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Interstellar Review

8 Nov

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“Love is the one thing that transcends time and space.”

During the weeks leading up to the release of Interstellar, people saw the word “love” attached to it, then were alternately giddy because they had something new to mock and relentlessly negative because the science fiction film they were looking forward to was now ruined. Yes, the movie is about love, and yes, there are scenes during which that message is hammered over our heads, but ultimately, the idea of love is the emotional foundation for the film. Interstellar, as a result, is incredibly moving, intimate, and fascinating, and it’s the type of science fiction that is rarely made these days.

Christopher Nolan’s movies have always been about pain and loss–about emotion–but he’s looked at these ideas through a detached lens and a quantifiable structure. Here, though, he takes a different approach for the most part, and the film looks at raw emotion and asks us whether it can be essential to our scientific advancement. There are elements of pain and loss throughout, but that gives way to a through-line of hope, of inspiration, of optimism. The bonds we form through love transcend time and space, and even though love may hurt us and confound us, it is also the very thing that allows us to reach for the stars and beyond.

Nolan explores these ideas through the central relationship of Cooper and Murph, a father-daughter combo that is wonderfully depicted by Matthew McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy/Jessica Chastain. The two are separated swiftly at the beginning of the movie, but the relationship is constantly emphasized for the remainder of it, with Murph’s resentment building up as Cooper desperately wants to return to save her. There is pain here from the separation of loved ones, and the camera lingers on the pain that is written in the characters’ faces; this is the most emotionally intimate Nolan’s ever been, and while you may not expect one of his movies to move you, there’s no denying that this one hits some deeply affecting emotional highs.

This is also a movie in which Nolan commits to one vision, then sells it with aplomb and with passion. This is a movie that is fascinated by science, that is pure science fiction. This is a movie that poses questions about the relationship between humanity and science and delves into the ideas of self preservation and the survival of the whole, of selfishness and selflessness, of man vs. nature, of man vs. man, of what we will do to survive. It plays with time, delivers stunning visuals and sequences, and features some of Nolan’s most elegant directorial choices in his career.

Most importantly, though, this is a movie that is also an experience, a journey, a trip through the unknown and an optimistic view of the future. There are flaws and missteps, but the movie sweeps you up in its ambition, probing the depths of humanity while it imbues in you a sense of wonder and appreciation. Michael Caine’s Professor Brand repeats several lines from “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” throughout, and it’s a perfect encapsulation of the movie’s message:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Interstellar is the type of movie that will keep that light on for a long time.

GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-See it in IMAX. You won’t regret it. I saw this in 70 mm, but unfortunately, I arrived late and sat pretty close to the front. Still, though, it was an immersive and exciting experience.

-Hans Zimmer’s score is in the background for most of the movie, but there are some extremely powerful moments to be found when the music stops for a few seconds. A bit more on this in the spoiler section, but the movie captures the “silence in space” aspects nicely.

-I won’t deny that sometimes, the characters talk too much. Many scenes I’m fine with because these are people who think out loud, people who are in extraordinary circumstances and who must attempt to make sense of it all. However, there’s a particular sequence at the end of the movie where this gets a bit grating (spoiler section for more).

-I can’t wait until Nolan movies get so big that he needs multiple Michael Caines.

-Kudos to Hoyte van Hoytema for his work throughout; I absolutely love the look of the planets the characters visit, as well as the look at the expansive, wondrous darkness that is space. It’s been a great few weeks for cinematographers, what with this and Birdman and Nightcrawler.

-I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen this movie held up against 2001: A Space Odyssey.

-TARS, the robot, is hilarious. He’s the one humorous spot in what can be a pretty dour movie.

-Awards buzz: I’d put this down as a lock for a Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor nod. I’d also probably say that Chastain will get a Supporting Actress nod. The movie will definitely be sweeping the technical awards, as well.

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SPOILER SECTION:

-So, the movie ends with the revelation that “They” are fifth dimensional future humans, and they are the ones who create the Tesseract–which translates the fifth dimension to the third dimension–allowing Cooper to communicate with his daughter as her “ghost” and to serve as the “first handshake” with Amelia. That, of course, raises the question of how the humans survived, but the point is that they created the wormhole in the first place rather than not even trying. It’s all about the evolution of understanding.

-Anyone else think Plan B succeeded and “they” are the people who survived?

-The scene in the Tesseract is where I could’ve used less talking/explaining.

-I love the way the movie transitions from the Earth scenes to the spaceship scenes, with the countdown over the image of Cooper driving away from his house. It’s elegantly done, as is the later transition to 23 years later on Earth. Cooper watching 23 years of videos is one of the most powerful movie scenes I’ve seen in a while.

-So, Matt Damon’s character. First off, his character is named “Mann”, obviously a play on “man” and man’s survival instincts, and he serves as a foil for Cooper. There’s a bit of irony here in that a selfish act by Mann could’ve actually been better off for the species as a whole–Edmunds’ planet turns out to be the right one, and that’s where Amelia is at at the end of the movie–but ultimately, it’s Cooper’s selflessness in throwing himself into the black hole that ends up saving humanity. These ideas of self preservation, selflessness, and selfishness also apply to Brand and his justification for faking Plan A.

-It would’ve been hilarious if it was Leonardo DiCaprio rather than Matt Damon.

-The docking sequence is thrilling, and it’s one of my favorite moments of the movie. Other amazing visuals/scenes: the Tesseract, traveling through the worm hole, the slingshot, the wave.

-Amelia’s going to have her work cut out for her, considering they brought a bunch of fertilized human embryos and only one of her.

-The relationship between Tom and Murph isn’t delved into much, but it’s a nice look at leaving vs. staying, at comfort vs. risk.

-…Cooper Cooper? Did I hear that right?

