Interstellar (2014)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #594


Number of Views: One
Release Date: November 5, 2014
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi
Budget: $165,000,000
Box Office: $675,100,000
Country of Origin: United Kingdom/United States
Running Time: 169 minutes
Director: Christopher Nolan
Producers: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst
Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Special Effects: Scott R. Fisher
Visual Effects: Paul J. Franklin, Ian Hunter, Andrew Lockley, Elaine Essex Thompson, Mark H. Weingartner
Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema
Score: Hans Zimmer
Editing: Lee Smith
Studios: Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, Lynda Obst Productions
Distributors: Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Timothée Chalamet, Wes Bentley, William Devane, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Leah Cairns, William Dickinson


Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Hans Zimmer “Mountains”
[2] Hans Zimmer “No Time For Caution”
[3] Hans Zimmer “Day One Dark”
[4] Hans Zimmer “Interstellar”


How far would you go in the quest for knowledge? Hypatia of Alexandria dedicated her entire life to proving that the Earth wasn’t flat and put sexual relations on the back burner indefinitely, only to be stoned to death by a hateful mob and receive absolutely no credit for her findings. Should we enter into parenthood, then everything we have come to know shifts in a heartbeat. Sacrifices are duly made, personal ambitions discounted, and it’s all too easy to misplace those identities in all the ensuing hoo-ha. While it stands to reason that priorities will change in such circumstances and there is none more vital than ensuring a better world for our children, none of us wish to wind up on our deathbeds wondering “what if?” and this is precisely what can happen once we have resigned ourselves to responsibility.


My mother and father had four children relatively close together and agreed to put their own plans on hold until which time as we had grown up and flown the nest, then pick things up further on down the trail. However, when my father was suddenly diagnosed with a fast progressing muscle wasting disease, these dreams could never be realized. It stands to reason that our children will grow up eventually, make their own choices, start their own families, and no longer rely on us to determine their flight paths. It is here, health permitting, that we can reclaim our confiscated identities and make decisions based solely on our own design. Should we elope to Tasmania with our new partners and come over a little heart-sick, then there’s always the possibility of hopping on the next return flight. However, go swanning around the vast ocean of emptiness that is outer space and it becomes a little trickier sending that postcard.


Widowed father of two Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) knows precisely where I’m coming from. The Earth is in dire straits and progressive crop blight has left mankind facing the very real threat of extinction. Formerly a highly respected pilot for NASA, he was forced to shelve his ambition indefinitely to farm for precious resources and has never quite come to terms with being blackballed from what he sees as his true calling. While his oldest Tom (Timothée Chalamet) knows his way around a combine harvester and is something of a chip off the old block by all accounts, it’s his youngest Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) with whom Coop shares a special connection. Joseph looks into her bright eyes and sees himself and her inquisitive nature echoes his very own. Meanwhile, his father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow) is on hand to pitch in where necessary and remind Coop that his place is right here on terra firma, where his responsibilities lie.


After a sudden dust storm leaves what appears some kind of binary code on the floor of Murph’s room, Joseph’s gears cannot help but begin turning and, the very next day, the pair head off to the Rockies in his truck to investigate the coordinates revealed. Sure as eggs are eggs, they are lead directly towards a top-secret NASA facility and it is fast becoming clear to pops that there are no such thing as accidents.


Running this covert operation is Dr. Brand (Michael Caine), a former professor of Joseph’s and he confirms that he has something of an agenda in mind. You see, he is on the verge of a scientific breakthrough that could potentially save the planet from perishing and needs a willing volunteer to do a little “legwork” while he stays home and crunches those numbers. It’s nothing too strenuous, just a short jaunt to Saturn to hop into the next available wormhole and scout for other inhabitable planets in some other galaxy far, far away.


Three other teams have already made this journey but communications have now ceased, leaving a handful of planets still to be explored. Of course, there are downsides, and a vague possibility that Coop will never see his family again if he chooses to take Brand up on his offer. That said, should he decline, then Earth is pretty much screwed anyhoots. If it sounds a little daunting, then the professor is only too happy to throw in his own daughter and fellow explorer Amelia (Anne Hathaway) to further sweeten the deal.


Daddy’s little girl is all set to follow in her father’s footsteps and has both professional and personal interest in making this trip, while the crew of the Endurance will also comprise scientists Romilly (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley) and robots TARS and CASE, so there will be company for the long haul ahead. And the emphasis here is on long. Something to mull over then.


