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'Interstellar' review: A film that demands not just to be seen, but experienced

Nov 07, 2014 08:40 PM IST India India
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Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn

Director: Christopher Nolan

There is something to admire in virtually every frame of Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar'. This is a film of soaring ambition, intimate and epic in equal measure; a bold cosmic adventure with plenty wide-eye moments. But it's also overlong, and densely plotted with concepts of space, time and gravity that are occasionally incomprehensible or make little sense.

Set in a not-so-distant future where the world is choked by dust storms and doomed to extinction, the film stars Matthew McConaughey as Cooper, a former pilot and widowed father of two, who is asked by chief NASA scientist Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to lead a mission through a wormhole in our solar system to search for new planets where mankind could possibly survive. Three other astronauts, including the professor's daughter (Anne Hathaway), and a witty talking robot join Cooper on this expedition to galaxies far, far away.

Nolan delivers moments of great awe and staggering beauty such as the sight of a spacecraft floating gracefully past the rings of Saturn. He creates nail-biting tension as mountain-sized tidal waves greet the crew after they touch down on a waterlogged planet. Or as they enter, nervously, into a black hole. But he also shows off his ability to match jaw-dropping spectacle with moments of intense human connection. Good luck trying to hold back your tears as you watch McConaughey's character come up to speed with years of video messages left by his son back on Earth.

It's Cooper's deep emotional bond with his beloved daughter Murph, however, that is the emotional heart of the film. Their parting, when he can't promise the 10-year-old (an excellent Mackenzie Foy) when he'll return home, is heart wrenching. As is the moment when the now grown-up young woman (Jessica Chastain) makes a devastating discovery of her own.

But it's in the film's third act that the cracks begin to show. The science gets positively baffling as the conversation shifts to the fifth dimension, and Nolan takes us through a hokey climax that leaves way too many questions unanswered. At 2 hours and nearly 50 minutes, the film is a real slog occasionally and can feel like a crash course in quantum physics. The earth-bound portions are never as compelling as the space-set scenes, and one subplot involving a scientist that McConaughey and Hathaway's characters encounter on a new planet is both cheesy and pointless.

And yet, in the end Nolan's still given us plenty to chew on, leaving us to ponder important questions about love, sacrifice and mortality. Like 'Inception', this is a film that demands not just to be seen, but experienced. It's a film that dares you to keep up with it, to navigate through all the heavy-handed cerebral exposition, to spot its many nods, particularly to Stanley Kubrick's '2001 A Space Odyssey'.

In the film's most pivotal role, Nolan gives us a credible leading man in Matthew McConaughey, who brings just the right mix of action hero gravitas and good-natured compassion. Jessica Chastain is the other standout performer here, bringing both steely resolve and unmistakable vulnerability to the part of Cooper's hurting daughter.

'Interstellar' is a sweeping, audacious effort by a filmmaker whose reach inevitably exceeds his grasp. But how can you not applaud its sheer sense of scale, drama, and fearlessness? I'm going with three-and-a-half out of five. Now forget everything you've read and heard and go experience it for yourself!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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