Review by-Jarrett Leahy
As Earth is ravaged by droughts and extreme climate changes, food shortages reach famine levels. Desperate to ensure the salvation of the human race from extinction, NASA embarks on the most aggressive undertaking in space exploration, project Endurance. Utilizing an inexplicable wormhole located just outside Saturn’s orbit, a group of space explorers are sent into the outer reaches of deep space in the hopes discovering a habitable planet suitable to sustain human life. But as Cooper and the rest of Endurance’s crew commence their insurmountable mission, they soon realize that success for the human race may necessitate the personal sacrifice of never seeing their families again.
Interstellar audaciously tackles some of the scientific world’s most debated space theories and phenomena including wormholes, black-holes, and the mind-bending effects of relativity on time. While an educated man, I won’t even attempt to fake having the knowledge to judge the scientific accuracy of the film’s depictions. What I can share is while exiting the theater, I happened to run into a friend who is a science teacher and former college professor. I quickly took the opportunity to pick her brain as to the film’s veracity, and she confirmed that a large portion of the science is within reasonable plausibility based on the current theories being debated in the scientific world. This didn’t surprise me knowing the single-mindedness of the film’s creator, Christopher Nolan.
Rarely are filmmakers who specialize in the creation of “blockbusters” ever considered or labeled auteurs, but the influence, style, and artistic control Christopher Nolan has been afforded over each of his nine films certainly fit the definition. When this generation’s list of the finest filmmakers is established, Nolan will undoubtedly be one of the select few at the top. Since his 2000 sophomore masterpiece, Memento, Nolan has been at the forefront of cutting-edge thrillers, contributing to the cinematic and pop culture vault The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and The Prestige. Interstellar, Nolan’s latest creation, is his most grandiose—a dramatic space adventure involving our never-ending fascination surrounding space exploration along with the search for a habitable planet as ours runs out of natural resources.
Speaking of our planet, has anyone on this big blue sphere had a better year and a half than Matthew McConaughey? Always a fan favorite, McConaughey spent most of the 2000’s creating a string of superfluous romantic comedies and forgettable blockbusters. Then suddenly, McConaughey’s career took an unexpected shift, highlighted in 2013 with the critical success of films Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Dallas Buyers Club, which earned McConaughey the Best Actor Academy Award for his transformative portrayal of AIDS patient Ron Woodroof. With Interstellar, McConaughey continues his run of acting prowess, offering an expert balance of amusing bluster with dramatic sincerity. No matter how off-the-rails Nolan’s drama may veer, it’s the genuineness McConaughey infuses into his character that causes us the viewer to willfully accompany him on this harrowing journey.
This is the point in my review where I hoped to lovingly ramble on about the overwhelming genius of Interstellar, offering a slew of flowery superlatives including calling it one of the best of 2014. Unfortunately, I just can’t. Despite being almost 170 minute long, Interstellar at times feels convoluted and curiously hurried. This unnerving sense of haste is due in large part to Nolan’s decision to jam-pack his narrative with enough storyline to fill two or three films. Reminiscent of The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan’s excessive use of montage, most notably during large chunks of Earthbound scenes, only adds to Interstellar’s urgent feel. While I suspect Nolan’s attempt was to offer a type of visual of the effects of relatively on time, what came across on screen was a rushed desire to plow through much of the Earth narrative, affording Nolan more screen time to indulge in the dazzling visuals of space.
And oh how dazzling they are. Experienced in eye-popping (and eardrum-bursting) IMAX, Nolan’s depiction of deep space rivals any cinematic representation that has come before. What these stunning visuals mask, however, is a story that feels all too familiar in the science fiction sub-genre of space travel. Another of Interstellar’s shortcomings comes surprisingly from Nolan’s choices in casting. Fiercely secretive, the involvement of some of the industry’s biggest names were an unexpected surprise. But after the initial shock wore off, these superstar additions felt more distracting to the storyline than advantageous. While it’s amusing to see a group of big-name stars together on screen, Interstellar could have benefited from showing a bit of restraint, casting fewer A-listers and instead bringing in lesser known, more gifted character actors. Of all the miscasts, the most glaring was the inclusion of Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway. While no doubt extremely gifted, Hathaway’s portrayal of a brilliant scientist fell disappointingly flat and was unconvincing. The role also required a level of physicality that Hathaway lacked. I personally would have loved to have seen someone like Diane Kruger of Inglourious Basterds fame given the chance to tackle this role.
One would be hard pressed to top the sheer spectacle of Interstellar; it is undoubtedly ambitious. Unfortunately, once you move past the awe of Nolan’s magnificent visuals and deafening audio, you find a hectic and bloated production that suffers from a hackneyed, archetypal story, casting issues, and a final chapter that comes across as a bit far-fetched even by Hollywood standards. Based on past appreciation of Nolan’s talents and cinematic achievements, my expectations for Interstellar was a movie with end-of-year Top 10 potential. While I appreciated his valiant attempt at greatness, Nolan’s space opus never reaches the heights it strives for.-JL