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.

Now You See Me – A Review

Louis Leterrier directed Now You See Me brings together the worlds of magic and high stakes heist. Starring Jesse Eisenberg the illusionist, Isla Fisher the escape artist, Woody Harrelson the Hypnotist and Dave Franco as the small type pick-pocket cum lock opener are summoned together by a mysterious benefactor to come together as a headlining act “The Four Horsemen”. What ensues is high voltage magic trick which has you involved from the very beginning and will have you guessing till the very last minute.

The story kicks off as the four horsemen are headlining a Las Vegas show and invite an audience member to participate in the act and teleport him to rob a bank. The way this is accomplished is spectacular and it drew an audible gasp from the audience. The foursome are chatty, witty and absolutely engrossing and that is what draws the audience in, you as an audience feel involved in the magic trick. The subsequent 2 tricks only get successively better and more unpredictable and therein lies the strongest moments of the film.

Of the cast Eisenberg is his Social-network chatty best with cocky arrogance and nerdy charm. Isla Fisher again continues to impress with her enthusiasm and eager portrayal of the magician’s assistance turned into an escapists act. Woody Harrelson is witty and funny and has some of the best lines in the movie. Dave Franco is competent and shows signs of the talent that obviously runs in the Franco family. Morgan Freeman plays Thaddeus Bradley a former magician who now debunks the magic tricks by exposing the magicians and how they performed the trick. He also plays the FBI-consultant when Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent come up short trying to apprehend the magicians. Michael Caine rounds out the cast as Arthur Tresler the Insurance magnet who plays benefactor to the Four Horsemen Act.

Where the movie comes up short is when towards the end it tries to tie up loose ends and in doing so does a rush job of revealing who’s who and why so. It could have been handled so much better. Rather than the reveal of the identities happening in the conversation between 2 characters it would have best suited as a conversation that happens at the very end. Melanie Laurent is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful but is left with an unresolved character, the myth of the eye of Horus which plays such an important role in the overall story is blurted out without context and left hanging there with nothing to move it further and then just as summarily dismissed without much thought.

In hands of a better director and with perhaps a little more attention to the screenplay this could have been truly a fantastic movie instead of just ending up as a pop-corn fare. But make no mistake the time you spend watching this movie will be time spent being entertained and that is purely because of the fantastic star cast and some very witty writing.

While certainly no Prestige or Illusionist Now You See Me is a perfectly entertaining Magic-Heist movie that will not leave you bored for even one second. Watch it for the fantastic chemistry between the four lead magicians and some spectacular effects which truly bring alive the Magic and brings you in closer.