Interstellar (2014): Christopher Nolan's Sci-Fi extravaganza with strong intellectual and emotional appeal

Matthew McConaughey is the pivot around which the movie revolves

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Interstellar Movie Poster, Directed by Christopher Nolan, Starring Matthew McConaughey
Interstellar (2014) By Christopher Nolan
Our Rating: 8.0
IMDb Ratings: 9.2
GenreAdventure | Sci-Fi
CastMatthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
Country: USA | UK
Language: English
Runtime169 min
ColorColor

Summary: 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.
Interstellar is the latest offering from the renowned British-American filmmaker Christopher Nolan. Based on a screenplay co-written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher himself, Interstellar stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in the lead roles. The movie’s ensemble support cast includes the likes of Matt Damon, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, and John Lithgow. Interstellar presents the tale of a group of explorers who undertake a journey across the uncharted avenues of space in a bid to save mankind. Christopher Nolan carved a niche for himself more than a decade back by unleashing a masterpiece of a film called Memento (2000). Since then he has never looked back; films like Insomnia (2002)The Prestige (2006), Batman Begins, The Dark Knight (2008), and Inception (2010) serve as a great testament to his filmmaking genius. But, a storyteller like Nolan almost always requires artistic freedom to thrive. When it comes to commercial filmmaking, this freedom becomes a luxury that few can afford. The best example is perhaps The Dark Knight Rises (2012) which Nolan was initially reluctant to direct but the producers made sure that the project went ahead as planned. The result was an end product that suffered from an absence of purpose. Yes, it made heaps of money at the box-office but it isn’t a movie that Nolan would be proud of making. However, the good news is that Interstellar is just the kind of film that would have made the artist in him to tick once again. And, the result is quite evident. Nolan makes a return to top form with a film that may very well be his most ambitious venture yet.

Matthew McConaughey as Cooper in Interstellar, wearing a space suit, Directed by Christopher Nolan
Matthew McConaughey as Cooper in Interstellar (2014)
Interstellar is set in the near future wherein humanity finds itself on the brink of an apocalypse. Overpopulation and constant exploitation of natural resources has rendered earth unsustainable for mankind. The levels of Nitrogen are alarmingly high and the crops are being ruined by blight and dust storms. With widespread hunger, the society has no place for scientists or engineers; farmers are the need of the time. But even they are not enough to save the planet from the impending doom. But, there’s still a ray of hope. A covert unit of the seemingly defunct NASA has arranged for one final mission to rescue humanity from the clutches of obliteration. A former NASA test pilot and engineer named Cooper, who lives on a farm along with his son Tom, daughter Murph, and father-in-law Donald, must lead a team of explorers on an interstellar voyage, traversing through a newly discovered wormhole beyond the planet Saturn, in search of greener pastures for mankind. But, it’s not as vague as it seems. For, it’s the data from NASA’s previous mission, officially named Lazarus, which involved sending a series of manned probes through the wormhole to survey planets with potential for long-term sustainability of mankind, that form the basis of Cooper’s mission.

Anne Hathway as Amelia (left) with Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey) in Interstellar, Directed by Christopher Nolan
Anne Hathway as Amelia (left) in Interstellar
Interstellar can be described an exquisite product of cinematic art that grapples with the questions of human existence and its apparent insignificance when juxtaposed against the celestial infinity. In Interstellar, Nolan devises a riveting mise en scène that achieves with minimal use of CGI & VFX what most modern Sci-Fi films fail to accomplish: striking a perfect balance between the human and scientific elements. Like Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (2013), a sense of love, longing, hope, nostalgia, and sacrifice runs through Interstellar. But, the latter is far more complex in terms of scientific detail thanks to the expert guidance of the American theoretical physicist Kip Thorne whose research work is the inspiration behind the film. While Interstellar’s plot deals with complex scientific concepts like relativity, space-time continuum, time dilation, black holes, gravitational force, worm holes, time travel, etc., Nolan and team, for the most part, do a wonderful job of keeping it simple enough even for a layman to understand. Coming to the human elements, it’s the bond that Cooper shares with his family, especially his daughter Murph, that's the key to the movie. Cooper’s mission requires him to part with his family for an indefinite period. But, he still undertakes it so as to serve the greater purpose of saving humanity from the impending doom.

Michael Caine as Professor Brand in Interstellar, Directed by Christopher Nolan
Michael Caine as Professor Brand in Interstellar
While trying to analyze space and Sci-Fi films, it’s difficult not to draw comparisons with the genre classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Solyaris (1972), Star Wars (1977), Star Trek (1966), The Terminator (1984), The Matrix (1999), etc. And, on a closer observation, a keen-eyed viewer may even observe very many similarities. On their mission, Cooper and team are accompanied by a multi-purpose robot, TARS, which harks back to HAL 9000. Also, some plot elements are bound to remind some of the Star Trek and Terminator films in the same way Inception reminded of "The Matrix" trilogy. But, it’s the brilliant packaging that makes Interstellar entirely unique. Nolan remains true to his art—something that he seemed to have lacked while making "The Dark Knight" Trilogy—while still ensuring that his audiences have the time of their lives while watching the movie. He sometimes uses voiceovers, à la Terrence Terrence Malick, to make the narrative complex and gripping. Interstellar poses several spiritual questions but only offers existential answers to some of them. Is Nolan trying to reinvent himself as a filmmaker? Perhaps, yes, but, he certainly is trying very hard to expand his horizons as an artist, and, in the process, making his viewers go the extra mile in search of the answers to endless uncertainties of the universe.

