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4 reviews, 39 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"No Failure To Launch Here"
4 stars

Say what you will about "Interstellar"--and many people will indeed have many things to say about it--it offers further proof, if any were still needed at this point, that Christopher Nolan is one of the most wildly ambitious filmmakers at work today. Regardless of whether one sees him as a visionary genius or as someone whose work has a tendency to occasionally drift towards pretentiousness, we can all pretty much agree that he is not the kind of filmmaker who is just going to crank out a piece of product every couple of years simply to keep busy--my guess is that there will not be very many John Grisham adaptations produced under his stewardship. No, he is not going to take on a project unless he passionately believes in it and, as demonstrated by his previous efforts, he will spare no expense and stop at nothing in order to bring that vision to the screen as he sees fit. At his best--as was the case with "The Dark Knight," "Inception" and the sadly underrated "The Prestige"--the results are simply stunning in the way that they dazzle the eye, touch the heart and blow the mind in equal measure as they provide moviegoers with big ideas and grand ambitions to go along with the elaborate special effects. "Interstellar" may not quite live up to the heights that he has set in the past with most of his previous films but even if may not be the masterpiece that some have suggested it to be, its occasional failings are borne more out of ambition than laziness and are therefore easier to forgive, especially since when the film is firing on all cylinders, the results are as stunning as anything that has every been presented on the big screen.

Set in the near-future (and from this point on, I will be delving into what some may consider to be spoiler territory), "Interstellar" opens by presenting viewers a hellish vision of Earth on its last legs--the planet is being slowly choked to death by incessant dust storms, every crop other than corn has failed and virtually everything that doesn't immediately involve trying to stave off the inevitable has long since been pushed to the wayside. (We learn, for example, that the new school textbooks teach that the old Apollo missions to the moon were actually government hoaxes so as not to inadvertently inspire any students.) Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former pilot and widower who halfheartedly works his farm along with his father-in-law (John Lithgow), sullen older son Tom (Elyes Gabel) and overly inquisitive younger daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) in a house that also appears to be inhabited by some kind of apparition that delights in knocking over books and creating patterns in the dust. Eventually, Cooper and Murphy figure out that these disturbances are a form of communication and that they have been sent a series of map coordinates. When they arrive at their destination, it appears to be some kind of abandoned military base but when they try to enter, they are overtaken by military men.

The base, as it turns out, contains the last remnants of NASA, which had officially been disbanded years earlier and then quietly reinstated and which is now under the leadership of Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a man who just happens to know Cooper quite well. He and his team has been trying to find some kind of hospitable planet that will sustain human life before mankind dies out for good. Miraculously, a wormhole was discovered just outside of Saturn and a group of astronauts was sent through it a decade earlier to some of the most promising planets in that system to see if they could be made habitable and have been waiting on their respective worlds ever since for new teams to collect their data. Of the ten, three seem promising and a team of astronauts--Amelia (Anne Hathaway), who is also Professor Brand's daughter, Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Romilly (David Gyasi)--are off to see what they have discovered and whether or not their efforts will indeed save humanity. A crack pilot who never got into space himself, Cooper is offered the job to fly Endurance, the ship that will take them across the cosmos, and help rescue mankind from the abyss but there are problems--not only will the journey take years but once they go through the wormhole, the time-space continuum shifts to such a degree that 1 hour on one of these possible planets is roughly 7 years in Earth time. In other words, even if they do find a world perfectly set for repopulation, there is the real possibility that the human race may have already died off during the wait.

What Cooper and the other members discover along the journey I will leave for you to discover on your own. Suffice it to say, as they hurtle through space, they struggle to master their surroundings by scientific methods so that they can conserve their finite resources--food, air, fuel and time--as much as possible. Along the way, there are failures and one mistake winds up costing the crew members 20 years in lost time. On Earth, Cooper's kids have grown into adults--Tom (Casey Affleck) is still trying to farm despite the increasing futility while Murphy (Jessica Chastain) is helping Brand with his work while still nursing resentments against her father for what she perceives to be his abandonment. As things progress, it becomes painfully clear that rigid scientific methods and playing the percentages may sound right in theory but they do not always apply when it comes to matters of the human heart. For example, suppose you have one of two planets to choose from in the hopes of saving mankind--one is relatively close by and all the data seems to check out while the other is further away and sketchier in terms of viability. Which one would you choose? The first one, naturally. Now imagine that the lesser planet also contains the person who is the love of your life--how easy is that decision now?

