Review: Interstellar

(This post was originally published on 05/12/2014 on a previous blog.)

This review is mostly spoiler free, any elements of the film discussed here are either minimal in terms of the overall plot, so as to not give anything away. Or were discussed before the film realeased. However if you haven’t seen the film yet stop reading this, watch it, then come back. You wont regret it.

Interstellar is a through and through Christopher Nolan film, it is philosophical, yet enjoyable throughout, it is grounded and yet fantastical. But this is not a masterpiece in the same sense that The Dark Knight Trilogy was, These are grounds untreaded for Nolan. This is his biggest film both in terms of scale and story. And although the film has undeniable flaws, it is successful in all it sets out to do.

Visually the film journeys far and wide, going everywhere from our home planet to the depths of space, to desolate, freezing worlds and far beyond. The absence of Nolan’s usual cinematographer, Wally Pfister, is obvious and as a result the film can seem less photogenic in its smaller moments than some of Nolan’s previous outings. But the bigger moments of the film more than make up for this by being absolutely awe inspiring, not only in their sense of scale and beauty, but also in how well realised and believable they seem. This film is a different kind of beautiful to previous Nolan films, but it is undeniably beautiful.

The cast is a fantastic line up of excellent actors, all of whom put in stunning performances throughout the film. McConaughey is perfect as the flawed and self centred, but ultimately heroic and loving father. Hathaway is equally as good, as a stubborn but gifted scientist who is equally as loving as McConaughey. The supporting cast are also brilliant, be they Sir Michael Caine and his sense of Worldly wisdom, David Gyasi who plays arguably the most tragic figure in the film or Matt Damon, who, despite almost no promotion of his involvement in the film, plays a pivotal part in the movie’s Narrative and is perhaps the most surprising of the performances on show here. However the biggest kudos has to go to Bill Irwin whose vocal work does an incredible job of bringing to life the robot character TARS. Not only does Irwin make TARS seem relatable and human but he is easily the most “fun” part of the film throughout.

The story is as you would expect of a Nolan film: complex. The narrative starts off fairly simple but quickly becomes very deep and extremely twisty. What’s interesting about this film is that it is the first of Nolan’s to use stereotypical elements of fantasy (although the film does an excellent job of making these seem realistic by the end of the second act). In fact the film as a whole is a good example of Nolan reaching beyond his comfort zone. One of the most common complaints levelled against the director is that his films can be seen as clinical, detached and unemotional*. However it’s clear, from very early on, that emotion is the backbone of the story in Interstellar, and the films strongest moments are also its most emotive. There are a few moments where a line of dialogue is not as well written as it could have been, or the pacing of the moment damages the sense of tension that it should portray, but these are few and far between. Throughout its huge runtime Interstellar tells a tense story which has some minor faults, but I defy you to watch the film with a dry eye.

Arguably the strongest aspect of Interstellar is its score. Hans Zimmer has once again worked his magic and delivered a soundtrack that is as epic and extensive as the visuals it permeates. The soundtrack is somewhat reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey (but more on that later). It has elements of Sci-FI, horror, action and lots more. Most importantly however it does a perfect job of underpinning the visuals and emotions throughout the film. Zimmer has not just made the films soundtrack, he has made a beautiful collection of songs which tell the story of Interstellar in its own way. And whilst there have been many complaints from audiences about the mixing and sound levels during certain scenes I personally had no issue with this, and in fact enjoyed how overwhelming the atmosphere of the planets or space travel could be.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen from critics and audiences alike is that this is Nolan trying to do Spielberg, as of course the script was originally meant for the latter, rather than the former. But he isn’t, Interstellar is Nolan attempting Kubrick and in every way, he succeeds. The film is not flawless, it has issues, some which may be critical  for certain audience members. But it succeeds on every level, its story, visuals, soundtrack, cast, narrative and pacing are so polished that it is very easy to overlook the few small flaws that the film does have. Call Nolan pretentious if you will but it has to be said that his films are consistently brilliant and I believe that people will look back on Interstellar in the same way we now look back on Kubrick’s 2001. Interstellar is not perfect, but it is a masterpiece.

Based on a 100 point scale I would score this film: 8.9/10

*Although, I would argue that The Dark Knight Rises is the best display of Nolan’s ability to create emotional depth in his work. Interstellar is a film about a loving father who goes into space to save the lives of his children. This is an inherently emotional concept, which Interstellar does huge justice to. But to me it seems a bigger feat of accomplishment to make the last act of an action series about a superhero as emotionally overwhelming as the last act of TDKR was. Making a futuristic parent seem human and flawed shows good ability. But to make your audience mourn for a violent, self centred superhero, and feel genuine sadness at the prospect of those he leaves behind seems a far harder and far bigger task. Though this is simply my personal opinion on the subject, and this is not to say that Interstellar is in anyway not emotionally engaging, it is quite the opposite.


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