Interstellar – A Spoiler free Review

A Christopher Nolan movie is an event movie – it deserves tonnes of press and an even greater amount of hype and excitement as Nolan rarely disappoints. The man who single handedly revived the super-hero genre, the one who dabbled in magic and memory loss and dared peer inside our dreams is revered among cinephiles and for good reason. And when this man sets off on an inter-galactic voyage you simply strap in and join him for the ride on the biggest screen possible. To say I am a Nolan devotee would be a gross understatement. I have devoured every tidbit of information that came out while Nolan worked away on his space sojourn and Interstellar was the number 1 most anticipated movie for me for this year. I was back in 2010 when I was waiting with bated breath for Inception to unfold and for it to silence all Nolan critics and it did in spectacular fashion. Would Interstellar be able to continue Nolan’s winning streak or will the law of averages finally catch up with this auteur. Read on to find out more – there are no spoilers in this review

The story starts in the near future where science is all but forgotten, the school teach students that the Moon landing was a hoax perpetrated to bankrupt the Soviet Union and trained astronauts are left to plough the field for crop. This is the caretaker generation, struggling through dust clouds and crop blights to survive while staring extinction in the face. Through curiously encoded messages Cooper played by Matthew McConaughey and Murph played by Mackenzie Foy end up at NORAD a clandestine NASA mission run by the Nolan-regular Michael Caine playing Professor Brand. He asks Cooper – the best pilot they ever had- to join the mission along with his daughter Amelia played by Anne Hathaway, Romily played by David Gyassi and Doyle played by Wes Bentley. The mission is to follow 3 of the 12 previous astronauts who left our galaxy to travel through a mysterious wormhole to look for other planets which could be used to sustain human life.  No more story-wise, lest I risk the spoiling of the surprises that are in-store.

Nolan is a master of visuals. His association with Wally Pfisher was what elevated his movies to the next level. With Hoyte Van Hoytema donning the cinematographer’s hat I had a feeling we won’t be let down because he filmed the wonderful Her last year and made the future very accessible and believable. The visuals Van Hoytema creates of the inter-galactic voyage are stunning in their grandeur but as one wired article evidences they are also based on a very real scientific equations which Kip Thorne the theoretical physicist from Caltech collaborated on with the team behind interstellar. The wormhole, the blackhole, and the Endurance spacecraft passing alongside Saturn are all stunning in their detail and scale. Where the visuals however are let down are with the background score. Hans Zimmer who has provided very complementary scores for previous Nolan movies plays it too heavy handedly this time around. The loud klaxon based soundtrack takes away from the scene and makes it almost unbearable. A Clint Mansel or Alexandre Desplat score would have served Nolan better giving it the Kubrickian feel of using the classical compositions. With the thunderous riffs and booming drums of Zimmer the crescendos come quick and fast but there is no payoff visually or story wise .

Nolan had me scratching my head when he announced that Matthew McConaughey would be the lead actor in Interstellar and my worst fears have come to fruition. Every time Cooper opens his mouth to speak out comes the stoner cowboy drawl that will dull anyone to sleep. Half the time his words are illegible and the other half just unbearable. He is unbelievable as someone who understands and can hold a conversation about quantum physics and he puts in no efforts to the contrary either.  Anne Hathaway is still stuck being Fantine from Les Miserables and cannot seem to turn the tears out. If we had a whiny bio-physicist and a stoned out southerner to rely on to save the fate of humanity our chances look grim. Thats where the grown up Murph, Jessica Chastain comes in – she is the only one that manages to come across as someone with a sane mind but her interaction with her brother played by Casey Affleck make little sense. But my biggest grief is with David Gyassi who plays fellow astronaut Romily who waits on board Endurance when Coop, Amelia and Doyle go to the planet of the Tsunami waves. He ages 22 years when they get back on the spacecraft and I for one instance thought he was just hamming it to tease Coop and Amelia on the passage of time but he wasn’t and he had really aged and he acts really weird too, walks with a slouch and sounds defeated. The whole effect is jarring and not entirely believable.

For a movie that is nearly 3 hours long there are key scenes which feel rushed and unresolved. The initiation of Cooper into the Save-the-humanity program, the travel to the different planets to find the data, the climax which holds the key to the human survival seem hurried and rough. If more time was spent on these, more technical aspects of what is essentially a sci-fi adventure it would have felt like the Nolan movie I have come to expect. Instead we spend an inordinately long time setting up the doomsday scenario in the first half with the dustbowl and the father daughter bond that will be Cooper’s driving force. Also once onboard the time spent whining about personal issues is almost juvenile and for Nolan standards unpardonable. Instead of Cooper and Amelia talking I would much prefer a lively chat between TRAS and CASE the two robots who are nods to HAL9000 from 2001 : A Space Odyssey.

