Film of the week: Interstellar
- Credit: PA
Writer-director Christopher Nolan shoots for the stars with a futuristic thriller, co-written with his brother Jonathan, about mankind's search beyond this galaxy for a new home to replace a dying planet earth.
Epic in scope and wildly ambitious, Interstellar doesn't achieve its bold vision of a love story between a father and daughter set against the vast backdrop of mankind's final roll of the dice to avoid extinction.
However, even when this grand futuristic adventure malfunctions, it's a deeply engrossing meditation on the ties that bind and the endurance of those emotional bonds across space and time.
Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema have captured some of the most breathtaking vistas including our first glimpses of a black hole or wormhole on large-format IMAX film.
These sequences pack a mighty visual punch and powerfully convey how tiny and seemingly insignificant we are on our third rock from the sun.
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Composer Hans Zimmer, who collaborated with the London-born director on The Dark Knight trilogy, provides another bombastic orchestral score to complement the majestic imagery.
Planet earth is dying: great dust clouds sweep across agricultural plains, ruining crops and making it impossible to breathe comfortably without face masks.
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'We used to look up and wonder about our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt,' laments Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former test pilot, who toils the parched soil with his 15-year-old son Tom (Timothee Chalamet) and 10-year-old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy).
Cooper answers a call from Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to lead a mission to locate a new planet capable of sustaining human life.
'We're not meant to save the world. We're meant to leave it,' explains Brand, whose scientist daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) will be part of the four-strong crew along with astrophysicist Romilly (David Gyasi) and pilot Doyle (Wes Bentley).
Leaving his brood in the care of his father-in-law (John Lithgow), Cooper undertakes the most important mission in human history, knowing that failure would mean certain death for the people he loves.
Interstellar retains a tight focus on the characters without sacrificing the adrenaline-pumping thrills that fans expect from director Nolan.
Two talking military machines called TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) and CASE are a marvel of mechanical puppeteering and inject much needed humour.
'I have a discretion setting,' deadpans TARS in response to a request from Cooper to disclose sensitive information.
Oscar winners McConaughey and Hathaway add emotional heft to their embattled astronauts, wringing out tears after Amelia sternly warns Cooper: 'You might have to choose between seeing your children again and saving the human race.'
A couple of dense, wordy philosophical discussions about gravity and love orbit the moon of unintentional hilarity but thankfully, Nolan avoids the crash and burn in the nick of time.
**** (4 stars)