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Interstellar: Where Gravity Watches From The Front Seat

Posted on the 20 November 2014 by Haricharanpudipeddi @pudiharicharan

Nolan would be accused of being over-ambitious; the sheer soaring visuals of the movie justify his ambition. After having forced myself to not read any reviews and having read some of them now, the incredibly polarized reviews offer more than enough proof of how novel an experience the movie has been for everyone. Refusing to let film go gently into the night, Nolan has filmed in 65 and 70 mm stock on regular and IMAX cameras opting for practical miniature based effects and relatively very little CGI. The resulting imagery is spectacular on an IMAX screen be it the dust bowl that earth has been left behind as or the rings of Saturn in the background while the interstellar travelers find their way.

While paying homage to some of the most impressive science fiction movies that have been made such as ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Contact’, Nolan crafts a movie that is mostly epic, part drama and part thriller with a lot of theoretical physics thrown in. A pioneering spirit is not something that he has not been likened to and Matthew McConaughey as Cooper in the movie seeks answers to why the Earth in its depleting state where nothing but corn grows should be allowed to die with humans standing by in their current ‘caretaker’ roles when they were born explorers. A-list actors comprise the rest of the cast with Nolan usual Michael Caine playing Astrophysicist Dr. Brand and Anne Hathaway playing his daughter and protégé. Mackenzie Foy plays Coopers daughter Murph with Jessica Chastain playing a grown up Murph and these four characters form the links in the prime layer of a plot that is neatly convoluted.

The first act unfolds in about forty five minutes and shows Nolan’s urgency to take things outside the Earth’s sphere of influence. Cooper lives with his family and is closest to his precocious near-prodigy of a daughter who is convinced that there is something that’s not natural in the way books keep falling from her shelves and dust forms patterns. Cooper embarks on a journey to save humanity and finds that its not Earth’s gravity that’s difficult to escape from but the fact that his journey might take him away from watching Murph grow up. His son played by Timothy Chalemet (and later on by Casey Affleck) and father played by John Lithgow accept Coopers decision without question but Murph is unable to reconcile with her father and closest companion leaving her without giving her a return date. The departure from Earth to enter a wormhole and find a potential future for humanity forms the second act leading up to the question of whether or not Coopers and Murphs relationship forms a closed loop. Nolan’s collaboration with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne unveils to us a space vista that’s more grounded in science than most other depictions. The space ship Endurance is a novel and for all assumptions a practical design with modules that can be used for landing and exploring analogous to shuttles that dock with a long range module. What could have been avoided is the ‘Astrophysics 101′ nature of some of the dialogues. In comparison movies like ‘2001..’ offer imagery that is not explained but provokes thought and the initiative to find answers none the less.

Nolan has never been one to go easy on the viewers, much to the pleasure of the audience, when it comes to challenging ones imagination and Interstellar is no different. Not only does it offer a chance to travel to places never seen before but it is sure to spark physics based arguments among the initiates and the uninitiated alike. Right down to the two AI robots (for want of a better word to describe them) the respect afforded to physics is overwhelming. TARS and CASE are designed as collapsible quadrilaterals composed of jointed single units that pivot and reassemble as required. They have programmable honesty and humor settings which give the people dubbing for them license to unleash at times their genius (quite literally). Gravity, Relativity, Black Hole theories and the ability to survive stasis in unfavorable environments – all these and more including a cameo by a much loved actor sum up to a movie experience that I have never been subject to before. The pure joy of being seated in a movie emporium and realizing that the fare for the ticket has just resulted in an experience instead of a mere passing of time is unparalleled. Which is not to say there are no negatives but I will leave it to the pedants to talk about. There being so few movies that enable the thought process rather than leave it in limbo (no pun intended) Interstellar can only be described as a movie experience par excellence.

It would also be remiss of me not to mention that there is an emotional thread that runs through the movie. Nolan has often been described as a heartless auteur whose cold and calculated plotlines are meant to satisfy the story line and nothing else. I have found this to be false in more than one occasion and Interstellar relies on the characters’ and the audiences’ emotions to deliver its story across space and time. Anne Hathaway’s role does not offer her scope for histrionics but her story loop none the less is one of despair, hope and duty which she duly conveys with expected aplomb. The chemistry between Cooper and his daughter surpasses vast interstellar distances and thus time and McConaughey is perfect with his Texan drawl and salt of the earth portrayal of Cooper in transcending these physical boundaries.

Based on our experience, it would be best to embark on this stellar Interstellar trip on an IMAX screen. The visuals and the excellent visceral score by Hans Zimmer pummel us in multiple G and suspend our disbelief in zero G situations. In calling this the ‘Movie experience of a year’ my fellow movie enthusiast Archana minced no words. Nolan has proved again why he does not need to rehash a storyline or follow a comic book dictated timeline and that executing a high budget original screenplay takes only the almost infinite care and meticulousness that has gone into bringing Interstellar to life. A five dimensional movie that has been delivered to us in glorious 2D.

Four and a half stars

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