Film Review: Interstellar


Some films sneak into the cinema with only a smidgeon of promotion.  Others bash the cymbals, crash the drums, have months of hype and millions of dollars spent on a campaign that takes expectation beyond the stratosphere into the stars.  In the case of the latter, the film has got to be good.  After much of the latter I went to watch Interstellar.

Struggling widowed farmer and defunked NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) takes care of his son and daughter whilst trying to understand the of failing crops and a shunning of technology.  His bright but troubled daughter, Murphy, has problems at school, believing her bedroom is being haunted by some unseen force.  Cooper works out that the haunting force is gravity, which leaves a message revealing the location of the remaining NASA experts.  Professor Brand (Michael Caine) has discovered a wormhole to take a second cohort of astronauts to potentially habitable worlds.  With Earth slowly dying, Cooper is convinced by Brand to pilot a small team including Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway).  He will take them through the wormhole to meet up with the explorers already collecting data on new planets.  Cooper leaves his family behind, his daughter crushed by suspecting he may never return and the deep space adventure begins, with much to come as his children grow up and time on the mission ticks away.

There is so much in this film that should have worked.  This should have been Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece.  It was certainly touted as such.  Equally I understand why Matthew McConaughey was cast to lead the film.  I appreciate the Mcconaissance, Magic Mike withstanding, naturally.  The man acts his socks off in this movie, so much so that he must have been exhausted at the end of it.  Equally Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain et al, are all solid actors on which to base a solid movie, but for me the material just isn’t there.

And the crying, oh the crying! McConaughey in particular is amazing at the crying, but I just kept thinking that astronauts are supposed to have “the right stuff” and imagining that Michael Collins was not in floods of tears when he was alone on the dark side of the moon.  The film also contains the worst robots ever. EVER. It was as if someone had gone into the wastepaper bin under George Lucas’ desk circa 1999, picked out his rejects and thought “That will do”.

The story is achingly slow and has huge chunks that add nothing to the feel of the plot.  With a vibe that started in Inception, parts of the explanation about how the science should be working or how the plot is developed just don’t add up.  I was frustrated by this when watching Inception, a much better movie all round, but the extent of the leap of faith you require to get your head round Interstellar annoyed the hell out of me. For example, Cooper walks straight on to an advanced NASA spacecraft to pilot it to deep space after years of, errm, farming.  Was he not a little bit rusty? Did he not need retraining? Worst of all the twist in the film is about as well hidden as a not very well hidden thing. I saw it coming in the opening scenes because it is so clunky and obvious.

When I write a review I very much like to see the good in a movie, but I do encounter some films where I struggle to do this.   The best bit of Interstellar for me was Casey Affleck’s performance as Cooper’s grown up son. Blink and you’ll miss it.  In the case of Interstellar, it’s just one of the movies I watch and feel like it’s two and a half hours of my life that I’m never going to get back.  Because of all the hype, bluster and expectation, there’s actually part of me that feels cheated by seeing it.

Interstellar is currently showing in cinemas.

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