Interstellar (2014) Directed by Christopher Nolan. With Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine.
During his press junkets for Interstellar, Christopher Nolan repeatedly cites Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey as his two key cinematic influences with regard to realising his ambition on screen. Although Lucas and Kubrick’s films are vastly different by their design, they nevertheless provided a springboard of imagination for a young Nolan which has culminated in this grand, spectacularly thrilling journey through the stars. In every sense, he has met the source of his inspiration.
Co-written with his brother Jonathan, Nolan once again demonstrates his love for his craft by constructing a deeply intelligent blockbuster that treats its audience with respect. He is the powerful antidote to the Michael Bay’s of this world, striving to entertain with concept and thoughtfulness as the source of his main course. With Interstellar, he has achieved an experience that feels instantly seminal.
Despite the many plot devices and clever ideas, the overarching narrative (like all the best films) is a simple one. At the heart of the thing, it is simply about love. Nolan has been criticised for creating cold characters in much of his work, and although there are a lot of people who choose to be annoyingly reductive about his talent, it is perhaps not a stretch to say that of his work to date, this is the one with the strongest heartbeat.
In the beginning, we’re introduced to a version of our planet that is dying. Crippling dust storms are a regular occurrence and corn is the only crop that will grow. The Earth needs farmers as drought and famine take hold. Where Danny Boyle’s underrated Sunshine fell short is where Interstellar takes off. We’re introduced to Matthew McConaughey and his two children. With this, Nolan ensures he lays an emotional backdrop to give gravity to his second and third acts; foremost investing heavily in his characters. Ultimately, with the title, poster and the fact that the film is called Interstellar, you ought to have an idea where the plot is going.
Aside from the head-cracking science that poses questions on top of questions (Nolan had theoretical physicist Kip Thorne as a scientific consultant), the film is home to many fine performances from an impressive cast. McConaughey brings great strength and warmth, and his scenes with his 10-year-old daughter Murph (an excellent Mackenzie Foy), suffuse the piece with its core dramatic pull. Throw in Ann Hathaway and Jessica Chastain and the star quality on screen starts to match the stars in outer space.
On the subject of outer space…wow! The best films are an experience, to the point where you almost forget you’re watching a film. That happened to me here. Hans Zimmer’s score elevates the eye-popping drama while the attention to fine detail in the production design creates that vital feeling of authenticity that allows us to fully immerse in the surroundings.
The ideas around time, wormholes, black holes, gravity and all the other scientific elements woven into the plot are nothing short of breathtaking. In lesser hands, a film like this could easily become a portentous mess; not so with Nolan. His ambition is to encourage the collective imagination to inspire people not only to look infinitely outward, but inward too. It is this dual narrative charge that sets Interstellar apart. We are astonished by the spectacle, but we are also invited to take it to heart. An instant masterpiece of epic proportions. 5/5
Totally agree Gareth (see the theatrical view over on my blog), Interstellar has it’s detractors but I think that it’s an amazing film both in it’s visual scope (and sound – one of Hans Zimmer’s finest scores dare I say?) and emotional resonance.
Beautiful, imaginative and haunting.
I forget to mention the haunting quality of it. You’re absolutely spot on, it does have a thick layer of that to it.
I only watched it for the first time last night, so my head is still in outer space in terms of fully digesting it. The overall sense of imagination and awe overcame me. I love it when a film does that. Thanks so much for responding on this one. I could talk about it all day long. I’ll go and read your review right now.
Me too Gareth, it’s one of those rare films that stays in the mind long after the final credits roll.
Bittersweet: give my mind something to feast on, or draw me deeper into the human experience. To have both equally competing for my attention for 3 hours was rough; awesome though each competitor was – and each competitor was awesome.
In films I think, regarding heady intellectualism & emotional expensiveness, that one should always be markedly subservient to the other – never dually present in comparable capacities. Still a commanding spectacle & a tight film. Great review. : D
Great response. I must say, it flowed very easily for me. I didn’t have any difficulty with the pairing of the emotional and scientific aspects. If anything, the two things working together strengthened the film, as opposed to hindering it.
It’s always great to have your opinion. I’m glad we share appreciation of this. I’ve read some terribly reductive opinion pieces on it.
I totally agree with you on this. I actually wasn’t too enticed to see it from watching the trailer. I’ve never been too interested in space films for some reason and expected Interstellar to be lauded with praise by default because of Nolan and the in-form McConaughey. However I was hugely surprised by how much I actually loved the film! This epic journey was a thoroughly immersive experience and Nolan nailed the emotional beats of the film – which as you pointed out, is something he’s refrained from until now. I found the scene where McConaughey weeps at the footage of his now grown up kids especially poignant. It had an overall great use of universal themes such as love, time and family that worked excellently in producing top quality drama and emotion.
Well, I’m really pleased to hear that you made the discovery, particularly bearing in mind the genre isn’t your first choice. Thank you for such a thoughtful, insightful response by the way. It’s always interesting to read about a persons individual before and after views.
