Interstellar

Cert (UK): 12A

Runtime: 169 mins

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Michael Caine, Wes Bentley, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, Matt Damon

Rating: ****

An eagerly awaited film from Christopher Nolan with its black holes, wormholes and new alien worlds, does not disappoint in terms of massive cinematic spectacle, but is ultimately flawed both in terms of some of its science and plot narration in the final 15 minutes of the film. Interstellar delivers visually but may not rank as highly as some of Nolan’s previous films, particularly Inception, The Batman Trilogy and The Prestige.

The film takes place in the near future with Earth being ravaged by a blight that destroys food crops into a powder, which is swept up in huge dust storms. There is little doubt that the planet and its main species are coming to an imminent end. Coop (Matthew McConaughey) seems happy enough to try and sit the evolving tragedy out with his son and daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy as a child and Jessica Chastain as an adult) the latter of whom he has strong bond with and sees great aspirations in her future. Murph believes she has a ghost in her room that manifests itself through her bookcase and it’s this that leads to Coop finding himself with a former NASA boss Professor Brand (Michael Caine) at a restricted location in the desert.

Brand is leading the “Lazarus Project”, a series of secret missions to find a new habitable planet for the human species. This assignment has gained extra momentum by the discovery of a wormhole near Saturn that seems to have been placed there by another life form, through which a host of possible new homes have been sighted. Already a number of astronauts have left earth and landed on these planets, sending back messages about the potential for future colonisation, the latest mission needs to make contact and locate the most likely of these destinations and pioneers.

A crew has already been assembled for this next stage, including Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and the robots TARS and CASE two entertaining oblongs reminiscent of the monolith from Kubrick’s 2001.  Just by chance there is a place for Coop and he accepts the commission, whilst struggling to overcome the emotion of leaving his children, especially Murph, given his single parent status.

The mixture of big picture saving the world, set against the very human emotions felt by the individual in the here and now weave their way through the film, helping to make it more than just a visual sci-fi movie. This sense of struggling with the right thing to do, whilst making sacrifices on a personal level is heightened by the fact that the planets reside on the lip of an enormous black hole, where time is stretched, so that an hour can relate to a decade back on earth. Coop’s mission becomes a heart breaking and emotional adventure, as his appearance remains unaltered while those on earth age at what seems an incredibly fast rate leaving him in a position of not knowing his daughter will have not died through old age, even if he makes it back.

There is a remarkable sequence where the crew land on a planet swept by huge towering waves, they scramble to safety and return to the main ship, where Coop is confronted with 20 years of new video messages from his children marking different milestones in their lives that he has missed for ever.

The worlds they encounter, the movement across time, and the effect of gravity are all stunningly recreated, but at its core it is a tale of love triumphing over science and technology. The plot does seem to become increasingly ridiculous as the film moves into its later stages and there has been some criticism that the dialogue is difficult to hear at some points, which it is, but it did not unduly worry me. Nevertheless, Interstellar is more mentally challenging and has many more themes than Gravity, which is the obvious comparison, but somehow Gravity made more sense and was easier to identify with.

Go and see this movie if you are a Nolan fan, like sci-fi movies or just enjoy huge visual cinema, you won’t be disappointed.

Written by Howard Groves

(The DVD and Blu-Ray release date of Interstellar are to be confirmed)