Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Chris Nolan
Cast: Matthew McConnaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Bill Irwin, Mackenzie Foy, Topher Grace, David Gyasi, Timothee Chalamet, David Oyelowo, Will Devane, Matt Damon
Running Length: 169 minutes
Synopsis: A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.
Review: If I were to pick just one word to describe Christopher Nolan’s latest film, it would have to be “ambitious” – Interstellar is an epic undertaking that doesn’t always succeed, but you have to give Nolan brownie points just for trying. Although this sounds like faint praise, Interstellar is actually an excellent cinematic experience – the sheer scope and spectacle of the film is more than enough reason to give this movie a once-over on the big screen (and I am serious about “big screen” – this movie deserves to be seen on IMAX – more on this later), and even if the final reels come a little unhinged, it does not undo what happens in the two hours prior.
Although the film runs almost three hours long, it never feels belaboured, and plotlines are so engaging and well developed that the 169 minute running time passes by very quickly. Nolan smartly intertwines plot heavy scenes with action setpieces which are nothing short of stunning, taking place on a variety of very different landscapes. If you thought the action setpieces in Nolan’s Inception and Batman trilogy were impressive, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
While Interstellar is essentially a sci-fi film, Nolan manages to inject a lot of emotionality into the proceedings. It treads the fine line between emotional resonance and cheesiness, but most of the time the drama does hit the right notes, none more so than a mid-movie segment in which the time warping capabilities of a black hole is brought into stark relief. Matthew McConnaughey is extremely impressive in this sequence, and without spoiling the proceedings, the range and depth of emotions that he displays in those five minutes could rival the entire cast of some other sci-fi films, and brings to mind Sandra Bullock’s similarly excellent turn in Gravity. The supporting cast is strong, but undeniably McConnaughey is the one that holds the entire film together. It would not be a surprise to see him nominated second year running for Best Actor.
That the film throws so many scientific principles and terms at the audience, and yet still remains rather accessible, is a feat in itself. Most of it seems legit too, especially since famed CalTech astrophysicist Kip Thorne consults on the film and is credited as an Executive Producer. It does get a bit too farfetched and clunky near the end, and the denouement feels a little rushed, as though Nolan is aware that dwelling too long on the postscript would bring the plot holes into focus. Interstellar is not as mind-bending as some of Nolan’s other work (it was pretty clear to me how the plot would pan out eventually, midway through), but audience members will nevertheless need to prepare for a mental workout when watching the film – this is not your usual Hollywood sci-fi action blockbuster.
In terms of technical accomplishment, Interstellar is about as flawless as it gets. Every technical aspect is remarkably executed – art direction, production design, sound, visual effects, CG work, cinematography, editing, musical score and more – one simply cannot ask for more in a movie. This is a big budget Hollywood movie done right, and I will be surprised if there would not be a flurry of nominations and awards in technical categories come awards season next year. Having been shot entirely on celluloid, bucking the digital trend, the film’s scale and beauty is best appreciated in IMAX, and is a necessity in my opinion.
Interstellar is such a massive undertaking that the fact that Nolan manages to pull it off is impressive enough, and for the film to actually be this accomplished means it automatically takes a spot in my best-of list for 2014. Despite some blemishes, it is the cinematic experience to beat in 2014, and much as it sounds like a cliché: if you watch one movie this year, make it Interstellar.
Rating: * * * ½ (out of four stars)