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Flix: Interstellar Delivers a Visual Masterpiece

Interstellar tells the story of humanity exploring outer-space as a means to potentially save the human race. I don’t really want to go into too much detail, but essentially, a plague is slowly wiping out the world’s crops, which forces the world to retreat into survival mode. From there a mission is sent that could find a future for mankind, somewhere out in the darkness of space.

The depth to the cast in this film is staggering.  Matthew McConaughey is predictably excellent as Cooper, the widowed, former engineer whom the plot revolves around. I don’t really know what to say about the man at this point, he’s on a string of unbelievable performances, and it doesn’t seem like it will end any time soon. Jessica Chastain delivers effortlessly as has become her trademark, while Anne Hathaway gives great support aboard the ship with McConaughey. I’d suggest not looking up the cast before going on, as there are a couple of nice surprises.

Nolan’s use of practical effects comes through brilliantly, and it makes it almost impossible to pick out the moments of CGI from the work done in camera; they used miniatures for a lot of the exterior shots of the ships, as Nolan believed it would give them a more tangible quality when shown against the void that is deep space, and it worked perfectly. What CGI that is there is used to compliment what we can already see, and the few occasions it takes over (for obvious reasons when you see the film) are spectacular, especially on the IMAX frame.

Much like last year’s stunning Gravity, the real threat of Insterstellar is space itself, and the cosmic forces that we have barely begun to understand.

Nolan shot a huge percentage of the film using 70mm IMAX film stock, which gives the clearest and deepest picture of any format. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you see this in IMAX, especially when you consider that the IMAX theatre in Darling Harbour is the biggest in the world. Trump up the extra few dollars and I guarantee you it will be worth it.

There are a couple of visceral sequences that really push the limits of your blood pressure, especially early on in the space faring adventure. However, this movie is more about exploration than it is conflict, so don’t expect huge amounts of danger arising from tangible threats. Much like last year’s stunning Gravity, the real threat of Insterstellar is space itself, and the cosmic forces that we have barely begun to understand.

"The Endurance". Source: Moviepilot
“The Endurance” – Source: Moviepilot

The scale of the story works wonderfully well throughout the film. What makes the action sequences so much of a gut punch is we are constantly shown the human side. The movie doesn’t really dwell on the large scale consequences; it focuses on the ties that bind us, and uses that as a way to communicate the importance of the characters’ actions. This perspective, when contrasted with the vastness of space has a way of making the importance of the mission obvious without any of the big grandiose speechmaking from the more generic films of the genre. By keeping things small in this way, Nolan allows us to empathise directly with the characters, which proves to be a much more efficient storytelling technique, while also ensuring the finale of the film packs the emotional resonance that he desires.

The score is full of big, grand gestures that just heighten the drama superbly whenever they appear. A score from Hans Zimmer is almost a character in and of itself, especially when he collaborates with Nolan. Expect aggressive strings, and huge pipe organs to come back into fashion over the next couple of years. There’s a very operatic sense to the score throughout the film, especially during the scenes set in outer space.

There is a lot of plot in Interstellar. A lot. If you can concentrate for the whole film it will all make sense once the credits roll. It is also – as you would imagine – heavy on the science (the filmmakers worked with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who has since praised the films scientific accuracy). So be warned that it’s up to you to keep up.

Nolan makes big, bombastic cinema, and his total adherence to his vision is what makes his films – and what can let them down. There are a few occasions where the message he’s trying to get across is very blunt indeed, and some of the foreshadowing is a touch heavy, but this doesn’t really detract from the film if you let yourself go along for the ride. Watching Interstellar with a sceptical mind will dampen the experience somewhat, and if you give yourself over to him and place yourself totally in his hands, you will leave fulfilled.

Putting everything else aside for the moment, in an era of recycled stories and reboots, this is the type of cinema that should be rewarded. A huge space fairing adventure that asks big, challenging questions about humanity and the nature of our universe, made using the pinnacle of filmmaking technology is exactly what we should all want from a night at the movies. On that premise alone you should see Interstellar as soon as you can. The fact that they nailed it should just be the icing on the space cakes.

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