect.  The powerfully loud organs were utilized spectacularly during the launch and flight sequences.  The score intertwines in and out of the picture quite beautifully.  Having said that, there were some sound design issues.  Having seen the movie in 35mm on a regular sized screen, I found the dialogue to be mixed horribly with the score.  According to /Film, I’m not the only one who found this to be a problem.

It seems that all of Nolan’s films require subsequent viewings to really take everything in and appreciate the production.  However, that’s not always a positive.  Take The Dark Knight Rises for example: I fell in love with the movie after my first viewing, but after multiple viewings, I began to point out the flaws and plot holes that became more evident as time went on.  I now view it as a heavily flawed film that is far too long.  With Interstellar, it could go either way.  For instance, it was problematic in more than a few areas, yet the main lead is masterfully illustrated and the visuals are top-tier.  It’s really a mixed bag.

Interstellar = 3 ½ out of 5

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