While some people may not love his movies, even they would have to admit that Christopher Nolan is a cinematic artist who has given us a number of movies known for their artistry and uniqueness. Personally I find myself smitten with every feature he brings to the screen. Nolan creates experiences. Through breathtaking visuals and challenging narratives, he takes his audiences places that must be navigating by the senses AND the intellect. I think he is a brilliant filmmaker, but even the greats sometimes miss the mark. There have been a lot of mixed opinions about Nolan’s latest work “Interstellar”. Is this his first shoot and miss?
Much of “Interstellar’s” divisiveness is rooted in extremely high expectations and/or the audiences’ willingness to not just quickly consume the film’s themes but to chew and meditate on them. It’s a film rich with ideas and questions, some of which are only barely touched on but which are still relevant and worth our attention. “Interstellar” is also soaked in science, not in the arrogant or haughty sense, but in a way that convincingly melds science fiction and reputable theory. It’s also ripe with emotion, something that I never expected going into it. In other words it’s a movie with a number of different components but none of which conflict thanks the masterful control Nolan has of his material.
I firmly believe that the less you know about “Interstellar” going in the better. But to offer a little about its story, Matthew McConaughey plays a widowed ex-NASA pilot named Cooper who now runs a farm with his father-in-law, teenaged son, and 10-year-old daughter. It’s the future and times are hard for the human race. A devastating blight has ravaged crops and able farmers have become more valuable than pilots or engineers. Government programs like NASA and the military have been abandoned and the focus put on the urgent need of food. In reality Earth’s plight is incurable and Cooper is recruited by an old acquaintance Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to head a space expedition to find a habitable planet. But it would require Cooper to leave what he holds dearest in order to potentially save it.
Nolan takes his time developing his scenarios and his characters. It starts with McConaughey and his fabulous performance. His weather-worn face and calloused hands puts him right at home on the dustbowl that Earth has become. McConaughey has a natural and magnetic presence that helps him sell every scene he’s in. It may be a poignant scene with his young daughter Murphy (remarkably played by Mackenzie Foy) or a vigorous debate with a room of physicists. I connected with his character early on and stayed invested until the end.
There is also a host of fantastic supporting work. Anne Hathaway is great as Professor Brand’s daughter and fellow scientist. I also enjoyed David Gyasi as a physicist who joins the expedition. And later on Jessica Chastain appears and gives a performance that grounds and emotionally energizes the second half of the film. Once again she is fabulous. Other castings that I really liked included John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, David Oyelowo, and Ellen Burstyn. Only one performance stuck out like a sore thumb. Neither Topher Grace nor his character ever quite fit.
But just having a great cast isn’t good enough. There has to be good material for them to work with and Christopher Nolan, along with his brother Jonathan, provide it. Their script pulls influence everywhere from “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “Alien”. From “Metropolis” to “Wall-E”. Yet despite that “Interstellar” is uniquely Nolan’s. Like many of his films it is cinematic brain food. It challenges us on a personal level by looking at our decisions and their consequences. It looks at self-sacrifice and the costs that some pay. It also challenges us on a philosophical level. What is our purpose of being? What is our place in the world?
And as I mentioned earlier there is a lot of science. This leaks into one of the complaints I’ve read in several places. Many count the film’s numerous science-laced conversations as a flaw. Some have seen them as nothing more than convoluted exposition. I couldn’t disagree more. Exposition is filling in gaps with back story or explanation and there is certainly some of that. But so many of the conversations center around the peril the characters are in and ways to handle it. They are dealing with unknowns, not providing filler. And of course I didn’t understand all of the talk about quantum physics, relativity, singularities, etc., but I believed it because the characters believed it and were passionate in their conversations about it. I bought into them so their knowledge was all I needed.
And then there is the emotional component of it. Surprisingly “Interstellar” is a film so full of emotion and some have had a hard time connecting with it. That’s a shame because emotion is the centerpiece of the film. At the core of “Interstellar” lies the one human force that transcends time and space. This is a movie about love. And it actually dares to be unashamedly sentimental, something else that many have viewed as a flaw. Again, I couldn’t disagree more. That’s because none of the heavy emotional scenes (all connected to the central theme of love) feel false or fabricated. In fact on several occasions I found myself deeply effected and more than once I was wiping tears from my cheeks. To add some perspective, that is very rare for me. But that’s not the only human side we see. Selfishness, cowardice, and deception all show their heads. Some at odds with love. Others born out of a twisted form of love.
