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Film Review: Interstellar (★★★½)

Christopher Nolan crafts another visual spectacle anchored by another tremendous turn from Matthew McConaughey…

interstellar_ver3EDITOR FILM REVIEW: Christopher Nolan.  A staple of blockbuster cinema for over a decade has crafted another technical marvel for the world to indulge.  “Interstellar” has the Academy Award nominated screenwriter and director taking new liberties in his style and approach to character development while paying homage to classic filmmakers from decades past.  “Interstellar” is a roaring achievement of technical proficiency, faithful to new ideas for our own existence and where we might find ourselves exploring.

A bombastically assembled sci-fi thriller, “Interstellar” is alluring and thematically ambitious.  It’s a throwback to the 1970’s in the best sense, emotionally resonate that allows an accessibility to the most hardened movie-watchers.  Lusciously thorough, Nolan requires brain instead of brawn to fully comprehend the film’s magnitude.  Could be a big turn off to many.  Having not been in a college science class in over eight years, I found myself frequently perplexed by the terms being used.  If anything, it makes me eager to watch again.  For some, frustration will settle in and the enjoyment factor could plummet substantially.

Interstellar” tells the story of a group of explorers that make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.  Simple enough, eh?

On a directorial feat, Nolan delivers his strongest effort since “Memento.”  The virtuosity of his visceral hand on cinema is undeniable.  He creates, analyzes, and commits to the film’s central purpose.  He’s exciting, plain and simple.  A director that will be remembered for the life of cinema.  On a writing surface, this is a new realm that he and his brother Jonathan Nolan have explored.  They didn’t go for cheap visuals to tell the story.  Visuals are secondary here, especially for a film that takes place in space.  Many of the characters are fully fleshed out, engaging and utterly kinetic to the film’s obvious movements.  A masterful sleek vision of the future, Nolan’s epic is a vigorously entertaining piece that stands as one of the best experiences of the year.  Immersive, but admittedly overwhelming at times, Nolan controls the film with confidence.  Be warned, this is very dark and somber, probably more than I thought it would be, echoing back to works by Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott in their prime.  The film erupts within its first few moments and doesn’t let up until credits roll.   

interstellar_movie_still_2Beginning with Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey, just one year after delivering his strongest work ever in “Dallas Buyers Club,” he returns with a challenger for his career best turn.  In the role of Cooper, a father desperately searching for the answers to save the world and his family, McConaughey finds a role impeccably perfect for him to inhabit.  It’s one of the finest turns of the year, full of emotion and wit.  A seemingly six-minute sequence in which he learns the fates and lives of his loved ones stands as one of the best scenes of 2014.  The guy is too good at what he does at the moment.  I couldn’t imagine watching the same guy from “Dazed and Confused” and “A Time to Kill” could be capable of such a feat.  An Oscar-caliber performance.

Other co-stars are given their chances to shine.  Anne Hathaway, Oscar-winner for “Les Miserables,” has a tremendous arc in which she explores countless emotions from love, jealousy, to complete despair.  Michael Caine lays an experience upon the film that not many actors cannot do.  Matt Damon is an absolute fortress.  Not since Robert Duvall in “The Road,” has an actor done so much with so little in a brief amount of screen time.  There’s so much offered to the viewer from Damon’s interpretation and perspective as he takes on something unlike anything he’s done before.  He’s a revelation.  Much like Damon, Casey Affleck warrants the same reaction from the viewer, though from a different perspective.  Ferocious and much like a tornado ripping through everything in its path, Affleck just continues to stretch his limitations.  The great Jessica Chastain is fully committed to the screen.  Offering her ability to relish in the moment and capturing the tears of the audience, she’s completely memorable.  Although, her character isn’t as richly developed as one would hope.  There are times it can feel rather one note.

The rest of the cast makes their mark, more notably the beautiful Ellen Burstyn, the wickedly dominating Wes Bentley, and the graceful John Lithgow.  Young Mackenzie Foy shoots up to the near top of the list of the best child performances offered this year.  Ditto on Timothée Chalamet. I was also very impressed by David Gyasi, channeling LeVar Burton from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” as silly as it may sound.

Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, criminally ignored for Spike Jonze’s “Her” just last year, makes sure the world will not pass him over this time.  In no way bombastically apparent or showy like past science fiction films like “Gravity” and “Avatar,” Hoytema decides to remain intimate within a large scale spectacle.  He makes “Interstellar” almost feel like an independent movie, even similar to something like Duncan Jones’ “Moon,” where the story and the characters comes first.

The sound design is as marvelous as anyone can expect from a film of his scale.  Call this the disadvantage of watching “Interstellar” on a large IMAX screen, or perhaps even a mistake overlooked by the team and Nolan, but the sound was so overbearing at times that it drowned out the dialogue being spoken.  There were a few instances in which people were speaking and I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying.  One instance in particular I felt key things were revealed that I missed due to the loud nature.  If given a chance between regular screens and IMAX, I’d go with the former.

John Williams, James Newton Howard, and most recently Steven Price have crafted some of the most memorable scores for sci-fi films of all-time.  Academy Award winning composer Hans Zimmer will join the ranks of those with his musical interpretation of Nolan’s film.  It’s one of the finest the composer has ever constructed and takes on a new life from moment one.  Melodically present, Zimmer is an integral part to the film’s most emotional moments.

Overall, “Interstellar” shines bright.  It solidifies Christopher Nolan as a gift to imaginative, absorbing movie making.  A contender for several Academy Awards including Best Picture of the Year.  It just could be, at least to some, THE Best Picture of the Year.  The must-see film of the year.  Second viewing required.

Interstellar” is distributed by Paramount Pictures and opens in theaters on November 7, 2014.


What do you think?

72 points
Film Lover

Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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