The truth is, I’m still digesting Interstellar. I watched it after being awake for over 18hrs, yet I didn’t fatigue once. I think that alone is testament to its power. I was utterly compelled throughout.
Yeh, it took me a good 48 hours to finally pick my jaw up off the floor after watching. It hits you like a train! There is one space film that I’m desperate to watch but haven’t been able to find yet; Kubrick’s 2001. I’d imagine that’s going to have a similar effect, if not greater!
2001 is an entirely different beast, but of course, you will decide for yourself. I like your description “hits you like a train”, that’s great.
Couldn’t agree more. I think this is one of Nolan’s best (better than all of the Batman movies) and up there with The Prestige. Even though it is extremely ambitious and grandiose it is simple in its essence.
Thank you for responding. Personally, I enjoyed this more than the Batman films, then again, it offers a lot more to ponder. You make a great point about the simplicity coupled with the ambition. The two things work together beautifully.
Really believe this should have garnered more love at The Oscars, along with Nightcrawler.
I really need to catch Nightcrawler, it’s high up on a very long list of films that I need to see. Agreed, though, I haven’t had the chance to see many of the Oscar winners, although I can’t imagine anything that won (Birdman, Boyhood) being any better.
Great review, but aside from the astounding visuals I found it disappointing on most levels, particularly the second half.
Thank you very much. I’m sorry to find that you didn’t have the same experience that I did. The experience of seeing this will stay with me forever. My only regret is that I didn’t see it on the big screen for the first time.
I saw it in IMAX and it was glorious. Hoyt Van Hoytema’s work on that is stellar, pun intended. Found the script extremely irksome and problematic, personally, but my best friend calls it a masterpiece as well so clearly I’m not upset about disagreeing.
I suppose if I take a breath, stand back and look at the thing, I can see how aspects of it (nothing visual) could cause division. Nolan does take a leap of faith in the final act, but the deal was signed, sealed and delivered for me by then. I suppose this is when films really do become subjective. I won’t give the ending away for anyone who hasn’t had the experience, but personally, it gave me what I wanted. Thanks for contributing with an alternate view. It’s always good to get another perspective.
I felt the ending was somewhat cloying but I think it was probably necessary to stop the film spinning off into endless existential despair. It really is an enjoyable film. Those humorous robots really stole the show for me, their design is so idiosyncratic and the way they move at speed is so interesting to watch. They’re also hella funny, which is nice, for a robot.
Great response! Thank you for contributing. You make an excellent point about the ending. I won’t ruin it for anyone who hasn’t had the experience yet, but I suppose this perfectly underlines the subjectivity of film. The ending gave me exactly what I wanted. I didn’t expect it to, but personally, it worked for me. I accept that Nolan and co took a leap of faith with it, and it is perhaps one of the big reasons why there has been more division among film fans, than we usually see for his work.
Nolan’s clever in so far as he tends to root his weighty concept laden plots in emotional character arcs. He does it in Inception too. I think because the ideas in Interstellar were bigger there had to be a bigger emotional payoff to match, which is fair enough. Yeah I think the division comes from people who don’t mind conceptual fiction and those who prefer relatable dramatic arcs. Regardless; the robots are great.
I think I’m just a sucker for a sense of hope, but like I say, I can appreciate how that ending might not be to everyone’s taste. That said, it won’t stop me singing its praises to everyone I know with a passing interest in film. And yes, I loved the robots too.
I have to agree with lukasfilm. Astounding visuals, amazing, bold, soundtrack to accompany it, great actors…but there’s this sense of trying too hard that I felt through the whole thing. I definitely enjoyed it, and it left me wondering, but the family plot line was typical and not unique, I didn’t feel much empathy for any characters, and to me its focus on both the tight-knit family being torn apart, combined with the awes of outer space, made both less meaningful. Like there was too much to fit in. And I had to laugh a little when good ‘ol Matthew Mcconaughey saves the day by being the only one capable of flying, despite not having done it for years…but I guess that’s Nolan’s style.
It’s really interesting to get your opinion on this. Thank you for sharing it. Since seeing the film (around 48hrs ago) I have been soaking up the response on IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, YouTube etc…in order to get a feel for how people have reacted. I’m seeing that it is a lot more divisive than I expected. Much of that division (apart from a few niggling incidental quibbles) seems to be caused by the final act. I accept that narratively, Nolan and co took a leap of faith in terms of hoping the audience were won over enough by that point to WANT that ending for the characters. Personally, I can say I wanted that ending, although that’s not to say I expected it. Great to have your thoughts here. It’s so refreshing to meet people with differing views and engage in polite, thoughtful discussion.
Definitely! Love having a welcoming and responsive place to share my film thoughts.
Sounds excellent! I’m definitely going to be watching this on Blu Ray/DVD soon. Should be a fun experience. My main reason as to why I’m a little wary is that I wasn’t crazy about the trailer, but I know that they can often times be misleading.
Yes, the best trailers often flatter to deceive. All 170mins passed without me noticing. I shall look forward to finding out what your impressions were. Definitely worth spending a few extra £$ on the BluRay.