It should go without saying that “Interstellar” looks and sounds amazing. Whether it’s the dry, abrasive, decaying Earth ushering in mankind’s extinction or space and its beautiful palette of stars, planets, clusters, and wormholes, the film offers a number of stunning effects and visual treats. It’s never as spectacular as last year’s “Gravity” but it’s equally impressive. There is a style employed that reminded me of real archived footage. It made many of the sequences all the more immersive. I also loved the use of sound from the space ambiance to Hans Zimmer’s precise score. “Interstellar” is a technical delight.
So why is “Interstellar” a divisive film? I can see a few areas where some may struggle with it. Some may find it too talky. Some may find it to confusing. Some may find it too sentimental. I respect those criticisms yet disagree with each of them. “Interstellar” is a space opera that is inspired by many films but it lays its own course. It’s a contemplative adventure and an emotional exploration that captivated me from its opening moments. More than that, it is one of the deepest and most moving experiences I’ve ever had with a film. It challenged me to self-reflect. It asked questions that I’m still tossing around in my head. It entertained me in a way that few movies of the last decade have. Boring, overly sentimental, convoluted? No way. It’s a graceful, stimulating, a beautiful movie that gave me a motion picture experience I won’t soon forget.
VERDICT – 5 STARS
My comment on this whole divisive affair regarding ‘Interstellar’ and your review in particular is roughly the same that I had following the similarly polarizing ‘Man of Steel’ from last year, in which coincidentally Nolan also had artistic input: None of the arguments for or against the movie (Interstellar) are wrong, and all of the complaints and praise are not incorrect 😛
In other words, these film to me are neither truly great nor truly disappointing. They are just neutral in my eyes. If legions of people keep saying the same thing on both sides of the aisle, than they must be on to something and both arguments for and against must be equally valid. This is not the case of a massively overrated or underrated project with a few dissenters. ‘Interstellar’ and other movies like it divide people roughly down the middle for a reason.
I guess only time will tell, as hindsight’s always 20/20 and film’s legacy can only be built with time, but I think objectively accepting both viewpoints is all we can do right now
Thanks so much for the great comments. I think it will be very interesting to see how time treats “Interstellar”. I do understand some of the arguments against the film and I do think it’s interesting that you are indifferent to it. I seems like a movie that almost demands one reaction or another. But as you show that isn’t the case.
Thanks again for reading.
Well thanks for the post, it was a good review even if I didn’t necessarily agree with all of it 😀
I really do think time is the one of the definitive things that proves whether a movie was really “great,” “bad,” “good,” “terrible,” or something else entirely. Some films may get way too much attention no matter what (e.g. half the stuff on Sight and Sound) and some smaller things may remain little more than cult hits though being altogether quite brilliant (e.g. American Psycho), but in the end, a film’s legacy is built on people giving it space.
Very true. Some movies leave good impressions but over time dont hold up. I’ve had that experience on several occasions.
I thought this was an excellent film. It was Nolan’s most ambitious, his most moving, and his most visually enthralling movie, and while it had its fair share of flaws, it was still a wonderful experience. Great review.
Thanks for reading and taling the time to comment. I know many people found it flawed and i completely respect that. But it was really hard for me to find anything I didnt love. I think everything had its place in making this a beautiful whole. I was so invested and it was the faster near three hours I’ve had in the theaters.
Hey Keith, you and I tends to disagree on a few films but I pretty much agree with you about this film. It’s one of those films that just pulled me in and I was lost in that world. Sure it has flaws and “plot holes” as some people likes to call them. But it’s still an ambitious film not many studios in Hollywood are willing to make these days. I can only imagine if this was directed by some lesser filmmaker, the studios would demand to have gun fights or space ship battles or worse aliens! I saw a few people walked out of the showing I went to and I guess the film was too talkative for them. The marketing made it look like it’s an action picture. LOL.
