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Review: Interstellar

Writer/director Christopher Nolan has just released his most audacious project yet. Yes, the man behind Inception, The Prestige, and the Dark Knight Trilogy has tried to outdo himself yet again. In relation to his latest film, Interstellar, Nolan fanboys will be beyond satisfied. Interstellar features some of the most beautiful images to ever grace the silver screen (in 70mm IMAX, no less), but it is ultimately bogged down by a mind-numbingly banal script and an overload of sentimentality.

In a world that can barely sustain human life, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is attempting to raise his two children with the help of his deceased wife’s father Donald (John Lithgow). Cooper was once an astronaut, but was forced to become a farmer, as the earth’s food supply is dwindling. Though frequent dust storms threaten his family’s crops and health, Cooper must struggle to complete the task assigned to him. His daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy/Jessica Chastain/Ellen Burstyn) begins to notice some strange occurrences in their farmhouse, which Cooper chooses to ignore. One day, after a dust storm, Cooper enters Murph’s bedroom to see organized piles of dust on her floor. Somehow, Cooper interprets the piles as coordinates, and sets off to see where they lead. Within hours of arriving at a NASA base, Cooper is recruited by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to take part on a space mission in which he and a group of astronauts will search for a habitable planet so that humankind may survive. Within days, Cooper abandons his family and joins Amelia (Brand’s daughter, played by Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi) and two robots on his intergalactic journey.

The setup of Interstellar’s plot is excellent. We are thrust into this world where schools are teaching children that no one has walked on the moon as previous landings were staged, and no more than 100 people show up for a Yankees game. The audience is not explicitly informed what exactly has occurred, just that much of humanity has died off and food is scarce. This is a surprise coming from Nolan, whose last couple films have been rather over-expository in their plot details.

The story moves smoothly until about halfway through the film when the group land on a planet to meet an astronaut who has previously landed there and claims that this planet is habitable. We will not tell you who plays the said astronaut, but we believe this half-hour chunk of the film seems to be created just to give him (spoiler!) something to do. Once his story is out of the way, things quickly get back on track; that is until the film’s final act completely falls apart.

As far as visuals go, Interstellar is absolutely gorgeous. Without being hyperbolic, it is safe to say that this may be one of the most visually attractive films ever made. Nolan’s use of 70mm IMAX film is proof alone why celluloid must exist. Seeing his beautiful images stretched across a cinema from wall to wall with the beloved film grain is truly a feast for the eyes. If it’s solely the images that interest you, then you’re in luck. But if you are looking for cerebral stimulation, then you may have come to the wrong place.

Once again Nolan and his brother Jonathan have struggled to write enriched and intelligent dialogue. While the science in the film may hold up (cosmology majors and Nolan lovers claim that it does), the things that the characters are saying often make no sense. And by making no sense I’m not simply referring to the scientific jargon thrown around the entire film, but to the fact that people simply do not talk like these characters do. From Anne Hathaway’s cringe-inducing soliloquy on love to Cooper’s Rust Cohle-style mumblings, the dialogue in the film is outrageous.

Whoever created the sound mix on the film clearly wasn’t a huge fan of the dialogue either, as Hans Zimmer’s score is often booming so loudly over the film’s dialogue, that it becomes difficult to even hear what the characters are saying. For those tired of the ludicrous dialogue, this is a treat, but for others this may become annoying.

The performances in the film are fine. When you are looking at a cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, and Ellen Burstyn, “fine” should be the last word that pops into your head. But somehow Nolan manages to pull extremely mediocre performances from these usually incredible actors.

Another of Interstellar’s faults is the inherent sexism in the film. The film’s two female leads are the only characters who appear to make all their decisions with “love” in mind and choose to disregard logical decision making because of this. We could look into this much deeper, but that would be a whole other article.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to turn your brain off for two-plus hours, then Interstellar is the film for you. It has stunning visuals, pretty actors, and a surprisingly subtle score; but these things are not enough to carry a film. While the film is an ultimately rewarding experience, we are saddened to say that it may be one of Nolan’s weakest efforts yet.

[star v=3]

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.