Rating: 3.5 of 5
Christopher Nolan… I don’t even know where to begin. Which is, I guess, a good thing. His movies are not simple. They’re never straight forward and easy to analyze. I like that about them. But it also means there is no clear cut – this was a good movie or I didn’t like that movie. They are certainly never an easy thing to review. There’s always all these layers in Nolan films of the things that worked and didn’t work and sometimes both liking something and not liking it at the same time. It’s all very complicated.
In some places Interstellar was slow. It’s a cinematic movie, the sort of thing that lingers on slow pans across a starfield with a tiny ship drifting in the silence. The sort of thing meant to convey beauty and silence and the vastness and how small we are in it. Which it does. But it’s also a shot that lasts about a minute too long and doesn’t serve the story. I’m more interested in the story than the shot. I can’t say that it’s filmed badly at all, but just that I didn’t care that much about well it was filmed. Totally made to be seen in IMAX, though.
Then there were other places where the editing was so brilliant – expanses of time covered in brief moments of film; transitions across hours and months conveyed succinctly and effectively. It bounced between the here and the there incredibly well.
The casting almost made me laughed since this one basically had a Steven Soderbergh cast. Which is not to say it wasn’t well cast. Just that half of Ocean’s Eleven is in it. Also, I had no idea Mackenzie Foy was actually a good actress, but she and Jessica Chastain kind of own this movie.
Intellectually, it’s a staggering film. Not as intricate as Inception but cerebral and philosophical and a finely tuned narrative (even where I saw the interconnections and expected certain turns).
The question with a Nolan film is always, has he finally figured out how to add emotional resonance to his intellectual films. While emotion plays a huge role in this story, I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s figured that bit out. Murph is the only one I really connected to and became invested in. She worked and all three actresses who played her were great. And while the rest of the characters are actually moved quite a bit by the things that happen it’s a cold, stoic sort of emotion that doesn’t reach out and envelope the audience in any desperate need to connect with them on that level.
Which is not to say I didn’t feel anything at all. There’s a darkness to Nolan films; a stark reality that burns with its unflinching despair. They’re good movies. Well written and well executed movies. Smart movies. But they’re not really fun to watch. Interstellar, at least, provides a stark, cold movie appropriate for that sort of darkness.
That’s where the philosophical elements come into play.
It’s fascinating to watch him grapple with these ideas; to see them conveyed through such subtle moments. But it’s also hard. It’s a well made movie. And it’s different in a landscape of reboots and sequels and the recycling of ideas. I just can’t bring myself to consider it great.
Still, I respect that Christopher Nolan is one of the few filmmakers today who has the ability to film original stories; who gets to make unique films and makes them well and they make money! There’s so much potential out there for interesting stories and it’s good that at least one director continues to show it doesn’t have to be a recognizable property to be successful.