Gareth, I enjoyed Interstellar quite a bit. I might disagree slightly about how successfully Nolan “shows us the love” so to speak, but it’s still pretty great. I think it’s a shame that there’s so much unintelligent Nolan hating that goes on. I made a post about this film back when it came out, if you would like to know more of what I thought. It also came up in my recent Year in Review series.
Thank you for your contribution here. You’re right, there seems to be a whole scene of people trying to force some weird kind of backlash against Christopher Nolan. It’s plain weird. He’s such an intelligent, gentle guy with a real passion for cinema. We need more of him.
I can see how certain aspects of the film might be stretch, for some, but I couldn’t help but get caught up in the raw wonder of it all. The emotional climax worked, for me. There is a sense of hopelessness about the vast reaches of space. I liked the idea of hope. If it would have been a Spielberg film, I think audiences would have been prepared for that kind of ending, but with it being Nolan, I think that much sentimentality was a surprise. It’ll be interesting to see how it ages. I suspect it will solidify as an across-the-board masterpiece, in the fullness of time. I’ll go read your piece now. Good to have your contribution here.
I was disappointed with the story. Too many holes to sit comfortably with me. But I really liked the conversation it inspired and the visuals were never short of amazing.
Thank you for stopping by Jay. Yes, the conversations I have had have been very stimulating. It’s really interesting to read all the various opinions. It’s fascinating how these things hit us all differently. I suppose our response to a film very much depends on what we bring to it, emotionally. I accept the film has holes, but personally, the holes only fuelled my fascination. I haven’t had an experience that felt this expansive in a long, long time. A lot to chew over.
That was my favourite part of the movie – the chewing. The lively discussion in the car on the ride home!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review. As you know,the film wasn’t a total success for me, but perhaps I’m a little bit jaded. It seems as though the film industry is lacking in originality lately, remaking films, borrowing storylines and adapting books instead of coming up with unique storylines, which is why I had such high hopes for Interstellar after the first part of the film.
However, I do agree with you on the visuals and score. They were both phenomenal.
Thank you so very much for your comment. It’s great to have some encouragement and I genuinely appreciate it. Thank you also for such a thoughtful response.
You’re absolutely right about the lack of originality. What often displeases me is how Hollywood goes with trends. For example; the Liam Neeson as-a-hitman genre. Now, I like Neeson a lot. He always brings something to a film, but even I’m tiring of seeing him in an ageing hitman/specialist/father in a black leather jacket, routinely offing bad guys. It’s so boring and lazy to keep repeating the same trick.
As for Interstellar, well, now that a few days have passed and I’m beginning to realise why this isn’t a film that completely works for everyone. That doesn’t change anything about my own personal feelings toward it, but I comprehend how certain narrative choices might have been a stretch, for some.
You make a particularly excellent point towards the end of your reivew – it really does bear contemplating what someone like Michael Bay would’ve done with such a plot. Although, it would probably involve an offensive portion of Megan Fox!
We’ve seen a lot of ‘space’ films over the years. Gravity received a lot of hype (and some praise thereafter) but it did absolutely nothing for me.
I read over the weekend, while I wrote my own review, that Jonathan Nolan originally had a different outcome in mind for the conclusion to the film… That would’ve pretty much matched the expectations I had watching it all unfold at the cinema but it also makes me extremely happy that Christopher Nolan had the final word! 😉
Thank you very much. Great to hear from you! It’d be great to get an insight in to how the Nolan brothers work things out. Have you any idea what their next project might be? I was searching the net last night, and they seem to be very quiet. Interstellar is a tough act to follow, in terms of scope. They seem to have been building and upping the scale of their projects ever since Memento. Maybe they’ll slow it down again and do something small and personal. Whatever they decide, I’m there!
How do you have time to write and watch so many films?!
Bit generous with the score I think. My problem with INTERSTELLAR, while I like the film, is that it claims to be a thinking-man’s sci fi but it is incredibly dumb. NASA would never build a conference room next door to a launch pad/rocket assembly building. Neither would they have a subterranean launch pad- it would be miles away from people incase of an explosion. How did they build the Endurance in orbit? It would take tens of thousands to operate/engineer a space program? Where do they house those people or maintain the secrecy? And the central concept of a guy going through a wormhole to another galaxy and then into a black hole to wind up in his kids bookcase… Well its hardly Kubrick.
But as a piece of Pure Cinema, its a fine work. The score is amazing.
Thank you for that. It’s interesting to have you viewpoint, although as you know – I don’t share it. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with the film setting its stall out as a thought provoking experience. The idea of exploring the cosmos generates all manner of wild and outlandish thoughts, and I was happy to be swept along. My girlfriend and I sat and discussed the endless questions the film poses over a bottle of wine afterwards. It generated a fascinating discussion for us and a great night of entertainment. I couldn’t have asked for more. That was my experience.
I stand by my rating as I think Nolan and co created a great balance of ideas built around a story that resonated with me. The technical marvel was also just that. I think Stanley Kubrick would have approved.