– “Plan A was a lie.” They say that so much that it should just be the new tagline for the movie.

-The shot of Saturn in silence is beautiful, and the use of silence during Mann’s death scene is very effective as well.

-All three Murph actresses do a great job of making themselves seem like the same person, and Ellen Burstyn–old Murph–is seen in the documentary at the beginning of the movie. I’m not sure we needed the documentary, though.

-I bet Nolan made this from the future.

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-Anyone else have a hard time hearing what Brand says to Murph while on his deathbed? In fact, there are quite a few lines throughout the film that I missed, mostly due to the score drowning out the dialogue at times.

-It’s like a reverse Dazed and Confused quote! “They get older, I stay the same age.”

– “Self destruct sequence initiated.” Oh, TARS.

Photo credit: Syncopy Inc., Lynda Obst Productions, Interstellar

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16 Responses to “Interstellar Review”

  1. JustMeMike November 8, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

    Excellent review PB –

    I didn’t mention the new robots but aren’t they a mobile version of what Kubrick labeled hi black monoliths. Different purposes and of course the Nolan version is capable of speech as well as motion.

    And I didn’t catch that Ellen Burstyn played the elderly and about to pass – Murph.

    Really liked your point about how hopeful the film is…

    • polarbears16 November 8, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

      Thanks, and yes, I do think you’re right about the robots/monoliths. There were quite a few similarities to 2001: A Space Odyssey here, although some of them could be chalked up to scientific necessity. The robots, though, especially the one we see at the end, are similar.

  2. Christopher November 8, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    Great review. I’m still not over the emotions caused by the film, so I’m unable to approach the more intellectual themes you touch on here. Fantastic to know they’re there, though.

    Also, is “they” not Cooper? I got the impression that Cooper and crew was “they,” especially due to his “love is quantifiable” line. It seems like his love for Murph interacts with the black hole in some way that transcends Cooper’s knowledge (a la Brand’s monologue on love earlier in the film) and creates the tesseract. Though that doesn’t explain the black hole…is this completely off? Did I just totally miss something?

    • polarbears16 November 8, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

      Thanks! From what I gathered, yes, you’re right; Cooper is included under “they”. However, I don’t think he and the crew are, just him. There are other humans who survived to create the Tesseract/solved the problem of gravity…although I’m sure Amelia played a role in those humans surviving. Not entirely sure yet. I’ll probably think about it some more.

  3. MovieManJackson November 8, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    Stellar review! Only thing I somewhat disagreed with was Chastain’s performance. I thought it was solid, but I don’t think it was mind-blowing like McC or Foy’s. But man, it will take another watch, but this is up there with The Prestige for me.

    • polarbears16 November 8, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

      Haha, I’m someone who’s inclined to think that every role Jessica Chastain has is fantastic. Foy and McConaughey, though, I agree were mind-blowing.

  4. darcil November 8, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    I agree with most of this completely. And I have to agree on the Amelia-baby-maker part. They brought a TON of fertilized eggs…that need a surrogate…and only one uterus. That makes NO sense. Not even one uterus that SURVIVED, but ONE uterus. I guess, with FE implantation, they usually do several at a time. So she can deliver twins or triplets every time. None of these things are related to each other, so she can start out delivering a half dozen girls with maybe one or two boys in there, and at maybe 14 years, start those girls as surrogates as well.

    I watched some program a long time ago that said scientists theorize that during one of the mini-iceages humanity got down to 100 or maybe fewer breeding females. So she could do it, but … wow. If more than one of them went in with the knowledge that “Plan A is a lie” there should have been more women on that ship.

  5. Marshall November 9, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    On the deathbed, Brand essentially says that plan A was never actually the priority, it was always plan B, yada yada. You get what he says from Murph later anyways. (The sound is easier to discern on non-IMAX screens.)

  6. Crowd of Full Pockets/Shattenjager November 10, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Great review.

    When Brand was talking to Murph on his deathbed (Which I agree was a bit difficult to understand. I got the gist, which is as Marshall describes above, but I would not at all guarantee that I got the specifics.), all I could think was, “If it weren’t Michael Caine, he would have gotten everything he had to say out with several minutes to spare. Bad luck for Murph.”

    No IMAX exists here, so no choice there. I’m just glad it was on film and not 3D. Digital and 3D are awful.

    I do wish we got more of Jessica Chastain. She’s just tremendously overqualified for what little she got to do. And I’m always in favor of more Jessica Chastain.

    • polarbears16 November 11, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

      “I do wish we got more of Jessica Chastain. She’s just tremendously overqualified for what little she got to do. And I’m always in favor of more Jessica Chastain.”

      Yes.

  7. thycriticman November 11, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

    Awesome job. I don’t want it to win best picture and I really don’t think Chastain had enough screen-time for Best Supporting actress but it does deserve to win in the other categories. I actually did not see this in IMAX. Now that I know just how good the score is, I kind of wish that I did.

    • polarbears16 November 11, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

      Thanks! Yeah, Best Picture for me would actually go to Whiplash as of right now, which is something that will most likely not happen. As for Chastain, I agree, although I could see her getting a nomination if the field isn’t too crowded. Technical awards will be all theirs, though (Hoytema vs. Lubezki will be an interesting one).

      And yeah, IMAX really accentuates the score and the visuals, although I’m sure non-IMAX is still a fantastic experience.

  8. Writer Loves Movies November 12, 2014 at 1:46 am #

    Great review. There were definitely things I loved about this one – the cinematography and the sound especially. But there were also things that disappointed me. Nolan seemed to answer a few too many questions. I did see it in IMAX though and the experience was pretty amazing!

    • polarbears16 November 12, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

      Yeah, Nolan’s never been about subtlety, but he could’ve toned down the exposition a bit here.

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