Time will tell of how this film will be remembered. I won’t come pare it to the classics but 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris and Blade Runner were ignored by many people when it came out years ago; they’re now considered some of best sci-fi pictures ever. Heck the original Star Wars were panned by critics but the audience loved it.
Thanks man. We absolutely agree on Interstellar. I’ll be perfectly honest, I have a hard time singling out many flaws. I think its a film that demands to be taken as one emotional and contemplative whole. It’s definitly talky but i never found it to be wasted dialogue. I soaked up every word.
In the end it was a tremendous experience for me. Highly entertaining, beautiful to look at, poetic and artistic by nature, and as a father there are so many emotional chords that it struck with me. As I mentioned in the review, it’s an example of why I love movies.
Ooo, I love your post here, Keith! It’s refreshing to read such a positive, honest review when it’s so easy to go along with the masses of semi-satisfied film critics and fans. I still have mixed, although edging towards the positive, feelings on the film overall, and I totally respect your thoughts here. I may not feel entirely the same, but I can definitely understand how and why you feel the way you do. It’s an evocative film for those who really let me themselves be moved by it. Great review here! 🙂
Thanks so much Kristin! And i too can see the other side. I can see where Nolan’s film can be a challange for some (and i dont mean simply intellectually). Interstellar has to be looked at as one big contemplative whole. It really swept me up. And as a father I connected with so many of the raw emotions that MM showed in the film. They were very effective. But that was just one component of this big ambitious movie that i loved.
Completely agree with every word, Keith. Excellent review, my friend!
Hey thanks a lot. It captivated me and kept me enthralled throughout its running time. Cant wait to experience it again.
Hey Keith, this is one where we aren’t on the same page but I enjoyed reading your passionate review and the points you make even though I agree with some and disagree with others. I just didn’t connect with the characters in the same way you did, and that was a major factor for me. Brand was a particular one for me – I thought Hathaway was short changed in that she only got like a minute or two of back story in a film of nearly three hours. Still, there were parts of it I liked and Nolan is very good at staging those BIG incidents. “The major chords” is how someone described them on TV here the other week. Good read!
Thanks man. Appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts. I get what you mean about Brand and i would have been interested in seeing more of her story. That said I dont feel the film suffered because of that. I felt we were given quite a bit of information about her through a handful of very strategic scenes. And as a supporting character I was okay with that.
Its really been fun to go back and read the amazing range of opinions on this film. Interested to see how it fairs over time.
Yeah, it could well be one of those that people change their mind over after a second viewing. Good that you enjoyed it so much anyway.
Great review Keith. agreed with all your points and this will also be among my all time favorites.
am still a bit puzzled about how anyone can discredit this film. Maybe there are imperfections but i don’t think they weakened the experience.
Oversentimental? a father is going to leave his daughter to help the human race. I think whoever calls this film oversentimental may lack sensitivity. That is off-course if they are onboard the movie and not viewing it from an analyst perspective, which is a perspective that ruins any movie experience imo.
Interstellar is a complete cinematic experience that is unique and is a modern day classic. once again, great review.
Thanks so much for reading. I love that the father/child relationship. That really hit home for me (as a father). This is the second time Nolan his struck this chord well (remember that final scene in Inception?). I think those scenes were spot on and felt incredibly authentic.
‘Sentimental’ has almost become a dirty word in some people’s minds when it comes to movies. But its not a bad thing at all. Some filmmakers cant properly convey it to the audieces, but Nolan has no problem with that here.
Thanks again for reading.
I’d have absolutely no issue with all the science stuff but throwing in something as ridiculous as ‘love conquers all’ to a movie that otherwise would at least make some sense just made me laugh. I also wasn’t that thrilled with visual side which isn’t even the best this year (Guardians of the Galaxy). But Matthew was fantastic, he made it watchable for me.
Hey Sati. Loved your review which was quite different than mine. But it was so interesting seeing the different effect it had on you.
I di t think it was truly ‘love conquers all’. I think it was more ‘love transcends’. For example we see a harsh side if live as well. But that is open to interpretation.
As for the visuals, i completely get what you’re saying. But i do believe the visual style is intentional. Its very old-school from the camera angles to the nostalgic presentation. I really liked it.
