One of the most anticipated movies of the fall, if not the entire year, is finally out and everyone can see what Christopher Nolan has been up to since putting a capper on his vaunted Dark Knight trilogy. Nolan’s latest work is a call back to the grand spectacle of movie making with people, not action and set pieces as the most important thing. He’s a director more than capable of pulling off a great movie where stuff blows up and bullets fly, but it seems he’s more at home when it’s just people that are driving the story. One of his best films that didn’t involve a man in a cowl beating up super villains is the Prestige. That was a film that took its time to tell its story, slowly revealing the mystery and twists that it hid from the viewer, turning out to be one thing while pretending to be something else. Part of the reason that film worked so well, though it was slow in parts and maybe half an hour too long, was Nolan’s care in directing the people in it. Setting up scenes and shots where, if you go back through it on a second viewing, you see the clues laid out clear as day without it being blatantly obvious.
Interstellar is more on par with that film than any of his more recent outings. The basic premise, for anyone who’s seen the trailers is that the world is dying. The food supply is running short and if another habitable planet isn’t found then the inhabitants of earth are doomed right along with it. That’s the basic premise. Much like the Prestige, as the story unfolds there are few surprises and twists that reveal that the basic premise is just what’s used to get the story off the ground. There’s a lot more to the film than its premise with the ideas of love and family and the driving force behind those things being at the core of it. Matthew David McConaughey is the emotional anchor of the film and does a fine job as its lead keeping this McConaughey renaissance in full effect. Anne Hathaway turns in a performance, while not as emotionally powerful compared to McConaughey, is just as grounded and believable in her role, and even used to better effect in this film than her role as Cat Woman in The Dark Knight Rises. The performances of everyone in this film are not in question. As usual Nolan knows how to utilize the strengths of the actors in his film better than many directors around right now. Despite this being a Sci-Fi film where space and time are very important parts of the story, its the people that truly matter.
The movie is a great achievement in scope and grandeur. A visual delight, though not in the same aspect as last year’s sci-fi epic, Gravity. The first three quarters of the film are masterful, with heartfelt story telling that’s emotional and tense with the visual cues that add to great effect the scope of which Nolan tells his story. It’s the fourth quarter of the movie where Nolan’s vision exceeds his reach. The viewer is asked to take a massive (and I mean grand canyon size) leap of faith at the climax of the film. Much like the Prestige, visual clues are laid out throughout the film at what will happen towards the end. Unlike that movie, the payoff here is asking a lot for the viewer to swallow. The ending, while not bad, takes away from what could have been easily one of the best films of the year. Nolan’s sci-fi outing draws upon films of the past, especially 2001 a Space Odyssey. The shots executed when the movie goes out into the void of space are beautiful and brilliantly done. Nolan’s painstaking attention to detail and understanding that special effects are a tool of the filmmaker and not just something that can make the audience “ooh” and “ahh” pays great dividends once the film and characters discover these new worlds they’re in search of.
Last year, I said if you wanted to experience a film and not just watch it, then Gravity was that film to see. Interstellar is in the same category. It’s a film that should be experienced on the big screen and if you have an IMAX theater, then by all means, run out and see this film. It’s a feast in visual storytelling, I only wish that Christopher, and his brother Jonathan Nolan, took better care at crafting a suitable ending to a film that deserves better than what it got.