"Interstellar" shoots for the stars

Nov. 17, 2014, 5:12 p.m. | By Kalin Vassilev | 6 years, 11 months ago

Director Nolan shoots for the stars

"Interstellar" is an audacious space epic on a grand scale—a behemoth that is overwhelming in every sense of the word. From cinematic greatness to dramatic intimacy, the film refuses to be simple and stay put.

The film is quick and speeds along, touching upon as much subject matter as humanely possible. Christopher Nolan, an already prolific director with successes like "Inception," "Memento," and the "Dark Knight" trilogy, infused the narrative with raw feeling and humanity. He took the epic science fiction paradigm and reinvented it with his own distinct tint, mixing his usual calculated and methodical directing with gritty, wrenching emotion. With a shamelessly grand structure and extravagant storytelling, "Interstellar" is shaping up to be one of the decade's most ambitious movies.

In the near future, Earth is losing its ability to support humanity as crop-decimating blights ravage food sources and persistent dust storms wear everything away. Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a former NASA test pilot doing his best to eke out an existence as a farmer in a deteriorating world. Due to the actions of an inexplicable gravitational anomaly in his house, Cooper finds his way to an underground bunker housing the remnants of NASA. There, he meets an old acquaintance, Professor Brand (Michael Caine), who explains to him that a wormhole has been discovered orbiting Saturn, and that humanity's only chance for survival lies in traversing that wormhole and colonizing planets beyond. Cooper is recruited to pilot an experimental spacecraft into the wormhole, and ventures forth for the sake of humanity, with the slight hope of making it back home in time.

One of the film's strengths is the atmosphere that it was able to convey using cinematography, graphics, and music. The cinematography followed suit with some of Nolan's previous works, keeping scenes crisp, clean and powerful. Nolan often plays with light effects and silhouettes when emphasizing the leads during especially expressive scenes. From earth-born dust storms to wormhole travel, every scene was intense. The film showed the terrible power of a dust storm slowly engulfing the main characters' car as they plowed on in hopes of reaching home. The scenes focusing on more fantastical scientific elements of the film such as the black hole, the wormhole, or any of the alien planets that they visit always bear extensive and breathtaking sights. The journey through the wormhole was probably one of the more memorable scenes. The film portrays the bending of space and time with a brilliant artistic flare.

The musical score and overall the sounds of "Interstellar" seamlessly complemented the very volatile visual nature of the film. When more action based scenes happened, the theater was loud with a grand and epic musical score. The boom of rockets firing and rattle of shaking space ships filled the theater, immersing the viewer in a torrent of sound and sight. The interludes of complete silence or a subdued, repeating score also helped construct the mood of scenes. This was often used for intensely emotional scenes or those events occurring in the soundless depths of space.

The film's ensemble cast proves crucial in fleshing out Nolan's grand ambitions. McConaughey's intensity and commitment to his roles make him a very good fit for his character. Cooper is a proud and passionate engineer, one who dreams of a race of "pioneers" and "explorers" even as the world fades to dust. Some of the movie's most powerful moments center around Cooper's reactions to his kids, sometimes ending with his cheeks streaked in tears. These scenes are not overdone, and reflect the character's immensely passionate internal struggles. Michael Caine exhibits his usual joking charm as the rugged professor, but with the heavy heart of one who bears a terrible responsibility. Caine does a wonderful job of playing that tortured role, evoking laughter and sadness alike. Jessica Chastain adds to the film with her passionate performance, playing the ever-seeking scientist trying to right the world's wrongs. Nolan's use of flawed, fearful and doubtful characters brings a very refreshingly realistic touch to the film.

A very noteworthy example is the character of Dr. Mann, played by Matt Damon. His isolation makes him very volatile and eerily relatable. The relationships between the various characters especially in context of the temporal displacement create extreme tension and emotion. At its core, "Interstellar" is a very human and grounded film. Usually Nolan's predisposition is to weave detached tales, but here in the cold depths of space Nolan shows a very soft side with themes of love, family and humanity.

"Interstellar" is a bold step by Nolan that juggles many finely-crafted moments in trying to achieve originality and depth. The sheer complexity of the film is enough to turn away some viewers, because it does require some investment to perceive and understand the film's ideas. That said, it is astonishing how well Nolan was able to reconcile all of these elements into a focused and powerful piece. "Interstellar” is one of his most ambitious films so far and is definitely worth experiencing.

Tags: Christopher Nolan Matthew McConaughey

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