interstellar posterDirector: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Michael Caine, John Lithgow
Producers: Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst, Emma Thomas
Country: USA/UK
Running Time: 169 min
Year: 2014
BBFC Certificate: 12A

Your man was invited to a super special preview screening of Interstellar last night (thumbs up Warner Bros for showing on 70mm). Here’s my first thoughts on the picture:

The long-awaited Interstellar is finally here – a journey through time, space and far beyond. Not just a galaxy far, far away – but a whole new way of thinking far, far away.

It is one for the head (everything you wanted to know about quantum mechanics, astro-physics and relativity but were afraid to ask) but also aims for the heart too. Although, it’s the human storytelling dimension that feels the most uncomfortable, with the connections between key characters being curiously under-drawn.

Anyway, Interstellar is set in the near future. A future in which the earth’s food is running out, and quickly too. One by one, the food supplies are dwindling – so every able hand is roped in to help farm. Feed the world.

Even engineering whiz and former flying ace Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer, much to his displeasure.

Cooper lives with both his son Tom and daughter Murph, but is most connected to his daughter. She is much like her Dad – and sees the connection in the chaos. This sixth sense leads her to a covert NASA compound.

Here the key exposition takes place – explained by Michael Caine’s Professor Brand – Cooper needs to abandon his family on a mission to save the world. A journey through a wormhole(?) with Brand’s daughter (played by Anne Hathaway) to scope out a distant solar system for a new planet to call home.

Once the film is in space, the second act really comes to life; visually, sonically and dramatically. Hans Zimmer soundtrack, as always, is outstanding, a breathtaking score that sweets the audience along. Showing the impact of silence too, to great effect on a handful of occasions.

Interstellar still

But it’s the effects that make the film. See it on the biggest screen you can. Interstellar does look remarkable. Seeing spaceschips cruising past Saturn’s orbit and the swell and roar of distant oceans conveys a sense of the other, a believeable slice of space that’s so rarely seen on screen.

But all this time, travel & distance doesn’t come easily. The exposition while lengthy (this is a Nolan picture, after all) does strike a nice tone between science, drama and never patronises the audience. Instead, thrilling people on the potential of human endeavor.

The potential for human emotion however, never quite works. A line delivered by Anne Hathaway on the potential for love to conquer all had people laughing out loud.

Thankfully, there’s some intentional humour too, mostly delivered by a robot – an Ikea R2D2 – called Tars.

The human endeavor we’re shown is balanced on a precarious knife-edge with extinction. The third act features futility, fights and a crew stranded in a distant solar system with time running out.

The picture is a true sci-fi spectacle, but is only a slight drama. The relationships we’re meant to care the most deeply about are never explored and never feel real. And the jeopardy is unusually underdone – the global threat of hunger, no food and displacement is just never illustrated. Why are these people running?

Some audiences might run from the picture’s 170 minutes running time. But this wouild be a mistake. Interstellar is grand art, it’s epic, its entertaining and is intelligent. Not the masterpiece some were expecting, but it is pretty close.

Review by Paul Drury, originally posted at The Huffington Post.

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