Review by David Woodward
Interstellar comes in the wake of last year’s space epic Gravity, and pays homage to two previous space films 2001: A Space Odyssey and Matthew McConaughey's first attempt at sci-fi Contact.
In the near future, an ageing scientist (Michael Caine) and his daughter (Ann Hathaway) lead a NASA scientific team working on a space travel solution for a dying Earth. They recruit a widowed engineer (Matthew McConaughey) who leaves his two children to join a planned voyage through a wormhole to find mankind an alternative Earth-like planet.
Interstellar is a very long film (at nearly 170 minutes) in three acts. The first deals with the Earth-bound problems of a dying environment and the family dynamics leading to McConaughey choosing to join the space mission. Act Two is the spectacularly filmed sequences of space travel and the exploration of possible inhabitable planets.
But it is in the Third Act that Interstellar diverges into real sci-fi when McConaughey is confronted with the effects of time/space travel to explain the background to the preceding events.
The look and filming techniques used in this film are genuinely impressive and believable (especially if viewed at an IMAX cinema). Like Gravity before it, you almost feel that you are actually travelling through space. The sound effects in particular add to this reality - I almost jumped out of my seat in one sequence!
But the film is let down somewhat in the Third Act during (what I have described above as) the ‘sci-fi’ segment at the end of the film. This last segment is perhaps too long and over-explains the storyline.
Having said that though, Interstellar is a great roller-coaster ride with good input from its stars.
McConaughey has certainly left his ‘good old boy’ characters behind him and gives a touching performance as the father turned astronaut (in particular during a heart crushing scene in which he is made to view 23 years of messages from his children). Caine once again returns to the patriarchal role that he is now specialising in and thrives.
Hathaway is possibly the weakest link here (looking like she just walked off the set of her previous film Les Misérables) with decidely cold deliver failing to give her role the emotional perspective it needed.
I mentioned Interstellar’s connections with previous films. The wormhole sequences and much of the Third Act are very reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey (not that this is a bad thing) and demonstrate just how far ahead the special effects of that 1968 film were at the time.
Interstellar’s search for life on habitable planets revisits a concept from 1997’s Contact – not surprising as the study of wormhole space travel by Interstellar’s scientific consultant Kip Thorne was a key element of Contact!
Overall, Interstellar is a great space adventure and should build on the financial success and audience reaction to last year’s Gravity.
4 out of 5
Australian release: 6th November, 2014
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Topher Grace, Mackenzie Foy, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow
Director: Christopher Nolan