One thing is for sure, Interstellar has given us a lot to talk about.
Hey Keith! Lovely review as always, and I’m glad you got more out of this film than I did. I admire parts of the film but overall it didn’t gel as much as Nolan’s previous films. I’ve outlined my quibbles a while ago so I’m not gonna mention ’em again here. I think my hubby liked this one a bit more than me and he said that perhaps this film might ‘grow on me’ on subsequent viewing so I might rewatch it again at some point. It’s true that it sparks lots of discussions and it’s always cool when a film does that.
Did you and Ted both write reviews on Interstellar? Im thinking I may have missed your rhoughts on it!
I wrote a lengthy review of it whilst Ted wrote about the IMAX vs 70mm comparison. You can click on the Interstellar poster on my sidebar if you’re curious to read my take on it 😉
P.S. Btw thanks for the recommendation on Night Train to Lisbon. I rented it a couple of weeks ago and quite enjoyed it!
Oh I’m very interested in your thoughts on it. Look forward to reading it. And great to hear you checked out Lisbon. Its quite good isnt it? More people should give it a look.
Great review here, Keith! You read my review, so I think you know I pretty much agree. I don’t think it was Nolan’s best, but it’s still really, really good, and it was nice to see Nolan going for a more emotional story. So glad that you enjoyed it so much! 🙂
Thanks so much for reading. Yep I think it’s pretty great. I’m such a fan of Nolan and I don’t think I would call it his best. But it does have a uniqueness within his filmography. I think it is due to that emotional spark thats found all through it.
It is going to be very interesting to see how the movie stands over time.
I so wished this were my reaction to this film. I greatly enjoyed it, but I was waiting to connect with it on an entirely different level. It was a hugely ambitious, three-hour long project so it quite likely deserves another viewing by me! I greatly respect and have fallen madly in love with Nolan’s filming style and what he chooses to make into films, and Interstellar was poised to be the film to end all films.
So I think I play right into your observation that it was having to do battle with incredibly loftily expectations and unfortunately for me, they just weren’t *quite* attained. Lovely review too, by the way. Always enjoy them.
Thanks so much Tom. Your kind words are always encouraging.
This is a movie that gives you a lot to digest. It would be easy to sit down and pick apart single components to this movie. But i thought it had a harmonious fluidity to it that seept me along from one scene to the next. So many things to ponder. So many things to feel. Still i can see where some may not be as enamored with it as i am.
Certaintly. It’s exciting on the level that a single filmmaker can generate such passionate, spirited debate and conversation. I don’t know of too many people right now in the industry who has the gravity that he does (pardon the terrible pun). 😀
Great review. While it wasn’t my preferred type of movie, I cannot deny that it is a really great one. I had an issue with some of the supporting characters but other than that, another great job by mister Nolan.
Thanks so much for stopping by my friend. Appreciate the comments. Movies like this naturally draw a lot of conversation and I love that. I can definitely see where this one could draw a wide range of opinions. And a movie so ambitious will naturally draw sone criticism. Glad to see it worked for you on the whole.
It did. I generally don’t like space travel movies (unless it features aliens haha). But I had fun with this….
Hogwash to the critics. It’s a “stellar” movie and the reason why one goes to the movies–to be carried away, to laugh, to feel, to cry–to come out at the end of it exhausted and blown away and wondering about this aspect and that character stares at you in the night when you go to sleep. It’s art. Plain and simple. Congratulations Christopher Nolan–as you say, he creates experiences.
Soooo glad to hear from someone equally passionate about this film as me. I’ll be honest Cindy, this movie really struck me deep on several occasions. And I’m not just talking about on the surface. It really got down deep and had many cherishing some of the most important relationships in my life.
Nolan is a rare filmmaker. He definitely make big movies but he does so with such skill and style. I so love this film.
High praise indeed, sir! I’m really not too sure about this now. There’s so many mixed reviews. I’ll definitely still see it but my expectations are lower than they were. Still, it’s good to hear positives.
This is a movie that could be picked apart if you allow yourself to start dissecting it to the smallest detail. I just wasnt interested in doing that. I’m also reading some criticisms obssessed with the science. Honestly I didnt care one bit if the science in a science fiction film was correct.
