“You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.”
It’s not easy finding a place to start a review for a movie like Interstellar. A movie so ambitious in both its artistic and commercial value is never easily critiqued. Christopher Nolan is as divisive a director there is in Hollywood. Some laud his work as masterful, and others see it as pandering and cold. No matter what side of the equation you come down on, I think everyone can agree Interstellar is a spectacle. There is a part of me that sees the validity in both sides of the argument.
Casting Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike) at the height of his return to prominence can be viewed as genius, but it could also be seen as pandering. Selecting him as your lead does a few things for your film. First, it gives the film clout in pop culture. Second, it sets the standard for success extremely high. Fortunately, for audiences, both things ring true. McConaughey plays Cooper majestically and brings a sense of comfort to a world that seems ill-at-ease. Nolan has been criticized in the past because his characters seem cold and not relatable. Matthew McConaughey is the one actor who makes everyone feel at home. With Southern charm and affectionate charisma, McConaughey once again proves to be a shining star.
The rest of the cast is also remarkable. Anne Hathaway (Dark Knight Rises), Matt Damon (Bourne Identity), John Lithgow (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and Michael Caine (The Prestige) are all phenomenal. Outside of McConaughey, Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone) steal the scenes they are in. Affleck is extraordinarily good towards the end of the film. Nolan knows how to cast his films and does an excellent job of directing his actors to the prime of their ability.
Nolan as a director never ceases to amaze me. Interstellar’s direction is beyond impressive. There are certain shots in the film that will be taught in film schools because they are that different and effective. Instead of opting for wide shots of a spaceship, often we are attached to the side of the aircraft as though we are part of it. Nolan always seems to have a grasp of the best angles to convey scope and reference. In a film with such high stakes for its characters, it’s overly important to make sure what is shown on the screen conveys those stakes. As waves crash down or dust storms blow through, we always feel the tension of survival.
Unfortunately, Nolan’s biggest problem is still the same. Stilted dialogue and conventional plot devices throw off the groove of the film. Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan as a writing duo just don’t seem to be able to get over the hump. Why do they have to tell us Cooper is an engineer? Can’t they just show us? Does he need to be the best pilot NASA has ever had? These are just a few of the more frustrating examples of over using exposition. There are times in Nolan’s films I feel like he is “punking” us. He seems like too good of a filmmaker to keep making these same basic mistakes.
For all of the clunky dialogue and robust visuals, Interstellar feels at times like a fresh and technically superior film to anything else Nolan has done. The questions about religion, space, and love are riveting and keep the film warm, something that is unique for a Nolan movie. Interstellar is definitely a good film, and if it were made 30 years ago, it would be hailed as a masterpiece. I’m not so sure that in 30 years we won’t look back at Interstellar and say it was a masterpiece. If only we had a black hole.