Movie review: Interstellar, bold sci-fi is on the dark side

admin | 杭州桑拿
7 May 2019

PIONEERING ASTRONAUT: Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar.INTERSTELLAR (M)

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Mackenzie Foy, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck

Director: Christopher Nolan

Screening: general release

Rating: ★★★

IN a standout year for science-fiction cinema, Interstellar takes the prize for ambition. Boldly overreaching and fearlessly cheesy, Christopher Nolan’s space travel epic aims to go where no filmmaker has gone before – at least, no filmmaker since Stanley Kubrick.

On near-future Earth, resources are running out. Most have given up on space travel as an impossible dream, but not the ruggedly individualistic Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a test pilot and engineer turned unwilling farmer, who sets off through a wormhole to find humanity a new home.

The situation may be dire but the set-up has a Jules Verne innocence, especially when Coop is puzzling over scientific anomalies with his precocious daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Once the voyage gets going – with Murph furious at being left behind – the tone grows more sober but not less intriguing.

What are Coop and his companions destined to encounter? Aliens? Time travel? God Himself?

Only near the climax does interest start to wane. Rather than preserving a sense of mystery as Kubrick does in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Nolan insists on explaining everything, meaning that much of the thrill is liable to evaporate on second viewing.

Still, there’s no question that Nolan sees himself as an artist, not just an entertainer. Interstellar may be a blockbuster spectacle but it’s also a puzzle that bends the laws of space and time to create different kinds of links between images, like Nolan’s Memento.

Nolan has never been strong on what you’d call the human touch: his insistence on shooting on celluloid seems meant to give his basically mechanical vision a semblance of organic warmth. The rule of thumb is that his films work better the more they verge on horror – as in Memento, The Prestige and parts of The Dark Knight, all of which hinge on the implication that a seemingly upright protagonist might be merely an empty shell.

Unfortunately, Interstellar instead goes in the direction of emotional uplift: there must be more weeping here than in all Nolan’s other movies put together. For Anne Hathaway, who plays another of the astronauts, this is business as usual. But even the swaggering McConaughey has to keep something in the tank for when Coop’s defences come down.

That the big speeches about the need for connection ring hollow is unsurprising, considering that Nolan has yet to direct a convincing love scene. Beneath the schmaltz lies a characteristic chill, evident literally in the harsh landscapes, and figuratively in a plot where most of the characters are loners of one kind or another.

At the heart of it all is a guilt that’s never resolved: why does Coop agree to travel into space and abandon his kids? But given his boredom with farming, it’s clear that part of him can’t wait.

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