In the end, "Interstellar" turns out to be a battle between two of the most indomitable forces known to man--logic and love--set against the infinite vastness of space. This is an ambitious conceit for a science-fiction epic, especially one budgeted at around $160 million, and it deserves an enormous amount of credit for daring to go this way. The trouble is that while we are watching brainiacs who can solve incomprehensible scientific equations and converse in highly technical jargon like it was nothing struggling to reconcile their knowledge with the mysteries of the human heart, the film itself begins to suffer from the same problem. Nolan and his brother/co-screenwriter Jonathan have come up with a brilliant concept but have not quite managed to figure out a way to reconcile the technical and the emotional in the final scenes. You can easily see what they are going for and I suppose that if you are forgiving enough, you can sort of go along with it but the final act of the film, at least from a dramatic standpoint, is a bit of a wash. In that regard, one could compare it less to the likes of "2001," which somehow managed to make the disconnection of a murderous computer into something both fascinating and moving, and more like "The Abyss" and "Contact," two generally brilliant films about exploring the unknown that weren't quite able to make their sentimental final scenes stick. (Put it this way--there was a great "South Park" joke about the ending of "Contact" that could pretty much be reused verbatim in regards to this one.)

There are some other ungainly moments to be had as well--the story takes a little too long in the beginning to establish Cooper's farm life before getting down to the nitty gritty and there is a subplot involving the grown Tom's stubborn refusal to leave the farm even though the increasing level of dust are literally killing his wife and child--and the Nolan's really push their luck by including no fewer than five different recitations of Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" throughout to further incite audience emotion. (Michael Caine, you are no Rodney Dangerfield.) And yet, I found myself willing to forgive, or at least mostly overlook, most of these missteps because it also brings enormous ambitions along with its occasional deviations into mawkishness and when those moments pay off, which is more often than not, the results are genuinely astonishing. I admit that my knowledge of how space exploration works and there will no doubt be science geeks out there ready to poke holes at what is on the screen but to my eyes, "Interstellar" provides the most convincing depiction of deep space travel and exploration since "2001: A Space Odyssey" and its attention to detail adds an extra layer to the proceedings that allows it to connect with viewers in ways that most other space-related films rarely achieve themselves.

There are scenes in this film that are so stunning to watch unfold that I confess to being curious to see how they were described in the screenplay. There is the big dust storm in the opening that finds Cooper and his family desperately trying to navigate the streets to their farm amidst a literally blinding fog of dust and dirt. There is the gorgeous moment in which Cooper's driving away from his family for what might be the last time segues immediately into the Endurance leaving Earth for what may be the last time. There is the vertiginous trip through the wormhole and the hauntingly desolate planets that they find themselves exploring upon their arrival. There is the climactic sequence, which I won't describe except to note that while it may not make a lot of sense from a narrative perspective, it looks so amazing that it is still more or less a knockout in that regard. All of these visual treats and many more have been expertly constructed by Nolan and his team and have been presented with uncommon beauty and skill. Also, if you get a chance to see it in one of the special 70mm IMAX presentations that it is receiving in properly equipped theaters, you should take it because to see it in the most visually sumptuous of projection formats is an almost overwhelming experience. (At times, however, it may be too overwhelming as the soundscape and Hans Zimmer's score have an occasional tendency to drown out the dialogue.)

One of the things that makes Nolan such an interesting filmmaker is that he is one of those rare contemporary directors who is just as adept at handling actors as he is with the technical aspects. Matthew McConaughey has been on a roll for the last couple of years and while the part of Cooper may not offer all the complexities of his work on "True Detective" but his work as an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation is quite good and he is excellent at delivering his technical jargon in such an amiably offhand manner that even those who only ever opened their math book on special equations may momentarily feels as if they know what is going on. Anne Hathaway is also quite good as well and there are a number of impressive supporting turns from the likes of Caine, Bill Irwin (as the voice of the ship's chief robot--imagine a cross between C-3PO and the monolith from "2001") and. . .well, there is one surprise turn that I will not reveal, though I notice that the IMDb page does not show the same hesitation. There is also a really neat double act from Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain as the younger and older iterations of Murphy--they match up so well, both physically and emotionally, that for once, you can actually believe that the former could one day grow into the latter.

