Sci-Fi film with aspirations of humanity
The few things you need to appreciate about Interstellar are – it’s long, it’s epic and it’s most definitely sci-fi.
But by all means don’t let that put you off! It’s a truly wonderful film, beautifully shot and directed, by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Dark Knight, Inception).
The premise of the film is simple and well explained in the course of the opening scenes, set in a future world where there is a food shortage and technology and governments just don’t run how they used to. Space exploration has long since expired, and with the human race facing extinction, NASA (now a department of just a few hundred people) looks to the stars to source viable options for life out in the galaxy.
Our hero of the film is Cooper, played by Matthew McConnaughey (alright, alright, alright), an ex astronaut who never flew into space, turned farmer. The opening 40 minutes or so focuses on the here and now on earth, the relationships with his children and father-in-law, and the struggles they face on a daily basis.
Nolan illustrates the current state of affairs succinctly, never using the old trick of flash back news reports of the blight on the crops or the breakdown of the military over the past years. This is demonstrated entirely from scenes within the farmhouse itself and the nearby town, and with a population that appears to have dwindled in light of the food shortage, the reality of life on earth is viewed just through our characters eyes, with full comprehension from the viewer.
One such struggle is the dust – it coats everything and the dust storms are that frequent, when they arrive there’s no panic on screen as you would expect in a block buster film, folk just pull their vehicles over, hunker down in their houses and wait for it to pass. There’s also no shot of say, the White House, covered in dust, Nolan need not use usual blockbuster strategies here.
When unexplained events at their farmhouse lead him and his daughter, (named Murph, she thinks she’s bad luck) to a mysterious NASA base in the middle of nowhere, the story really starts to come alive. Michael Caine and his team, including daughter Brand (played by Anne Hathaway) have prior knowledge of Cooper as his time as an astronaut and rather swiftly set about nominating him for the mission. It’s all rather too quick if I’m honest….Cooper stumbles on the NASA base and hey presto 4 hours later he’s seemingly about to jet into space!
There are tearful goodbyes and this great driving/crying face from Cooper. But he departs, none the less to save the human race with promises to return.
The space travel scenes are brilliantly executed, with the spacecraft not looking particularly sleek as often seen in films, but functional, and full of purpose. There are some pretty cool on board AI robots, who with an adjustable humour setting add an amusing lift to spacecraft life. In addition, with utter silence when there are shots from the outside of the craft looking in, you get a sense of complete loneliness and at times futility to the mission.
In addition, the shots of the black hole they encounter and Gargantuan, a gravity sucking force field (don’t quote me on that, it was all getting a bit space age for me at this point) are phenomenal, it’s hard to conceive what these would look like but the visualisation brought to screen by Nolan and his team is breathtaking and completely believable.
However, there are downfalls in the film. The soundtrack is not as impressive as I was expecting, with certain scenes just lacking that added element a thoughtful score can bring, and there are sequences where the score can be overbearing! Nolan has skillfully used music and soundtracks to emphasise and improve his films in the past, Inception being a prime example. That soundtrack is still played in my house to this day!
The screenplay isn’t that great either, with a poem from Dylan Thomas used that many times as a theme in the film you feel clunked over your stupid little head with it. The screenwriters really ought to give the audience more credit, the film may be long but I’m fairly sure the audiences collective memory isn’t that short.
There’s also a hokey piece about love being the reason for the mission, delivered well by Anne Hathaway but the dialogue just lacks the necessary sentiment to have the impact they crave.
In a scene with a stranded astronaut (played by an A-list actor who I was not aware was in the film), his motives are completely inexplicable and/or so poorly explained through the dialogue of the scene, I just couldn’t buy it. I dissected this particular plot point with my husband who seemed to understand it slightly better than myself….he also pointed out he is probably more willing to suspend disbelief a little more than me in order to enjoy the film.
And suspend your disbelief you must, with the closing sequences drawing fully on the sci-fi ethos of the film. However, it is the final part that does captivate the audience. The bookcase sequence is expertly shot, drawing on ideas from Inception and perceived reality so cleverly, it is a marvel.
There are overlapping scenes between crucial moments in space and back on earth reaching such a climax you are fully whipped up into the emotion of the film, finally rooting for the characters and the human race itself. And it is the soundtrack to this part I remembered most, the crescendo of music alongside the action of the film finally singing in harmony.
Overall verdict: 4 ****
An enjoyable, intelligent film, with beautiful cinematography and effects as well as a great cast which is just let down ever so slightly by the directors inexperience in portraying with human emotion.