Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interstellar Review

Interstellar Review
I saw "Interstellar" last night, and I was going to write about it last night. It was late, I was tired and I wanted to give myself more time to think about what I just saw. As with most Christopher Nolan films, "Interstellar" is wildly ambitious, richly imagined and gloriously executed. There are tons of themes in the movie and at almost three hours, its quite the long ride. This is why Christopher Nolan is one of the most exciting people working in the movie business currently. I have never seen an artist raise the bar on themselves in the way Nolan does. He reached for the sky (literally with Interstellar) each time he sits down to make a movie, and it that is sketched all over the screen as you watch his movies.
 
As "Interstellar" begins, we learn that in the future, the world is slowly dying. The world's population is shriveled down into a small farming community, but as new diseases target crops, the world is becoming a wry place to live. We follow Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) a man with an engineering degree, but once the world got bad, he was forced into the world of farming. He is a family man with two children, Murph (played by Mackenzie Foy as a child) and Tom (played by Timothee Chalament as child) and his father-in-law (John Lithgow). Both Cooper and Murph believe that the human race has another destiny than just trying to keep yourselves above water on Earth and that somewhere else in the cosmos could become home. That is when Cooper is recruited by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) who works for NASA, and they want Cooper's help in order to accompany a spacecrew into an intergalactic wormhole which could lead to a new planet that could sustain life. Even though Murph disapproves of her father leaving, Cooper agrees to accompany this space crew to attempt to save humanity.
 
What sets this film from the other Nolan movies is how positively optimistic it is. I don't want this to sound as if it is a complaint, but Nolan has built a career using the same theme in each film. Just like we categorize Woody Allen by cheating and divorce, or Quentin Tarantino with revenge, Nolan is fascinated by troubled individuals. Usually, every Christopher Nolan film revolves around a person troubled by their past, and when they try to change it, they make matters worse. His first film "Memento" begins with a man with short-term memory loss killing the man he thinks responsible for his wife's murder, only to learn at the end of the movie that he has been killing for years. "The Prestige" is a cat-and-mouse game between two rival magicians, and each of them nearly looses everything to kill the other. Leonardo DiCaprio's character in "Inception" loses much while he was dreaming, and he will do anything in his power to get his life back, including a group of his friends in danger. As for Nolan's Batman movies, well as Batman locks another madman up, it seems he loses a piece of himself that makes him whole and it never seems like anything is fully resolved. Christopher Nolan is fascinated by these troubled people. While Cooper lives in a world that withering away, it is the hope to save humankind that drives him to accompany NASA in space and moreso than in any other Nolan film, the biggest theme is hope and Nolan proves that in each and every frame.
 
The reason to see "Interstellar" while its in theaters, on the best screen you can find, is because of the visual journey Nolan takes us on. Much like every movie he has made so far, "Interstellar" makes expert us of its cosmic landscapes. The shots in space feel like dreams set to music and I felt like I was lost in space in many of the scenes involving space. The cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is absolutely breathtaking and adding the score by Hans Zimmer, and its real art. The music by Hans Zimmer didn't write the normal epic music he usually does for Nolan. There is a sense of adventure in the musical notes this time out, a sense of wonder. The sense of wonder you should feel when you stare up at the stars at night. I never knew Zimmer had so much range as a composer, but he proves it with "Insterstellar."
 
If any part of "Interstellar" works for you, it will probably be because of Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey brings all of his greatest strengths and talents to the forefront of this movie, and he becomes Cooper completely. Cooper has one triumphant emotional journey through this film and McConaughey makes sure we feel every bit of it. The other massively great performance is by Jessica Chastain who plays a grown-up Murph. How she deals with her father being away is the emotional arc of Murph and Chastain sells every moment of it. Michael Caine plays his typical, happy-mentor self and to much avail. The work by Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Wes Bentley as well as the young actors all make extraordinary use of their characters. But I was also impressed by Matt Damon who plays Dr. Mann, a multi-limbed, metallic, rolling robot who is on-board the ship to the wormhole. I applaud Damon for creating a character exclusively through his voice.
 
Despite all of this praise, I will admit that I am not as in love with this Nolan movie has I have been with his past efforts. Yes, "Interstellar" is a wonderful movie, ambitious, amazing, and emotional throughout. But with many Nolan movies, there are some heavy plot holes, and I think this time around, they were much harder to ignore. I won't spoil the twists and the turns that "Interstellar" offers, but I will suggest that Nolan get himself a better script editor. For a guy who is big on realism and uses lots of realistic big words with his giant ideas, you would think he could master a smarter screenplay. Ambition can only carry a movie so far, and I think Nolan could really re-read his scripts before using them.
 
But those minor flaws couldn't stop me from giving my complete self over to this film. This is radically different film by Nolan in terms of tone. And I think at this juncture, I really believe that Christopher Nolan has the power to do whatever he wants. Despite some narrative issues, I still believe in the powerful term, "In Nolan I Trust."
 
FINAL GRADE: A-



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