Interstellar – he said what now??

Interstellar_ALT_ArtowrkWhere I stand in my admiration for Christopher Nolan is well documented.  If you’ve read any of my reviews or had the misfortune to cross my path when I’m in full on Nolan-rage, you will understand.

For the uninitiated, I loathed, I mean rabidly  and almost irrationally loathed his Batman Trilogy. You only have to mention them and the red mists fall.  His output since – and including – Memento has been almost entirely arse-gravy.  WIth the exception of Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker and about two thirds of Inception, his output has been, for me, some of the worst cinema experiences I’ve sat through.

His influence on Man of Steel tainted what could have been something amazing.  But I ramble on about these elsewhere.  There’s not much point in going into detail about those when I’m here to talk about “Interstellar”.

Listen.

Do you want to hear something miraculous?

You do?

Okay.

“Interstellar” is (almost) everything I want from a movie.

Really, it is spectacularly good.  I’m not saying it doesn’t have it problems, but the good stuff on show here far outweighs some of the the sillier timey-wimey aspects of it. Great cast, amazing performances, beautiful cinematography . . .

The biggest problem, I think, is that it thinks it’s a lot more important and a lot cleverer than it actually is.  What you have actually got is a good yarn, that gets a bit carried away with itself.

I think it would like think that it’s pitching itself against “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but it’s coming in closer towards “Contact”. This isn’t necessarily a negative.   For all it’s technical wizardy and influence, “2001 . . .” was largely sterile and unengaging.  I mean, look me in the eye and tell me honestly that you didn’t doze off in that middle section?  “Contact” had the scope, but also added humanity.It also added a bit too much in the way of mawkishness.  That said, I’d much rather rewatch “Contact” than “2001 . . .”.

But this is “Interstellar”.

It’s a simple story of a man who has to leave his children in order to save them.   You can dress it up however you like, it’s about sacrifices made to build a better world.  Matthew McConaughey pitches his performance just this side of teak, but in the context of the backdrop of the tale, it works remarkably well.  I keep hearing that the plot is ‘labyrinthine’.  It isn’t.  It’s very straightforward.  There are far more complex stories in Doctor Who.  The point though, is that a simple story well told.

It’s Nolan, so yes, the movie is about thirty minutes too long. And the sound levels were all over the place, sometimes drowning out the often drawled speech. There is a sequence which could have been lost with no great impact on the movie and the central message of that sequence was dealt with elsewhere. There was enough in the way of conflict and intrigue elsewhere to void it’s inclusion, but Nolan is Nolan.  Having said that, those sequences, filmed in Iceland, were simply beautiful.  The sound track was quite interesting too, in that Hans Zimmer, for once, seemed a little uncertain of himself.  Whenever things got philosophically intense, he stopped being himself and turned into Phillip Glass circa “Koyaanisqatsi”. Given the themes of the movie, this seems pretty appropriate, just a little odd that Zimmer couldn’t find a way of communicating those themes without resorting to some fairly obvious referencing.

Despite the reliance on science – hey *actual* science fiction! – there were some rookie blunders, notably with the accretion disc and the giant waves.once through the looking glass, none of it seemed to matter and the human-ness of wanting to go home took over.

One of the revelations, regarding ‘Plan A’ was not the surprise it was meant to be, although Michael Caine’s performance as he reveals it was just wonderful.

Interstellar is, I suppose, an exploration of how people behave under pressure; how much truth is too much; do you mislead people into a safer future or tell them everything and risk inertia under weight of the horror their lives have become.  Do you show people a future they cannot experience and hope for them to do the right thing, or engineer a lie that forces the into the right decision?  All of these avenues are explored to greater or lesser degrees.

Where the film gains it’s heart though, is in the – for the want of a better phrase – “post Star Gate” section where the mysteries of the first third of the movie are resolved.   It’s at this point, rational narrative goes out of the window and we see cinematic poetry; realities stacked and navigable; making a difference to timeline by using touch. It’s quite beautiful.

But the most impressive thing, for me as an unrepentant Nolan hater, is that there wasn’t a moment during that movie where I wasn’t wholly engaged. Granted, it could have been trimmed a bit for added sleekness and a bit of a snappier pace, even then it could still be called ‘stately’, but where Nolan’s movie usually have a two and a half hour plus running time, but feel like several days, this was almost three hours and felt much, much shorter.

Undoubtedly the most satisfying and enjoyable Nolan movie to date 9/10

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