If Man of Steel, Prometheus and the video game Dead Island taught us anything it’s that you should never trust a trailer. Marketing is a dodgy business and more often than not something is made to look a lot better than it actually is by a well-polished, moving and bombastic advert.
We’ve all felt the disappointment, realised the hype was unnecessary and felt duped into buying a ticket. This was my greatest fear surrounding Interstellar, the latest cerebral blockbuster from mastermind and all-round movie deity Christopher Nolan.
It’s the near future and the earth is struggling to sustain human life. Crops are failing; the wheat has gone, okra is on its way out and, whilst currently plentiful, corn seems doomed to suffer a similar fate. The land is ravaged by blight – a biological endgame not too dissimilar to the infamous potato famine – and mankind has regressed to little more than a farming community, struggling to put food on the table.
Dust storms are common, university places are limited and the corn fritters get old real fast. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is one such farmer, battling this unbeatable enemy to provide for his two kids and aging father-in-law, Donald (John Lithgow). He’s a haunted man; his adventurous personality, which once led him to be a NASA test pilot and engineer, is now shackled by the needs of the human race. He yearns for exploration and endeavour, and when a mysterious and rather elaborate coded message leads him to a secret facility in the back end of beyond he’s given the chance to explore the universe to find a new home for humanity. A wormhole to another universe has been discovered, Cooper and three others are sent through it to see if a future can be found for the dwindling and starving humans back on Earth.
This film has Nolan written all over it. This is a guy who specialises in cinematic wonder and is able to put more on screen than just about any other director working today. Nothing is too big, no scale too frightening, and when you’re dumped into the vast abyss of space during the movie’s many exquisite travel set pieces you’ll be blown away by what you’re seeing. This is some of, if not the, finest IMAX footage I’ve ever seen; it makes Gravity seem a bit run-of-the-mill. It’s much easier to draw a comparison with Stanley Kubrick’s tripfest 2001: A Space Odyssey, in terms of ambition anyway.
Whilst it’s incredibly irritating to see the aspect ratio changing constantly (going from full IMAX to letterbox), your eyes will never be drawn away from what’s happening on-screen. McConaughey delivers yet another excellent and grounded performance as the heroic dad, it’s exactly the kind of role is personality and cheekbones were born to play. The film may be about space exploration but at its core is a father-daughter tale; he’s left Murph (Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain – young and old versions) behind whilst he goes to save the world. They didn’t part on good terms and this emotional upheaval provides some of the movie’s strongest moments. A scene where Cooper sits down to watch years’ worth of video messages from back home is particularly poignant, especially when you realise so many more years have passed on Earth than on the spaceship. Imagine seeing your daughter suddenly age 23 years. It’s a powerful scene and one which spreads the film’s message about love being the one thing that can transcend time and space perfectly.
Nevertheless, if you can keep your mind in one piece for the duration you will be taken on a fantastical roller-coaster ride the like of which hasn’t been seen this year. Interstellar is grand in so many ways, and everything you see, hear and feel is all held aloft by yet another superb score from Hans Zimmer. This is a physical and mental journey with incredibly emotional moments, strong performances and splendour in spades. You’ll have to forgive a few nagging issues, perfection is expected from a Nolan film these days after his great success in the past but this movie certainly isn’t perfect. That being said, it’s a must-see film and if you can fund the extra pennies do your best to see it in IMAX – it was made for that format.
Is it Nolan’s best work? No, not at all. But does it live up to my expectations? Yes. It’s hard to sum up my feelings for this movie without running over well-trodden ground. Perhaps the best compliment I can give it is a personal one; my limited time and money means I only give movies one chance. I can’t afford to see them more than once, but with Interstellar , I’d be prepared to make an exception.