UK Release Date: 7th November 2014
Runtime: 169 minutes
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Mackenzie Foy, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, David Gyasi, Matt Damon
Synopsis: A pilot is challenged with visiting the other side of a wormhole in order to find a new home for humanity.
There are few directors who can be used to sell a film in the modern era. Largely, it’s marquee actors that can elevate a film to commercial success, with director names relegated to dead space on a poster. Christopher Nolan, however, is not just any director and Interstellar is not just any film. It’s an ambitious sci-fi epic that deals with lofty ideas aplenty. With that in mind, it’s almost inevitably something of a disappointment.
Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former NASA pilot scraping out a living as a farmer on a dust-ravaged future Earth with his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). When he stumbles upon a secret facility run by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), he is thrust into an ambitious mission to find a new home for humanity alongside Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway).
Christopher Nolan is certainly not a filmmaker who lacks ambition. Interstellar is a film that literally shoots for the stars, taking in enormous themes of love, loss and the continuation of humanity whilst still trying to deliver an entertaining popcorn movie. Unfortunately, the resulting movie is a mess of tonal collisions resulting in a catastrophic lack of identity.
| "We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."
There’s a lot to like in the film, with Matthew McConaughey delivering an excellent performance as Interstellar’s emotional and thematic centrepoint. Cooper is a man stuck in a future he never imagined, with his life’s work consigned to boldly revised history books. This turmoil is conveyed brilliantly by McConaughey, with a central plot device involving the passage of time turned into a moment of subtly played despair.
Anne Hathaway fares less well, saddled with a hideously clunky monologue about the power of love that heralds many of the problems with the film’s ludicrous third act. It’s difficult to say much without spoiling Interstellar’s narrative surprises, but the final half an hour feels less like an intelligent blockbuster than it does a particularly poor episode of Doctor Who.
But before it completely flies off the rails, Interstellar plays its trump card. The middle section of its extraordinary bloated running time is an absolute masterclass in spectacle, showcasing Nolan’s undeniable flair for visual trickery mixed with impressive practical effects. However, it’s this very flair that manifests later in the film as a lack of restraint which leaves the film smothered by a huge vision with no semblance of control.
| "I’m thinking about my family and millions of other families."
That lack of control can be keenly felt in the furore surrounding the bizarre sound mixing at play in the film. There are scenes in which crucial expository dialogue is almost entirely obscured by the hum of machinery or the excessively grandiose Hans Zimmer score. Nolan has defended this as an “impressionistic” approach to sound, but it actually just undermines the audience’s ability to understand what’s happening.
Interstellar is a film that has major delusions of grandeur. It wants to be a genre classic in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it struggles to reconcile its lofty ambition with Nolan’s desire to get bums on cinema seats.
Pop or Poop?
The failure of Interstellar is an honourable one. Nolan’s film is undone by its own ambition, failing to find a tone to call its own.
A strong performance by Matthew McConaughey and some genuinely jaw-dropping scenery gives the film energy and vigour, but this momentum soon trickles away in the face of an overblown and utterly ludicrous finale.
Interstellar flies far too close to the Sun and gets well and truly burnt.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.