Christopher Nolan has become one of the few living directors, who could claim to be a household name. When he releases a film, it's not just another movie... it's a cinematic event.
The Inception and Dark Knight trilogy director has gone beyond the beyond with Interstellar, a film he claims has been strongly influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Star Wars and the works involving warped space-time by theoretical physicist, Kip Thorne. Although, after watching it you could include: Moon, Gravity and Inception as well.
After a long spell of solid performances, Dallas Buyers Club, was the role... no transformation, that would win Matthew McConaughey that elusive and well-deserved golden statuette. He augmented that headline act with another brilliant turn in True Detective, making McConaughey the man with all the cards in Hollywood. He outplayed Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, who worked with Nolan in Inception, forgoing the one degree of separation when he was cast in Interstellar. McConaughey and Nolan are arguably at the peak of their careers, and for the most part, continue this trajectory into the beautiful time travel sci-fi drama Interstellar with the character of Cooper.
Cooper is a resourceful, resilient and altruistic man, who finds himself in too deep after he accepts the role of team leader on a long term fact-finding exploration into deepest darkest space. We're utterly convinced by McConaughey, who brings his natural charm to a natural born hero, who endures a number of intricate emotional situations involving his sacrificial decision and the family he leaves behind.
He's not alone, supported by a heavyweight ensemble, including: Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine and Casey Affleck to name a few. Hathaway is reliable as always, Caine enjoys another Nolan character, possibly his oldest, and Casey Affleck is uncomfortably numb. Although, the pick of the supporting performances is Jessica Chastain, whose enigmatic grace powers Murph in a crucial role.
"Remind me why we brought space pens... and not RODS?!"
It's a stellar cast, augmented even further by young talents like Wes Bentley, Topher Grace and David Gyasi, with Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow and a mystery cameo actor adding even more experience. With a top-notch cast, you'd expect a script bristling with characters to match their abilities. Unfortunately, while the film-makers try to align their stars, they're already balancing an ambitious abstract story against realistic and mesmerising sci-fi visuals.
Kubrick chose to film 2001: A Space Odyssey with a minimal crew and after watching Interstellar, you can't help but wonder if scaling back the characters for greater focus would have been the answer. When you strip it down, Nolan's essentially trying to tap into the heart and soul of a misplaced parent-child relationship. Having a glut of collateral characters helps sell the suspended reality, but gets caught up and distracted by trying to give each of the characters (and actors) their dues.
Instead of anchoring the script, we're left to clutch at underdeveloped supporting characters, who while carried by heartfelt performances, ironically don't have enough gravity. Nolan does impress with some powerful gut-wrenching moments, but there's a marked inconsistency as the script's thread gets bungled from time to time.
As expected, Nolan's able to teleport us to another dimension along with his intrepid space-time travelers. We're enamored by the breathtaking visuals, witnessing surreal moments that have just enough real environment familiarity to keep the story grounded in the possible. Then the sound design and Hans Zimmer's futuristic soundtrack is equally incredible, combining to give us a unique and completely immersive sight and sound experience.
While Interstellar isn't as scientifically accurate or realistic as the claustrophobic catastrophe of Gravity, it remains theoretically believable and within our grasp. Like Moon, Interstellar is anchored by Cooper's central performance, which also explores the loneliness of humanity. Much like GERTY, who was inspired by HAL-9000, Nolan introduces robotic artificial intelligence in the form of TARS, whose dark, adaptable hard-edged depiction is most curious without being fully explored.
Nolan is a visionary director, one whose beautifully clinical approach has helped shake things up in terms of what is possible with film. While his precision, scope and heavyweight themes have conquered the aesthetic and atmospheric side of film, it seems he's only starting to show us what he can do with the complexity of emotion and the human condition.
As such, Interstellar is a messy masterpiece, an ambitious, inconsistent yet intermittently brilliant film with a stellar cast and many great influences. It's a deep space sci-fi drama with fine ingredients, and while it runs 169 minutes long, Nolan still manages to compel us, even when it becomes unwieldy.