There is little doubt that this movie is not all that it could have been. A majority of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of Matthew McConaughey who I hope Nolan never collaborates with ever again. But this is still a Nolan movie it is big on Ideas and huge on visual impact. For a director who dares to take such huge risks and break away from the formulaic big-budget franchise movies it deserves a watch. It won’t redefine the sci-fi genre in the way that 2001 did. But like Inception it is an idea that needs to be explored and discussed and it makes the most complicated science easily accessible and it makes you think. And I want Nolan to break the bank on this one so he can get back to the long-gestating Howard Hughes biopic.

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Christopher Nolan’s Inception – A Review

inception The anticipation for Inception was probably higher than what The Dark Knight faced. There were countless articles on the internet floating about and readying to cut Nolan down to size should this mammoth of a movie fail. Everyone on the net was buzzing “Does Inception face unrealistic expectations” “is it too intelligent for the transformers and twilight generation” – don’t even get me started on how we will be known as the twilight generation it’s just gross beyond belief, hopefully Nolan will help to turn that around. After all the man has an impeccable record, Memento and The Prestige are works of genius. Nolan could also be credited with single-handedly turning around the comic book genre with the batman movies.

As legend goes Nolan began “dreaming” up Inception around the same time he was finishing Memento. But Nolan wasn’t Nolan back then he couldn’t walk into Warner bros offices and demand a reported 160 million dollars to shoot a movie in 6 countries headlined by only 1 heavy weight Hollywood name. He let Inception ferment away for 10 years building away his reputation that die-hards like me have come to worship. Like I always say “In Nolan we Trust”. Then came The Dark knight, it brought him an almost fanatical fan base, critical acclaim and a few Oscars including one for supporting actor, a feat almost unheard of in the comic book genre. And more importantly it brought him over 1 billion in revenues just from cinema stubs. Warner was happy to part away with 160 mil just so that Nolan would agree to a third batman.

The story of Inception is complicated and simple at the same time. It’s a heist movie with the hero battling some personal daemons and this final job being his way out of this. Simple right? Well how he tells this story is where it gets complicated. It is a movie that the pop-corn association is going to want to boycott because it doesn’t allow you to be distracted for even a minute. The movie begins with Dom Cobb (di caprio) failing to steal an idea from Saito (Watanabe). Saito sets out to seek Cobb to offer him a job where instead of stealing an idea he would be implanting another into the mind of his rival – this is inception. The stealing and implanting of ideas is done via collective dreaming ( very noetic of Mr. Nolan). Cobb sets out to recruit a motley crew to help him achieve this feat, a feat he tried earlier and failed with disastrous consequences. I cannot delve any deeper into the story without giving out the exact specific details of the movie which could very well be wrong depending on which way you slice this movie. Also I don’t want to spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it yet (come out from hibernation already!!)

Inception features a Nolan regular Hans zimmer turning in another brilliant soundtrack. Inception is a movie that can be discussed on so many levels. Even the soundtrack is not just there to tag along with the story, it works to add another level to this already densely layered movie. The Edith Piaf song “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” or no regrets in plain old English is used with varying degrees of speed to indicate which “dream level” one is watching. And for the conspiracy theorist me it begs the question was the choice of song just a co-incidence considering that Marion Cotillard who plays Dom Cobb’s wife won an Oscar playing the troubled singer.

The special effect work and blend in so perfectly with he world Nolan creates that it is nearly impossible to seperate the dream from the reality ( and the ending doesnt help in the slightest). Wally Pfisher who first collaborated with Nolan on Memento seems to have worked on the vision as long as Nolan has because it is impossible to tell who’s vision we are seeing Nolan’s or Pfisher. The worlds blend into each other from the fast paced chase sequence in Mombasa to the snow-clad final “level” it is one gigantic maze that nolan imagined and Pfisher translated on the screen.

The talented cast comprises of legendary Michael Caine and “The most underrated actor in Hollywood” Leonardo Di Caprio along with Ken Watanabe and another Nolan regular Cillian Murphy. It also features two of the best young actors Hollywood has to offer in forms of Joseph Gordon Levitt and Ellen Page. The movies best one liners come from Tom Hardy who is completely unrecognizable from his brilliant turn as Charles Bronson in a movie last year by the same last name. Marion Cotillard although present on screen for a very brief time goes from tragic to treacherous in a single breath and is beautiful as both. Each one of them turns in a performance worthy of Nolan’s direction.

Dreams are often a very fertile ground for any cinematic representation but more often than not these interpretation on screen leave the audience in flux and more confused than mesmerized – case in point David lynch’s Eraserhead. But Nolan overcomes that and more. This movie entertains entices and enthralls beyond any anticipation I held. Nolan Sir take a bow!! You have outdone yourself.

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this is a reproduction of the note published on my facebook account on July 30, 2010 . Facebook seems to be loosing my notes and this is one of my favorite write ups so posting here.