If I tried to take this film, chop it up, and carefully examine all of its components I’m sure I could find more to gripe at. But then I would miss the actual experience Nolan has created and that would be a travesty..
Great to hear from you my friend. Hope youre doing well.
I see where you’re comjbg from, man. Hopefully I can look at the film the see way that you have. I really want to like it.
All is well with me brother! Hope thins are good your end!? 🙂
Yep, pretty good here. It’s been a weird few months so my movie watching has taken a hit but things are getting back to normal.
Great review! I am glad to see that you enjoyed Interstellar so much! I thought it was a great piece of cinema and well worth the wait, and I relaly think people are just nitpicking for things because it was so hyped up (not saying there weren’t flaws, just saying it really isn’t like people are making it out to be). I had a fantastic experience in cinema with this and would definitely recommend it. Nolan never fails, no two ways about that.
AMEN! We definitely feel the same way about it. I think if I literally broke the film down and tried to dissect every part I could find some flaws. But honestly I was swept up in film. It connected with me on practically every level. I think it is great and almost every way.
Completely in agreement. You can find flaws in any movie the minute you start dissecting. Interstellar is a journey, and a fantastically mind-blowing one at that!
I have not seen it yet but i’m 100% sure that the film will match to your words Keith…..
It’s definitely worth checking out before it leaves the big screen. If you get a chance to see it be sure to let me know what you think. It seems to be a fairly divisive film.
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Excuse my reappearance on this one brother, but I have now seen the film and remember you being one of a few who praised it highly. I have to say… you’re absolutely spot on!
What an experience! An absolutely astounding piece of cinema. I’ve been running this through my head all day and it really struck a chord with me. Consider my mind blown and my heart rejoicing at how powerful the magic of cinema truly is. 🙂
I love hearing that bro. I absolutely loved it and I left with my head and my heart full. It gives you so much to chew on and it definitely has the emotion.
I suppose I get why some people didn’t love it but I’m really surprised that it’s such a divisive film. It was my favorite movie of the year and an absolutely incredible motion picture experience. It’s why I love the movies!
I hear you, man. I can see why some would have criticisms. Maybe they were expecting a big action blockbuster with less drama or having to think so much. It totally swept me away. I thought I had my top ten all sorted and then Interstellar blow it all to hell. It’s definitely in my top three.
I love hearing that. I found it to be bold, audacious, and original. I love that Nolan marches to his own beat.
I have heard some criticize it and say it’s trying to be 2001: A Space Odyssey. I think that is absurd. They are such polar opposite movies aside from their ambition and daring originality.
Fantastic review! I too loved this films (I saw it in theaters, so yes, this comment is quite behind). I agree that Nolan’s films are smart, very well shot, and sit on one’s conscience it the best of ways. That being said, I did not care for Dark Knight Rises and there were parts of this one that I did not care for. For me personally, both Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar suffer the same problem. He’s too heavy handed in his presentation of whatever is wrong with the world in which he is portraying. The “haves vs. the have nots” in Batman and the environmental message in this one, while excellent, bordered a little on preachy. I think he could be a little more subtle in that department. Just my thoughts though. Great review!
Thanks so much for reading and for taking time to share your thoughts. Appreciate the kind words. It’s funny, I normally am pushed away by heavy-handed cinema but I never felt that way here. In fact in many ways the environmental message left no imprint on me whatsoever. I’ll be anxious to keep an eye open for that once this finally hits DVD and Blu-ray. It’s taking its sweet time coming out!
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I didn’t catch this one in theaters, unfortunately, but I did rent it on Blu-Ray, and I have to say it’s one of the most interesting films of 2014. Fantastic acting coupled with stunning visuals and a compelling story make for one of my favorite sci-fi movies. It definitely reminds of 2001 in how it plays out, but with more action. I like most of Christopher Nolan’s work, but none have connected with me in such a personal and emotional way as Interstellar. There were times when I was getting misty-eyed. McConaughey’s performance is probably one of his best. Everyone was amazing, I thought. This is definitely one I can recommend.
Glad to hear you had a response similar to mine. I’m always surprised when I hear the film has so many detractors. I found it to be a superbly entertaining and emotional experience.
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