Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Movie Review: "Interstellar"

With Interstellar, his first film since 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan attempts to answer whether the world is ready to be saved by Matthew McConaughey. (You know the answer is "alright, alright, alright.") In all seriousness though, this is a movie that makes you think, and leaves you with as many questions as it does answers.

It's the not-too-distant future, and our world has been affected by extreme climate changes (go figure) which are making food, water, and breathable air a scarcity. A blight has permanently killed off many crops, and the air is thick with clouds of dust nearly all the time. Cooper (McConaughey), a former astronaut until NASA was shut down by the government, is a reluctant farmer, raising his two children alongside his taciturn father-in-law (John Lithgow). He wants more for his children—his teenage son could be an engineer, and his 10-year-old daughter, Murph, is tremendously gifted, but this isn't what society needs anymore.

Cooper and Murph stumble upon a group of scientists led by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) who have discovered a mysterious hole in the space-time continuum, which they are hoping to exploit in order to find a solution to the problems facing the world. Brand convinces Cooper (much to Murph's chagrin) to pilot a space mission through this hole, beyond our solar system, in order to find a planet that can sustain life and thus save the human race from eventual extinction. But this is a mission which will force Cooper and his fellow explorers (Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, and David Gyasi) to confront the realities of time, since everything they do takes longer in real time than it does in space, thus putting those they're trying to save at further risk. They also are forced to make some harsh decisions about the directions the mission should take.

Interstellar delves into more of a scientific explanation for what the explorers are doing, and why what they does matters in specific issues. A lot of that explanation went over my head, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of this movie. (I did wonder whether what the characters were saying was accurate or not.) And the way the story concludes dealt with other dimensions and things I couldn't quite grasp but I got the gist of it. (Some of it, at least.)

At just under three hours, Interstellar is a bit longer than it needs to be, and at times I felt that Nolan wasn't sure whether this movie was a sci-fi thriller, an action movie, or an exploration of relationships against the backdrop of the all-too-fleeting amount of time we have in our lives. It definitely raised some big questions for me, however. Is love the strongest force of all? Do you work for the good of the few, or good of the many? Is it more dangerous to let people believe they're doing the right thing than tell them they're not?

The performances are good, particularly at emotional points in the film, but I felt like nearly every actor didn't have to stretch themselves too far. After a brief hiatus into other characters, McConaughey is back to his usual brand of McConaughey-ness in this movie. He's a talented actor, and he has some wonderful scenes, but at times, he almost seems like a caricature of himself. Hathaway is appropriately taciturn given that the weight of the world lies on the success of their mission, although she, too, has some good moments. Jessica Chastain hasn't quite pulled herself out of her Zero Dark Thirty character (which isn't a bad thing), but again, when dealing with her character's emotions, she is quite strong.

As I've remarked more times than I can count, I am a total sap, so you can bet the parts of the movie that dealt with McConaughey's wanting to fight for a better world for his children, and his sadness at missing out on so much hit me hard. But in the end, while this wasn't Nolan's strongest movie, I really enjoyed this, and I can't stop thinking about it.

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