A Giant Leap
By Adam Sturrock
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Bill Irwin
Christopher Nolan has never settled for anything less than the grandeur. Massive technical cathedrals of swirling dreams, mind-bending crime thrillers and plummeting landscapes. Nolan has produced some of the boldest, big budget films yet and in terms of subject matter, you can’t get bigger with his next film, Interstellar, which tackles space time at such a level many films have yet dared to touch. But with such room for failure, does Interstellar, cast and all, collapse underneath the weight or rise above it?
While I sit, hunched, once again over my keyboard, it is becoming massively clear how far away my grasp is of this film. Interstellar is meaty, so meaty in fact, that all of the (just under) three hours jostle to keep up with its rocket fuelled pacing. From the skyscraper high visuals to the star studded cast, there is definitely bang for your buck, no matter what format you watch this in. While the film is very clever, though, it seems to try to be too clever; unnecessarily so. The film makes a big deal about building up these parameters to follow by and then in the final 1/3, it kind of disregards them, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. Nolan adapted the script from scraps of a Spielberg draft and then added his own cogitative panache, but in doing so, there seems to be a visible disconnect between the two scripts. As much as I can see and hear the usual Nolan-signatures, there is something off in the final product. One’s enjoyment of the film is solely based on whether you can disregard the big flaws in Interstellar and see the beautiful movie that lies beneath.
The plot pivots around a former NASA pilot, now farmer, Cooper (McConaughey), who is striving to deal with a massive crop blight that has crippled the food supplies of the world. Dust grows like weeds and everything is coated in it, it isn’t a case of if Earth will die, it is a matter of when. Even the once towering space organization of NASA is reduced to an underground movement, with leader, Professor Brand (Caine) languishing beneath a world that denies the space age moon landings as anything but propaganda to bankrupt the Soviet Union. As one of the few pilots to have any experience using spacecrafts, Cooper is tasked in taking his small crew of Amelia (Hathaway), Rommily (Gyasi), Doyle (Bentley) and two army robots called TARS (Irwin) and CASE (Stewart) on a mission through a wormhole to get to a galaxy with potential inhabitable planets. From there, things get complicated. Due to the complexities of space time theory, for every hour of time they spend looking at a planet, is another seven years back on Earth. Nolan integrates this mechanic to great effect. In a touching sequence, we watch Cooper’s children (played by Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain) grow up and become embittered by their absent father; brutally heartbreaking as within a couple of hours, Cooper watches his image of his children warp and corrupt before his eyes.
But here’s the thing, the film really doesn’t know what it’s aiming for. While it tries to paint its protagonists as emotional beings, some of their decisions don’t make sense and plot developments appear out of nowhere with no signposting beforehand. And as I’ve said before, when the film tries to be logical it sometimes trips on its own momentum, baffling those who watch it. But there are many moments that leave one in awe; the sound design is often intelligent, the use or lack thereof of sound in critical scenes help amplify the isolation of space. Hans Zimmer yet again creates an emotional, swelling score that envelops scenes when needed, but rarely manages to overpower what we see on screen – but when it does though, dialogue can be undecipherable with the booming brass looming above. The cinematography and set design is strong, as always, with jaw dropping locations used to great effect; putting us in the scene.
Overall, Interstellar is maybe one or two pegs below greatness. The main actors put in the work that rightfuly earns them their pay cheque, but the final 1/3 slightly spoils the broth, slightly untangling the momentum set by a previously solid film. For lovers of good sci-fi or Chris Nolan films; or both, Interstellar won’t massively disappoint or ruin your impression of Nolan, but it will leave you asking for something more.