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Interstellar (2014)

(2014) Interstellar

“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt,” says Cooper.

I remember first hearing about a film called Interstellar several years ago.  Steven Spielberg was attached to direct, Jonathan Nolan was set to write the screenplay, and it was supposed to be a science fiction film that actually contained a large number of scientifically accurate concepts and ideas (as accurate as possible without getting in the way of the story the movie aimed to tell).  Fast forward almost a decade, and Interstellar finally emerges as a Christopher Nolan-directed film (Jonathan brought it to his brother Chris’ attention after Spielberg dropped out, and together they rewrote it).  The version of the film that finally got made is one to behold; a bold journey into the unknown with some of the most beautiful visuals I’ve seen in a film this year.  I finally had a chance recently to see Interstellar on the big screen; I chose to see it the digital version rather than a 70mm print as I had originally intended.  No matter which format you choose to see this film in, there is no doubt that you will have quite the experience watching this film.

2014’s Interstellar follows a farmer (and former NASA pilot) in the near future who makes the difficult choice to leave behind his family to pilot a mission through a wormhole to another galaxy in the hope of finding a way to save the human race before it’s too late.  Nolan assembled an impressive ensemble for this film: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Topher Grace, William Devane, David Oyelowo, Ellen Burstyn, and Bill Irwin (who voices the robot TARS).  McConaughey’s performance as Cooper anchors the film; the physical and emotional journey his character embarks on is one of the film’s biggest highlights.  His incredible performance is equally matched by Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain, who play the younger and older versions of his daughter Murphy.  Nolan’s direction is top-notch as usual.  He got stellar performances from his entire cast, especially the smaller roles, but it is the bond between father and daughter that drives the Nolans’ superb screenplay (a bond that I found even more intriguing than the visuals, which is quite an accomplishment).  Nolan’s use of sound was terrific, which must have kept sound designer Richard King quite busy (the accuracy of the absence of sound in space was even kept in the outer space exteriors, allowing the visuals to be carried by the music).

Nathan Crowley’s production design is simply stunning, particularly with the use of practical sets (I loved the designs of the spacecrafts).  Hoyte Van Hoytema’s terrific cinematography gives Earth-bound scenes a somewhat bleak look and complements the outer space visuals quite nicely.  The visual effects are very impressive in this film, ranging from the zero gravity sequences to the robot TARS to the black hole to the docking sequences (not to mention the big fx sequence in the last third of the film that I do not want to spoil for those who haven’t seen it yet).  Hans Zimmer wrote a surprisingly good, organ-dominated score (which recalls Richard Strauss’ musical excerpt from Also Sprach Zarathustra that was used in 2001: A Space Odyssey).  Nolan has crafted a thrilling film that works on an emotional and intellectual level with engaging performances and gorgeous visuals.  It encourages us to look up at the stars and dream.  It is a film that must be seen on the big screen; it would be foolish to deprive yourself of such a wonderful experience.

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