Movie Review: Interstellar

by | Jan 16, 2015 | Arts and Entertainment

By Chad Alexander

Interstellar is more than a film, it’s a cinematic experience. What better way to experience it than in IMAX? After all, Christopher Nolan shot a good majority of the film with IMAX cameras. Let me recall my experience with IMAX version of this film.

Let’s look at the film from a critical perspective. I look at movies using four aspects: Acting, Sound Design, Cinematography and Set Design/Location Scouting (in no particular order).

Believable and likeable, Matthew McConaughey is great in his role as Cooper, the pilot for the shuttle Ranger. The film is founded on a dynamic relationship between Cooper and his daughter, Murph – played by Mackenzie Foy, the up and coming actress featured in the Twilight series. Many complained that this backstory is Christopher’s half of the script whereas the space travel aspect was part Jonathan Nolan’s script, Christopher’s younger brother. However, without this emotional core guiding the experience, the journey through space would be just a bunch of special effects. There would be no drive and emotion in trying to find a way back home.

In addition to McConaughey, there’s also a great cast of Nolan favorites: Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi, and Michael Caine, who all do well in their roles. Nolan likes his films to stay high-concept, while being grounded at an emotional, human level, and this film certainly delivers that.

My favorite scene in the film is where Cooper takes off in his dust-covered truck back to NASA. The camera is strapped to the truck’s driver side, where the picture is split between the truck’s rapid movement and the shrinking farmhouse.

So, why is this in sound and not cinematography?

There’s a juxtaposition here of Cooper’s truck leaving his farmhouse while the rocket takeoff sequence counts down in the audio. It is a poignant moment in the film where you realize that going to space is routine for Cooper. Going without hopes of seeing his daughter again is a completely different liftoff. And that’s what makes the sound so incredible in Interstellar.

The unique sound effects choices are accentuated by Hans Zimmer’s haunting score – pumping up the adrenaline in the film’s action scenes. The organ orchestration gives the perception of a God-like reckoning on Earth, and some of the scenes reflect back on the films of the 1970s with the mystery and wonder of space exploration.

I will say that the cinematography did not blow me away as much as Nolan’s previous films. Subconsciously knowing that a new cinematographer did the film (Hoyte van Hoytema) rather than Nolan’s usual suspect (Wally Pfister) may have been why. However, I will say, the contrast between the close up shots of Cooper, Brand, and the rest of the crew with the unforgiving, yet sometimes beautiful vastness of space provided an oxymoron of balance. Humans will survive. Humans do not shrink in the frame, but share it with outer space. They are just as powerful. Cue Professor Brand’s quotation of Dylan Thomas’s poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night…”

To say that Interstellar’s locations are breathtaking would only begin to describe the worlds he created. They exhibit an eerie familiarity, where humanity may still have a chance despite the dangers of the worlds. I would critique them in detail, but I think it would better to see them for yourself. The Ranger, the shuttle, and the space station Endurance are all brilliantly detailed, and I am overjoyed that they are physical models for the vast majority of the film. The ranger seems big enough to rival the current NASA shuttles, but intimate enough to give the feeling of claustrophobia and tension.

Interstellar is a must see. Go see it in IMAX. Do not wait for it to get out of theaters.

Chad Alexander is a mild-mannered government contractor by day and a pretty normal sleeper by night. He has been dedicated to freelance writing for the last decade — writing scripts, short stories, and blogging in his spare time. He reads constantly, plays board games in his spare time, and enjoys a fine 20 oz of Cherry Coke whenever he’s feeling dangerous.

Read more: Movie Reviews by Chad Alexander

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