A Still from Interstellar: Cooper's (played by Matthew McConaughey) emotional outburst, Directed by Christopher Nolan
A Still from Interstellar: Cooper's emotional outburst
Fresh from his Oscar win for Dallas Buyers Club at the 86th Academy Awards, Matthew McConaughey is once again at the top of the game. He is the pivot around which the movie revolves. As Cooper, he shows an emotional range that is difficult to match. And the fact that he does it so effortlessly makes it even more remarkable. While there are several brilliant sequences in Interstellar that he is a part of, there is one scene in particular wherein his character’s facial expression drastically change, the cheerful smile quickly fades into a lamentation of sorts, while scanning through the video messages sent by his family members. The scene is an absolute treat to watch; hopefully, the Academy will make a note of it. McConaughey’s performance is well back up by the rest of the cast. While Anne Hathway is solid as Amelia, Michael Caine once again packs a punch playing a supporting part in a Christopher Nolan film. Speaking of cameo performances, Matt Damon stands out in the complicated role of Dr. Mann. As far as the movie’s cinematography and background music are concerned, there is nothing much to complain about.

Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey) with daughter Murph, in Interstellar, Directed by Christopher Nolan
A Still from Interstellar: Cooper with daughter Murph
Overall, Interstellar is unarguably one of the greatest Sci-Fi films of the 21st century that makes a film like Gravity look like a cheap animation film, but topping Kubrick’s "2001: A Space Odyssey" stills remains a distant dream in cinema (the only Sci-Fi movie that comes close to matching, if not surpassing, its brilliance is Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solyaris). While the Nolan brothers have done a great job with the screenplay, there are some minor plot inconsistencies that could have been ironed out easily had the editing been slightly better. Perhaps, Nolan and the editing team may have been working under a tight constraint with respect to the movie’s runtime (even the current runtime of 169 minutes is bit longer from the commercial perspective). Sometimes, the journey is better and more enjoyable than the ultimate destination. The same is true for Interstellar: it may not have a very satisfying ending, but, as a film, it’s quite a fulfilling experience. Interstellar has all the ingredients to entertain the casual viewers, and, at the same time, it is capable of making an intelligent viewer think. The movie’s multilayered narrative makes a second viewing essential for serious viewers. While it would be a bit early to call it Nolan’s best film till date, Interstellar is certainly a worthy addition to his decorated body of work. A must watch!

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

People who liked this also liked...
Share on Google Plus

14 comments:

  1. "While Interstellar’s plot deals with complex
    scientific concepts like relativity, space-time continuum, time dilation, black
    holes, gravitational force, etc., Nolan and team, for the most part, do a wonderful
    job of keeping it simple enough even for a layman to understand." Yes, Murtaza, this article was a delight to watch and was introspective enough and I agree with the above quoted sentence especially.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Glad you agree with my assessment, Amol... watching the film was indeed a treat!!! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Honestly Murtaza, I am a die-hard fan of Nolan and I like all his movies. I couldnt get the tickets on weekends so have booked it for monday. I am waiting for the day.


    Yours along with ImDb seems to be a good review. I will come up with one once I am done watching the movie.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts... please do come back once you are done with the movie!!! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Overall, Interstellar is unarguably
    one of the greatest Sci-Fi films of the 21st century that makes
    Gravity look like a cheap animation film..."

    Don't agree with that statement. To be honest Gravity was an excellent film, and I can certainly say that Gravity had better direction, cinematography, editing and even Sandra Bullock outperforms McConaughey but it wasn't his fault, his track record is simply phenomenal.

    Gravity had perfect length, it was a smooth ride, was emotional, not so much scientific but hey, it's a movie after all and it was executed very well and largely delivered what it promised.

    I think because of Gravity only, which was much more than a astrophysics and sci-fi movie, this whole bloatware of love in Interstellar was there. They could easily have made a better film without overly making it a movie about daughter father relationship and significance of love in space, which I think is insignificant and too ambitious to think in 21st century.

