Sunday, November 09, 2014
Directed by Christopher Nolan and written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, Interstellar is the story of an engineer who takes part into an interstellar mission to find a habitable planet through wormholes in the hopes he can save humanity including the children he’s leaving behind. The film is an exploration into the world of outer space and the world beyond where a man joins a space crew to find salvation just as Earth is in ruins. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, and Michael Caine. Interstellar is a grand yet exhilarating film from Christopher Nolan.
Set in a world where planet Earth is being destroyed by dustbowls and are forced to live on whatever agricultural resources they have, the film is about an engineer who is asked to go to outer space to find a habitable planets through a wormhole as he is forced to leave his children behind. Through this mission, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) tries to find a world in the hopes to save humanity but things become complicated as time becomes sparse due to time dilation. Back on Earth, Cooper’s daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain) tries to finish a theory left behind by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) in the hope that her father comes back. It’s a film that plays into ideas of theory of relativity as well as a man trying to do whatever to save humanity and return home to his family.
The film’s screenplay by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan doesn’t just explore the concept of interstellar travel where time becomes very complex where an hour spent in a planet can actually take years on Earth or any part of the galaxy. It adds to the dramatic aspect of the story and Cooper’s desire to hoping to come home and make a difference as his absence made it hard for his daughter to deal with. Even as Murph as she gets older becomes resentful while wondering if there was any kind of hope to the mission at hand. There’s also a sense of desperation that occurs between Cooper and Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) who is part of the mission as she is trying all she can to make sure they succeed but complications ensue where their encounters with a planet to retrieve data from previous missions begin to fall apart.
While the script does have a traditional structure where its first act is set on Earth as Cooper tries to uncover a series of mysterious messages he found with a younger Murph (Mackenzie Foy) that lead him to be contacted by Professor Brand. Yet, what Cooper is asked to do by Brand would be a hard decision to make as it would hurt him to leave Murph and his son Tom (Timothee Chalamet) as the film’s second act is about Cooper’s mission in space with Amelia and two other astronauts in Romilly (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley) where it takes them two years to travel from Earth to the wormhole near Saturn. Then comes this third act where it crisscross the narratives of both Cooper and the adult Murph where the latter tries to finish Brand’s theory as well as figure out the codes that she encountered as a child. Especially as they both have to deal with forces that would prevent a reunion between father and daughter from happening.
Christopher Nolan’s direction is definitely astonishing in terms of the visual scope that he presents. Shot in this 2:35:1 aspect ratio in 35mm film, which is also blown up for 70mm, as it has this grand look in terms of scale for the scenes not just set in outer space but also in some of the planets the characters are in. Some of it is shot in Iceland while scenes set on Earth are shot in Alberta, Canada as it plays into something that feels like a Midwest film that are shot very naturally while the scenes on these mysterious planets have something that feels very alien-like. The usage of wide shots with some crane cameras and other shooting styles add to the massive scope of the film that includes this sequence in these strange mountain-like locations where it adds to a sense of mystique about what might be out there.
Still, it is a film about a father and a daughter trying to reunite as the former is trying to find some kind of hope where it feels like a few years for him but it’s much longer than that on Earth. The complexity of the film’s narrative and sense of time is very prevalent which does add to some of the exposition that occurs on film though it does get overwhelming at times. Even in its third act where there is a sense of conventional drama that occurs as it does take away some of the unconventional aspects of the film that was working though there is a payoff that is satisfying which plays to the emotional crux of the film. Overall, Nolan creates a very rapturous yet evocative film about a man going to outer space to save his daughter and humanity in the hopes to find a new world.
Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the naturalistic look of the farmland locations in Canada to the array of lights and shading for much of the film‘s interior setting including the shots set in outer space. Editor Lee Smith does amazing work in creating some very straightforward cuts for the drama while going for unique rhythms in the space travels including the wormhole sequence along with some intense moments in the film. Production designer Nathan Crowley, with set decorator Gary Fettis and supervising art director Dean Wolcott, does excellent work with the design of the space ships Cooper and his team travel in as well as the robots they‘re accompanied with along with the NASA base that Professor Brand would work at.
Costume designer Mary Zophres does nice work with the costumes from the casual look of the characters on Earth to the design of the astronaut suits. Visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin does fantastic work with the visual effects for some of the scenes set in outer space to the movement of the robots plus some set-dressing for some of the planets. Sound editor Richard King does superb work with the sound to convey the sense of silence of exterior scenes in space as well as the sounds of rockets and some of the locations in its surroundings. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is incredible for its mixture of soaring orchestral textures mixed in with minimalist electronic music to play into the sense of mystique that is prevalent in the film.
The casting by John Papisdera is phenomenal as it features some notable small roles from David Oyelowo as Murph’s school principal, William Devane as a NASA official, Matt Damon as a scientist who been part of an earlier mission, Topher Grace as a doctor friend of Murph, Leah Cairns as Tom’s wife, Liam Dickinson as Tom’s son Coop, Timothee Chalamet as the young Tom, and John Lithgow in a terrific role as Cooper’s father-in-law Donald who says some of the film’s funniest lines. Voice performances from Josh Stewart as CASE and Bill Irwin as TARS are excellent as they bring some soul to the machine as these robots that help the team in space with the latter being the most humorous. Casey Affleck is superb as Murph’s older brother Casey who also misses his father as he tries to cope with loss and saving the family farm.
Wes Bentley is wonderful as the geographer Doyle who tries to understand the wormholes and planets while David Gyasi is fantastic as the physicist Romilly who tries to understand the idea of space and time itself. Michael Caine is great as Professor Brand as a scientist who tries to prove a theory about how to save Earth as he copes with trying to do what is right as well as deal with the implications. In the roles of Murph, there’s Mackenzie Foy in a great performance as the young Murph who tries to cope with her father’s departure while Jessica Chastain is amazing as the older Murph as a woman filled with resentment as she tries to finish Professor Brand’s theory. In the brief role of the eldest Murph, Ellen Burstyn is brilliant in telling the story of what it was like in the dustbowl to explain the severity of the mission.
Anne Hathaway is incredible as Amelia Brand as a fellow astronaut who tries to keep things going while dealing with her own emotional baggage as tries to make sense of the stakes of the mission. Finally, there’s Matthew McConaughey in a magnificent performance as Cooper as this former pilot turned engineer who takes on a mission to space in the hopes that his family can survive beyond the dustbowl as he struggles with his own emotional baggage as well as the mission at hand.
Interstellar is a sensational film from Christopher Nolan. Armed with a great ensemble cast led by Matthew McConaughey as well as intriguing concepts about space, interstellar travel, and theories of relativity and time. It’s a film that is sci-fi at its most complex with some astonishing visuals that is backed up with a powerful story of a man trying to bring a future of hope for his children. In the end, Interstellar is a remarkable film from Christopher Nolan.
Christopher Nolan Films: Following - Memento - Insomnia - Batman Begins - The Prestige - The Dark Knight - Inception - The Dark Knight Rises - The Auteurs #13: Christopher Nolan
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