"Interstellar" may not be the instant classic that some of us may have hoped that it would be but even though it may miss its ultimate mark, it goes farther and accomplishes more than a lot of the ultimately lazy films that struggle to meet their comparatively mediocre goals. How this film will go over with the general public I cannot say. For those expecting laser battles, bug-eyed aliens and the usual genre histrionics, it may prove to be a disappointment. However, for those viewers who cherish the idea that there are filmmakers out there who are still willing to push the boundaries of what can and cannot be done in order to provide them with new sights to savor and new notions to contemplate, "Interstellar" is at least a near-masterpiece--a ragged, occasionally misshapen and sometimes quite embarrassing in spots, to be sure, but one nevertheless.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25939&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/04/14 20:57:12
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User Comments

2/23/19 Dom V SciFi Junk at its worst. Stale story, boring chracters, completely illogical. 1 stars
10/30/16 morris campbell 2 long 2 dramatic but a cool sci-fi adventure none the less 4 stars
4/22/16 Stephen undeniably flawed, but decent 3 stars
3/04/16 dfgfd you review is shitty 5 stars
2/23/16 Lily "Banalities" in interstellar. Either you're from the future or have brain damage. 5 stars
12/17/15 lars Hilariously ridiculous review, from a guy who gave 5-stars for Borat and Noah! BS review. 4 stars
12/01/15 Fekinawsome Lemme guess, you are on of those who think Spielberg is one of the best directors of al tym 5 stars
11/29/15 CoolDood Spot on review. This movie was over-sentimental trash. Perfect for the morons who loved it. 1 stars
10/16/15 whitedave I saw this movie before it came out, via wormhole...come back yesterday for my review 2 stars
9/20/15 Jason Bang on review. 3 stars
9/04/15 Cole Agreed it has its faults. However, you fail to see the beauty in this film. 5 stars
8/25/15 The only person that matters It was amazing! It was very deep and at sometimes hard to understand but i loved every minu 5 stars
8/06/15 George Too much chat, not enough splat. Liked the wormhole part. 3 stars
7/31/15 TheGreatTone Overambitious, far too long, over-sentimental and ignores climate change 2 stars
7/27/15 J_Cornelius "recitations from the higher-mind quantum-magick grimoire" aka SF BS 1 stars
7/26/15 Kris Fuck your 7 month old review, you fucking cunt. As if this actually affects RT.com Wow 5 stars
7/19/15 Johnny Completely ignorant and stupid review. Rob Gonsalves, this movie went over your head. 5 stars
7/16/15 Greg You sir are a hack of a movie critic, and this review is utter garbage 4 stars
7/13/15 zenny relativity forces me to be quick, so one word: wow 5 stars
7/03/15 Bob Dog I agree with Rob Gonsalves - Interstellar is "stale farts". 1 stars
5/02/15 Cooler Great film 5 stars
4/19/15 mr.mike I recommend it to sci-fi buffs only. 4 stars
2/25/15 stanley welles a grand display visually, emotionally and mentally 5 stars
2/18/15 Jack Love behind a bookcase. I can't believe how bad this movie was. 1 stars
2/05/15 Crazy Frog tastes like chicken 5 stars
1/22/15 Langano Well done. 4 stars
12/18/14 star child a classic that will be loved across the threshold of time... i promise 5 stars
11/18/14 MVC If it wasnt for Nolan this would of been straight to DVD 4 stars
11/17/14 The Big D Combines ideas from Inception and Disney's Black Hole--part sappy; part thought-provoking. 4 stars
11/16/14 glzcarl just OK. Don't know what happened to Catwoman, 3 stars
11/10/14 Chris Science is incredibly wrong and Hathaway is a troll 2 stars
11/10/14 KingNeutron 1st half was tedious and needed rewrite, but there IS a pretty good payoff at the end 4 stars
11/09/14 jervaise brooke hamster I want to bugger Anne Hathaway 5 stars
11/09/14 Butt Best & worst of 2001 & Star Trek: TMP with a side of Matt Smith era DW to really mess it up 2 stars
11/08/14 Monday Morning Peter Sobczynski - thanks for the fucking Declaration of Independence, single-spaced. 3 stars
11/07/14 Bob Dog Bad melodrama - it's awful. 1 stars
11/07/14 Darkstar The outer space stuff was amazing. 4 stars
11/06/14 TonyK So wrong on so many levels - appalling! 1 stars
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  05-Nov-2014 (PG-13)
  DVD: 31-Mar-2015


  DVD: 31-Mar-2015

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