    Not that I have any problem with Interstellar, but I think we are expecting too much from a director who is not at the same level of the geniuses we compare him to. What went wrong was that you can either make a perfect space movie for everyone, like Gravity, or you can be artsy and creative like 2001:A Space Odyssey, or you can be dramatic like Solaris, or you can be scientifically accurate for all those infotainment freaky geeks and scientists whose vision came true, but it tried to be too many things at once which led to somewhat a film which I feel could have been historic, could have a lot better than it actually came to be. If it had to tell a story about father and daughter and love, why not do it on earth only, if you want to go to through a warmhole and explore other life possibilities, why not just do that faithfully, or if you want to explore other dimensions and unending 'possibilities' of black hole and singularity, why not just stick to that. I admit this is all linked, but we are not so far ahead in this respect and we don't know yet how all this works, new theories and possibilities will be presented before us and then we might be able to do justice with it, but for now, why not stick to the facts if you are being scientific. Being ambitious is ok, but trying to things at a time is what made a mockery of such a fine plot.

    I was impressed by the first half, but the second half ruined the movie for me. Matt Damon looked out of sorts, too much dependence on michael caine, anne hathaway not getting enough scree time almost ruined the movie for me, if it was not for the breathtaking visuals, terrific music by Hans Zimmer, good acting, cinematography and editing, the movie was almost a let down.

    I would say it's a brave attempt, something which has never been tried and experimented before, everyone has done a great job, kudos to Nolan, but I think he can deliver better for someone who has Insomnia, Memento, Prestige and The Dark Knight under his credentials, this is no brainer that he'll come up with a bang not just for making a blockbuster, but setting himself apart as a 'Director' first. No doubt he is making big money, but the quality in his direction isn't there what we were used to seeing till The Dark Knight. It is a film not to be missed, for its visuals mostly and cosmic experience.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great review, and thank you for checking out mine.

    Anamelesscritic.blogspot.com if anyone else is interested. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Glad you liked it... and thanks for sharing the link!!! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for replying,

    You have posted a very thoughtful and genuine reply. Good to see someone not getting mad at a difference of opinion.

    I think McConaughey suits better in roles, I don't know what to call it, he was spectacular in Killer Joe, Mud and Dallas Buyers Club. I am not a fan of Sandra Bullock, but she was excellent in Gravity and McConaughey didn't seemed to me at his best but he was very good in a few scenes, but overall I felt a connection with Sandra but not with him, so it seemed to me a better performance.

    Otherwise, I agree with you. I think the reason for this is the change in times, even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a physician, apart from being an excellent writer. Even in a sport like cricket, there were bowlers who could bowl and bat from both the hands, which we haven't seen in the last 30-40 years of the sport. The lifestyle and change in era is something to blame for this.

    We have so many technicians and experts that people don't have to be ambidextrous in today's world, though there is no denying that people who tend to do that are brave and the possibility of a success is rare, but creativity is much more probable which could be seen as an expression of art in Interstellar as you said.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for replying,

    You have posted a very thoughtful and genuine reply. Good to see someone not getting mad at a difference of opinion.

    I think McConaughey suits better in roles, I don't know what to call it, he was spectacular in Killer Joe, Mud and Dallas Buyers Club. I am not a fan of Sandra Bullock, but she was excellent in Gravity and McConaughey didn't seemed to me at his best but he was very good in a few scenes, but overall I felt a connection with Sandra but not with him, so it seemed to me a better performance.

    Otherwise, I agree with you. I think the reason for this is the change in times, even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a physician, apart from being an excellent writer. Even in a sport like cricket, there were bowlers who could bowl and bat from both the hands, which we haven't seen in the last 30-40 years of the sport. The lifestyle and change in era is something to blame for this.

    We have so many technicians and experts that people don't have to be ambidextrous in today's world, though there is no denying that people who tend to do that are brave and the possibility of a success is rare, but creativity is much more probable which could be seen as an expression of art in Interstellar as you said.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Yes, McConaughey is indeed a very versatile actor... he was exceptional in Killer Joe. He is a great acting talent of our generation... even since I saw Killer Joe a couple of years back I knew that an Oscar was just around the corner... and he proved me right. I hope he gets nominated for Interstellar!!! Here's what I had written in my IMDb of Killer Joe:

    "Killer Joe stars the dashing, shape-shifting Matthew McConaughey in the role of a lifetime. It's absolutely incomprehensible how McConaughey continues to show such remarkable acting range and yet go unnoticed by the Academy.

    I must say that it has been a real pleasure interacting with you!!! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Nice assessment. Although I couldn't grasp all the scientific happenings, I am enamored by the spiritual questions it poses (As you said, 'in the vein of Terrence Malick'). Do you think Nolan doesn't possess the human touch? Father-daughter relationship isn't that insipid, especially McConaughey's performance keeps us involved and gives great energy to the film's emotional core. As you mentioned, there are some inconsistencies in the plot, but it was a very satisfying movie experience for me. I also think that we should give at least five years for "Interstellar" before saying that it is our generation's "2001" or "Solyaris".

    ReplyDelete
  12. You've echoed my thoughts exactly, Murtaza. Thank you for a review that does justice to this film.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nick, I am really glad to hear that... thanks for sharing your thoughts!!! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for sharing your thoughts... With Interstellar, Nolan proves that he does possess the human touch!!! :-)

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for sharing for valuable opinion. We would be delighted to have you back.