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Interstellar Movie Review

“Do not go gentle into that good night

In short, my thoughts are.. just go see it in IMAX!

I’m not going to get into the plot much because you should go in blind, but I’ll give you the short version. Earth has become a decayed wasteland. Humans have stayed too long wasting resources and fighting wars, and now their ignorance has cost them. Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper is a farmer who dreamed of being a pilot; a cowboy like Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff with a bit of Luke Skywalker. He’s a dreamer, explorer, and lover of science. Unfortunately the world doesn’t care for these ideas, which doubles as a metaphor for the current state of filmmaking (keep this thread in mind during the film). When mysterious messages appear in Cooper’s home, he and his daughter, Murphy, stumble upon a grand adventure, and Cooper is called upon by an old friend to venture out into the universe and find a new home for mankind.

Cooper’s rural family represents an iconic image of American culture and a piece of lost cinema. His relationship with his daughter Murphy is the raging soul of the film and echoes throughout every flicker of the 70MM film. This film has spaceships, planets, thrilling scenes, and mystery but it is a film about a father and daughter through and through. Mackenzie Foy is an extraordinary young actor and as Murphy she joins the top shelf of young actress performances with the likes of Linda Manz, Natalie Portman, Tatum O’Neal and Jodie Foster. That’s not hyperbole. The family aspect recalls and echoes everything from Field of Dreams to The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Nolan’s built a lived-in world full of natural elements but he’s told this serial adventure with experiential cinema where the characters — and us — are taken on a journey from the rural American home into the unknown. I imagine how I feel right now is nearly how people felt when they first saw 2001The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, or Raiders of the Lost Ark. Time will tell if this stands on that top shelf with those masterpieces but Nolan is aiming for that similarly ambitious journey from familiarity to something you’ve never seen or thought of. Certain elements feel like homages, but the film is unlike anything I’ve felt tonally, and it’s significantly different from Nolan’s other works. It’s comparable to Spielberg adventures, but with Malick’s opera & Tarkovsky’s earthiness, although Nolan’s materialistic curiosity is its driving force.

Hans Zimmer’s score propels the entire piece with a hypnotic hymn thundering with the power of Philip Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi score. Godfrey Reggio’s film in general is a huge influence on this not only aesthetically, but also in form and content e.g., the long landscapes that seem voyeuristic and alien and the use of environment as a means of creating expansive space and as a thematic shelter for the character.

The set/production design on the spaceships are detailed and stylish with minimalism and naturalistic colors evoking the moody world of Blade Runner. It’s almosttttttt fully experiential but Nolan’s focus is on his character’s realtibhsips so dialogue is a must. But here, more than ever before, he lets every aspect of cinema take over the film. Dialogue becomes just another sound effect in the symphonic cross cutting of time as Nolan takes us deeper into the universe. I’ve never found Nolan’s exposition to be a negative (In Inception the exposition literally builds narrative, character, and theme), but arguably here there’s some moments of explanation that hurt the gracefulness of Nolan’s operatic ambitions. Yet, scientists would have such discussions, so it’s not really a flaw.

Outside of the spaceship Nolan is doing stuff on a technical level that hearkens back to 70s cinema. He blends old school with modern technology to create immaculately textured images. The rural landscape feels like a John Ford movie, and the space sequences are wondrous. For the first time in a long time, I believed everything I was seeing.

Documentary filmmaking is where the films language is most indebted, creating a realistic journey for the audience. Sometimes in space this takes away from the film’s sweeping feeling, but less is more and it works magnificently when it needs to. Dust storms consume the American landscape like it’s outside of Blade Runner‘s city limits. This is paralleled with other natural elements in space that I won’t mention here, but thematically it’s fascinating. The space sequences are thrilling and awe-inspiring. I felt like I was in a spaceship as my IMAX theater shook, and some of the stuff you see will warp your mind. It’s an absolute triumph of technical filmmaking that’s in service of radically abstract ideas.

Your own personal likes/views will likely weigh on how much you connect and enjoy this because it’s an impressionistic opera filtered through Nolan’s materialistic POV. The film is built through the marriage of visuals and music to create emotion amidst an equation of plot. It’s a divisive film because of its humungous ambitions and how personal its content is. For what it’s worth, these are usually the films that are remembered. I’m thinking it’ll find a place in history like The Thin Red Line did a few years ago.

The main theme of the film is love — built so intimately and delicately by McConaughey and Foy — and here Nolan logically tries to deconstruct it, and make sense of its place as an unknown force, but really, I think this is the underlying idea of all of his films. For the first time, it’s brought to the surface and it rages with passion as Cooper longs to return home.

The characters discussions become personal and make us question huge ideas about human nature and the mysteries of the unknown. Images, sounds, and moments become re-purposed later on. There’s something so unique about the blend of intimacy among characters and the sweeping scope of the story. Nolan explores the mysteries of the universe with a hard nosed view that everything can be explained, but what many miss, is that is what he finds wondrous.

The film is a return to the adventurous science fiction of old. There’s even much needed doses of humor that reminded me of Raiders or even The Black Hole! In time I think this will knock on the door of great Sci-Fi like 2001Star Wars, Blade Runner, Stalker, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This, along with 2001 and Stalker, is the most ambitious Sci-Fi ever, and resonates with me more than almost any sci-fi film because of its prosaic center on a family told through a cosmic lens on the grandest scale that cinema offers.

Any minor complaints feel almost futile because this is such a gobsmackingly powerful and personal statement from the most ambitious film director alive. Sometimes Nolan’s reach may exceed his grasp, and that’s what I love. Where have the balls in movies gone!? The film is incredibly earnest and pushes itself in tons of different directions, with some working better than others, but I was along the ride for every single one. Every single time he shoots for the beyond, and here he may not take a perfect, clean route, but he ultimately reaches a destination that few ever have. Hiccups are the price of staggering ambition and what he’s crafted here might just be a classic masterpiece.

When this bad boy is clicking it is hitting home run after home run with the best of both blockbuster and arthouse cinema. I wouldn’t want a damn thing changed if it made a different end product. There’s sequences that had my jaw on the floor for minutes (one word: Docking).

This film employs Nolan’s usual traits, but in a different setting, style and they’re executed with more human characters. Time is the key element again, but here there’s more at stake than ever before. Instead of creating a puzzle, he shows us how time affects his characters with grief, longing, and loss. Thematically this is as dense as anything Nolan’s done. Most importantly, it’s the most emotionally stirring film he’s ever made. It’s agonizing and gut wrenching to be follow Cooper on this odyssey.

Nolan lets go of some of his past character conflicts so these characters can feel truly human rather than archetypes, and in doing so he’s made his most sincere film. He completely bares himself here and for it to be in a blockbuster is kind of unbelievable. Interstellar is a love letter to adventure, silent era cinema, exploration, and family. It implores us to go further as a species and to not go gentle into that good night. This film will age like a fine wine.

I haven’t even begun to fully unravel the themes and ideas at play here. The first viewing is an attack on the senses. It’s heartbreaking, awe-inspiring, and majestic. I laughed. I cried. I was thrilled. I learned. I wondered. It’s what going to the movies is all about. See it on the biggest screen you can. 70MM IMAX film!!! Interstellar is a grand and intimate spectacle of not only space and time, but of family and love. A film experience unlike any other.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light”

Grade: A+ maybe “M word” level??? The most ambitious film to come out of Hollywood since The Thin Red Line.

 

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