Film Review: Interstellar

Interstellar movie poster.

Interstellar Plot Summary:

The Earth is dying, and has one generation left before the human race can no longer survive. A last ditch expedition into space is launched when a wormhole into potential new worlds is discovered. A pilot (Matthew McConaughey) turned farmer must leave his family in order for the mission to proceed. In search of a new planet, these astronauts go deeper into the very fabric of time and space.

Interstellar is going to be one of those movies that you either love or hate. If you hate this movie, all I ask is that you hate it for the right reasons. I’m not interested in listening to the nitpick police. If you buy into this idea from the start, you should fall in love with this movie. Are there a few shoddy explanations here and there? Sure. But in my opinion, it’s minor quibbles. The big picture stuff fires on all cylinders, and that’s what I admire most about Christopher Nolan, in particular this film. I’m not one of these guys who’s going to hand out participation ribbons just for attempting something ambitious. I’ve bashed many films in the past such as Prometheus and The Tree of Life for reaching big, but falling flat on their faces. People are going to dislike this film for all the science they think is stupid and ridiculous, but for me, the power of this movie has nothing to do with wormholes, quantum physics, and space. Amongst all the crazy shit that goes down in this film, it’s a simple story about a father fighting to get back to his family, and that’s the real genius of Christopher Nolan.

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The performances are staggering. Everybody is perfectly cast, even Wes Bentley and Topher Grace for crying out loud. We’ve grown accustomed to this in a Nolan movie though. The man we have to start with is Matthew McConaughey who players Cooper, the pilot of the ultimate space expedition ever conceived. It’s one of those performances where nobody else could have played this role. He does the typical charming and charismatic McConaughey-isms, but it’s his dramatic moments that will floor you. Without giving away too much, there’s a scene where he’s watching a video and it’s soul crushing. This is ultimately why I can forgive all the questionable and convoluted plot explanations. I don’t care. I care about this guy seeing his daughter again. McConaughey carries the film better than anybody, and will hopefully get some Oscar consideration.

Speaking of Cooper’s daughter, there’s a couple performances we have to touch on here. Mackenzie Foy plays young Murph. Foy does a great job playing off McConaughey, and it’s a crucial role because if you don’t love their relationship, the film doesn’t work. It’s Jessica Chastain who gives the second best performance as the adult Murph. Chastain has already turned in one Oscar worthy performance with The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, but she does so again in a supporting role. I’ve said it before, but she might be the best actress we have right now. Chastain is tasked with being both driven and emotionally wrecked. Every scene where she’s thinking or talking about Cooper, there’s pure pain on her face. Chastain is fantastic.

The third performance I need to single out is Anne Hathaway, who might be the second best actress working in Hollywood. What’s great about her character (Brand) is she’s very clinical and calculated, but one of her biggest motivations is purely emotional. She’s a very easy character to latch onto.

The movie is infused with a ton of awesome supporting characters. Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, and David Gyasi as one of the other crew members are all perfect, and play their parts well. There’s even a non-human character who’s probably the funniest character ever in a Christopher Nolan movie. There’s also another key role played by a well-known actor that’s sort of being kept under wraps. You’ll know when it happens. I’ll just say this guy did an absolutely fantastic job, although his subplot felt a little off and confusing.

Interstellar poster.

John Lithgow only plays an important part in the first act, but he was quite memorable for me, including one scene where him and Cooper have a great conversation. That’s another element to this movie getting criticized that I cannot not for the life of me understand. The dialogue in this film is beautiful – classic Nolan dialogue. Some will say it’s heavy handed, but I think it’s just right. Even though there’s a good half hour before you get to space, the film does a great job of building up the characters and their relationships.

As great as the characters are though, this is a Nolan film, so we have to talk about the visuals. This could be the most gorgeous looking film I’ve ever seen, and with Christopher Nolan, he went practical effects as much as he could. These are the types of visuals I appreciate a hell of a lot more than something like Avatar. Oh wow, some CG waterfalls and giant blue aliens in 3D. Yay. As great as the landscapes are, there’s a lot of traveling through space moments that will knock you on your ass.

The story is what will be talked about most, and I’d be doing a disservice by divulging a lot of that information. There’s no question there’s some flawed progressions and explanations. This movie is science overload. Doc Brown would shit his pants if he tired to explain this to Marty McFly. What makes this work though are that the crucial elements are explained pretty damn well. You just need to pay attention. The script also does a good job of giving you really good foreshadows. Every detail is important. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s going to be a lot of people who get annoyed by the last thirty minutes because they’ll be convinced that a certain theme is what solves everything. “What?! That’s what this is! Oh, you got to be kidding me!” I want to stress again, you need to pay attention. While this theme certainly plays a part in what’s going on, it’s only one idea amongst a whole bunch of other stuff that led Cooper to this moment.

Whether you come out of Interstellar loving or hating it, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. You will want to talk about this film with somebody, no matter how you felt. While the ambition of the story is certainly going to be the main discourse, the characters are why this works. Just like he did for Inception, Nolan combines epic storytelling with powerful character moments. For some of you criers, get the tissues ready. The score by Hans Zimmer is earth shattering. If the job of a score is to fit the mood of your movie, I can’t imagine too many scores that did it better than this. At almost three hours, I was never bored, in fact it moves at a fast pace which is crazy. This is also Nolan’s quietest film in that it’s not as bombastic as an Inception or Dark Knight Rises. As with all Nolan films, I always leave the theater with two thoughts: I can’t wait to see that again, and I can’t wait to see what this guy does next.

Rating: 9 out of 10 (OMG)

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.

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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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