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Film Review: Interstellar

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I have been a bit of a Christopher Nolan sceptic for years. I have always respected him for trying to aim higher, daring to be different and giving his audiences good, intelligent stories told in a serious way with superb technical skill and understanding of the power of cinema. But Nolan (the British director of the three Batman films and other standalone movies such as The Prestige and Inception) has for me never really succeeded in what he has tried to achieve.

His films have strived for greatness but never quite reached it. I salute him for trying to do something interesting and complex with the genre of the mainstream action movie but feel it important to notice the shortfalls of such attempts.

Interstellar is where this all changes. This is an astonishing piece of work; a near-masterpiece that perfectly demonstrates the power of film.

Interstellar is a standalone picture, not a franchise or comic book adaptation, written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan. It is a tremendous, quietly terrifying, wondrous story about the death of our world and how a team of explorers journey to space in order to find a new planet for the human race to survive on. Food and fuel shortages have driven NASA underground, secretly engineering spaceships so Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway can go up to space to helm the expedition.

McConaughey’s character is built up from the start as a committed and enthusiastic single father, keen on his children succeeding academically instead of being forced to farm the remaining food the world has left: corn, fields of it, stretching for miles. The world needs farmers, he is told by his children’s teachers. But he wants more for them and a better world for them to grow up in. His daughter Murphy pleads with him to stay on earth and not go searching beyond our galaxy for another world. He leaves, however, and the things he discovers whilst in space are not only beyond our understandings of time and gravity but beyond our imagining.

The cast is uniformly excellent, though one would suspect nothing less from a cast including (along with McConaughey and Hathaway), Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine and Casey Affleck. It is true, Caine does do one of his now clichéd cracked-voice profound monologues, but it’s because he does them so well that we keep coming back for more and want to see him light up the screen all over again.

The film was shot on a combination of 35mm and 65mm film and I beg everyone thinking of seeing Interstellar to try, if possible, to see it at the BFI IMAX in London, the biggest screen in Britain. The 70mm film projection (yes, actual projected film, not digital) I saw at the venue was beyond astonishing. After so many years seeing bad 2K digital projections on smaller screens it is wonderful to see a picture projected from celluloid at gasp-inducing size in extraordinary clarity. For ages we have been fed cheap, fast-food rubbish. This experience gives us the cinematic nourishment of a big main meal.

I don’t want to spoil Interstellar’s story and lessen the impact of the strange and at times surreal areas it chooses to plunder. Part of the power of the film comes from being shocked at where it dares to take us and how it deals with the problems it creates. Yes, it does take a large amount of good-will for the plot-twists to work, but if you go with it you may just have one of the best experiences you’ve ever had in the cinema.

Nolan as for a long time been making large-scale works of breathtaking scope, and at last he has made one that works more or less perfectly. Whereas some filmmakers make pictures that feel like comfortable village halls, Nolan has strived to build Colosseums; huge, thundering behemoths of art and imagination. With Interstellar, he has succeeded.

Interstellar (2014), directed by Christopher Nolan, is released in UK Cinemas on 7 November, Certificate 12A. Trailer below: 

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