And mull it over Coop does but there appears no other way than for him to take his one shot at becoming the man he so desperately wants to be and secure his children’s future in the process. Needless to say, Murph is less than amused with daddy dearest for forsaking her at such a critical point in her development but his mind is made up and he accepts the role with the heaviest of hearts. As the Endurance sets off on its voyage and traverses the wormhole, it soon becomes clear that this particular mission will indeed entail rather a lot of personal sacrifice. The first waypoint they explore is in close proximity to an ominous black hole by the name of Gargantuan and every hour spent there equates to seven years back on Earth. Suddenly the penny begins to drop for Coop as the time for raising objections has long since passed and his hands are pretty much tied.


In no time, Tom and Murph (now played by Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain) are the same age their father was when he departed and, while the latter is still miffed at pops for abandoning her, she has dedicated her life to assisting Brand in his ongoing studies. The professor, now in his nineties and wheelchair bound, is still attempting to solve the incomplete gravity equation and running out of time fast. Moreover, things aren’t going quite to plan for Coop and co. and returning home is starting to look a far less likely proposition. They’ve since stopped off and picked up additional cargo in the form of Dr. Mann (Matt Damon), one of the original astronauts who has been in cryosleep for 35 years and he appears to have some light to shed on the situation.


Mann insists that the lower part of his frozen planet is potentially livable and possesses 80% of Earth’s gravity and a possible source of fresh water. Alas, too much “me time” has evidently done him no favors and could it be that he’s about to toss an almighty wrench into the works? Our voyage is about to take us to places we never would have dreamed of visiting and ironically the answers to the conundrum may not be quite as far afield as Coop first suspected. I’ve barely even scratched the surface and revealing any more would deprive you of one of the most rich and rewarding experiences I have shared with the silver screen in many a year so I implore you to donate 169 minutes of your time to the mission at hand and allow it to dazzle you.


English director Christopher Nolan has built himself rather the reputation over the past fifteen years for pretty much consistently churning out perfection and appeared to have peaked in 2010 with the phenomenal Inception. That said, however glorious that may have been, Interstellar somehow manages to trump it and may well be the film that he is ultimately remembered for in years to come. While it explores all manner of complex theories and even manages to throw a couple of extra dimensions into the mix, the true key to its eminence is actually its simplicity. Undoubtedly his most emotionally affecting piece, its tale is one of personal heroes, embracing true identity, making tough decisions, and weighing up the costs against benefits.


McConaughey gives possibly his finest performance to date as Joseph Cooper and that, in itself, is no minor feat. His overwrought features provide a road map for the sacrifices he has been forced to make and he anchors the film quite brilliantly. Chastain is also sublime as fully grown Murph and instills her character with true grit and poise. Meanwhile, Hathaway’s big brown eyes effortlessly convey her own emotional quandary and Caine is no less magnanimous as a man whose entire life’s work looks set to amount to squat. He carries Brand’s burden exquisitely and proves once again that he has no intention of ever letting Nolan down. The entire cast play their part but it is ultimately the relationship between father and daughter that resonates strongest, elevating Interstellar to a whole different level to any of Nolan’s previous works.


He is aided, in no small part, by Jonathan Nolan, who was hired by Steven Spielberg to write the screenplay based on an original concept from producer Lynda Obst and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne and recommended his brother to direct. There’s plenty here to boggle the mind but the dialogue rings true unerringly throughout and cuts through any mounting confusion with ease. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema and visual effects supervisor Paul J. Franklin also add considerable weight to the project and there is plenty here to feast those retinas on. We’re talking frozen tundras, colossal crashing tidal waves, barren landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see, and then there’s the small matter of the black hole Gargantua which deserves a credit all on its own. Toss Hans Zimmer’s monumental score into the equation and you have yourself the true cinematic equivalent of quintessential.


To be honest, I’ve long since expected as much from a filmmaker who seems incapable of putting a single foot wrong. With the likes of Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and his one flawed masterpiece The Dark Knight Rises already under his belt, we would be forgiven for harboring doubts as to whether he could possibly improve on his tally. However, Interstellar does so without hitch, and the reason for this is elementary: while ravishing our senses to the tune of five dimensions with the kind of trade tools that a $165 million budget affords, it never forgets where it came from, just like Joseph Cooper. You see, it’s all about the simple things after all.


Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 10/10

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Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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  1. I loved Interstellar! It reminded me of Roddenberry at his best. This was a sweeping epic with space as the backdrop but at the core of it was a parable. Relationships are key to everything in life along with love. Simple yet elegantly woven into a sci-fi story with spectacular effects. Real scientific principles run in the core of this film making it a future classic in my humble opinion. Terrific review!!!!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Susan and I’m so glad that I could do such a magnificent film the justice it deserves. Like you said, it has all the makings of a future classic and I regard it as one of the most important and genuinely thoughtful sci-fi tales of our generation.

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