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Movie Review: Interstellar
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Adam Frazier   |  @   |  
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Interstellar movie review
Interstellar
Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenwriters: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn
Paramount Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 169 Minutes
Release Date: November 5, 2014

In Christopher Nolan‘s 2006 film, The Prestige, Cutter (Michael Caine) explains, “Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts.”

“The first part is called ‘The Pledge.’ The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird, or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t.”

“The second act is called ‘The Turn.’ The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.”

“That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call ‘The Prestige.’” That monologue is all you need to know about Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker. Yes, he is a storyteller, but above all else he is a magician – an illusionist who delights in taking something ordinary and making it do something extraordinary.

Nolan’s latest film magic trick, Interstellar, is an ambitious work of science-fiction based upon theoretical physicist Kip Thorne‘s work in gravity, relativity, and wormholes. The film takes place in a future where a cataclysm has thrown nature out of balance. The planet has become a dust bowl, and blight is driving plant life to extinction.

Meanwhile, scientists discover a wormhole (which can connect widely separated regions of space-time) near Saturn. The wormhole was seemingly placed there, providing us with an opportunity to transcend the limitations of human space travel and visit another galaxy to find a habitable planet. Engineer and former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is forced to leave his family behind in order to join an expedition to save humanity.

Joining him on this adventure are scientists Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), Romilly (David Gyasi), Doyle (Wes Bentley) and TARS, an acerbic robot that resembles the monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Together they journey through the wormhole – a breathtaking, visually stunning sequence that will melt your mind – to survey three worlds that could potentially serve as humanity’s next home.

Back on Earth, Cooper’s children, Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and Tom (Timothée Chalamet) have grown up without their father. It’s all about relativity – for every hour spent on one of these alien worlds, seven years pass on Earth. Soon Murph (Jessica Chastain) and Tom (Casey Affleck) are older than their father was when he left.

Interstellar isn’t 2001: A Space Odyssey – it’s far too emotional and sentimental for that. If anything, Nolan’s film is reminiscent of Robert Zemeckis’s Contact, which also stars McConaughey. In that film, a mysterious signal from outer space provides plans for a machine that allows Jodi Foster to travel through a series of wormholes to make contact with an advanced alien civilization.

In Interstellar, an unknown entity creates a wormhole that allows humans to travel across time and space to find inhabitable worlds. It isn’t concerned with making contact with intelligent beings – an idea recently explored in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus – but more with the survival and evolution of our species. The mysterious “they” behind the wormhole is Nolan’s big trick this time around, a riddle that involves ghosts, gravity, and Morse code.

Unfortunately, Nolan’s biggest trick may also be his most underwhelming. Interstellar is a bit of a mess, and when it’s time to deliver on “The Prestige” – the big pay-off to the magic trick – the answers come way too easy and the film’s massive revelations are soured by muddled logic and messy scripting.

Still, Interstellar is an enthusiastic, cathartic exploration of man’s place in the universe. Nolan posits that we’ve lost our way – that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us because our destiny lies above us. Mankind was born on Earth, but we were never meant to die here. The ideas presented are certainly provocative, and the emotions Nolan is stirring up are powerful, even if the execution is flawed.

Overall, Interstellar is worth the 169-minute journey into the unknown. McConaughey and Chastain turn in solid, emotional performances while cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (Her, Let the Right One In) captures the vastness of space in jaw-dropping fashion. It’s hard to blame a film for having too many ideas – for being too ambitious – and while Interstellar falls short of touching the stars, its reach is still admirable.

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