Sunday, November 9, 2014

Interstellar Review

'Mankind was born on earth. It was never meant to die here.'

(Contains Mild Spoilers)
As the earth dies, ex-astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) leaves his family behind to go on a mission to save mankind with scientists Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Romilly (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley) by travelling deep into a wormhole through which possible inhabitable planets and a new beginning for mankind may be found. 

Interstellar could well be Nolan's masterpiece, in his intergalactic sci-fi opera of epic proportions we are given a sensory spectacle, the likes of which haven't been seen since Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Visually, and proportionally, it's easy to compare the two, though I believe that Interstellar's strengths not only lie in it's visuals, but also it's emotional core. At the heart of the story we have Murph (played by both the exceptional Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain respectively) and Cooper's father-daughter relationship. Harking back to his previous films, there is always a constant theme of family running through Nolan's films, whether it's Bruce trying to fulfil his parents' legacy and prove himself to Rachel Dawes in the Batman trilogy, or Cobb in Inception, doing whatever he can to be reunited with his kids and bring closure to his relationship with his dead wife Mal through her projection - his films almost hinge on the romantic and familial relationships at their roots. Its the emotional foundation of Nolan's films that give them their weight.

Now, though I've always maintained that Nolan can't write female characters, Interstellar finally proves me wrong. To say it had a lot to do with the dynamics of the relationship between Murph and Cooper would be an understatement. The fact that he was trying to make things right for his daughter, and not his partner or romantic interest changed things exponentially. The one character I think could have been written better, however, was Cooper's son Tom. With so much emphasis placed on Murph, the Nolan brothers seemed to have forgotten about Tom, or at least cared less about his development as it didn't affect the plot as crucially as Murph's would.

 This is all then bundled up in science with the help of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who helped the Nolan brothers refine the scientific accuracy of the script. Impressive though it all is, there's no easy way to explain the ins and outs of quantum mechanics to a mainstream audience in just under 3 hours, though the film does a pretty good job of keeping things understandable, whilst also leaving you in utter awe at the intricacy of it all.

Hans Zimmer also delivers yet again in his fifth collaboration with Nolan, producing one of his best scores to date, a blend of ethereal strings, piano and synth that deliver a celestial, other-wordly quality unlike anything he's ever done for Nolan's previous films. The use of sound and silence was beautifully balanced, with the silence helping to emphasize the realism that Nolan is so renowned for, while the music helped pack emotional punches where needed, most notably when Cooper has to sit and watch 23 years of his children's lives unravel before him in minutes worth of footage.
Though the music was beautiful, it was at times admittedly a little overpowering. I'm unsure as to whether or not it was just in my showing, but it was occasionally a bit difficult to catch some of the dialogue in parts with the score blaring so loudly.

The use of light and colour was magnificent, with beautiful imagery produced with the help of swedish cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, replacing Nolan's usual collaborator Wally Pfister. Nonetheless, he truly mastered the visuals, from the barren, dust polluted corn-farm of earth, to the ghostly, intangible ice planet on the other side of the wormhole.

Though this may be slower than Nolan's other films, its also more reflective. There are moments of intensity and tension within, but overall it bears a more philosophical overtone, it's somewhat positive ending still cloaked in a lasting melancholy. The ending is, however, what I think is bound to split audiences, due to the way in which it toes the line of scientific theory and pure, fantastical optimism. But just like it's characters, Interstellar begs its audience to take a leap of faith. The less you know about this film the better, because it will surprise you, hopefully leaving you as enthralled and inspired as it did me. Definitely the best film I've seen all year.