Film Review: Interstellar

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 4th November 2014.

There are only a handful of directors whose work I will seek out just because their name is on the poster. Christopher Nolan is one of them. After his triumphant Dark Knight trilogy and the mind boggling Inception, there have been high expectations amongst cinephiles for his upcoming opus, Interstellar. I’m pleased to say that he doesn’t disappoint and his space saga has rocketed to the top of my 2014 list.

In the near future, the world’s crops have started to fail. Wars over food supplies have resulted in a society that is solely focused on survival, with loftier pursuits such as space exploration no longer a planetary priority. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a father of two, corn farmer and former NASA pilot, is recruited by a secret organisation to lead a mission into a newly discovered wormhole in space which may lead to an inhabitable planet and new home for the Earth’s population.

Determined to complete his mission and return to his children, Cooper has to beat the clock. You see, with years of travel to the wormhole, plus visits to alien planets where time passes faster than on Earth, Cooper only has so much time before his offspring die of old age.

Being penned by brothers Johnathan and Christopher Nolan, there is far more to this story than just a trip into outer space. With twists and turns galore, there is a depth of storytelling that is rarely seen in films today. It is not just Cooper and crew venturing into the unknown. The audience gets to go too.

Make no mistake. This is McConaughey’s film. With his seemingly endless array of dodgy rom coms behind him (all of which seem to feature him leaning on something in the poster), we are truly living in the age of the McConaissance, and the world of cinema is all the better for it. Whilst his recent Oscar win may have been more for a run of superb performances (Mud, Bernie, Killer Joe, The Wolf of Wall Street and Magic Mike) than Dallas Buyers Club itself, McConaughey’s performance in Interstellar is a tour de force and puts him in good stead for two Oscar wins in a row.

Nolan has assembled a spectacular supporting cast. Anne Hathaway shines as Cooper’s crew mate Amelia. Jessica Chastain is in fine form as Murph, Cooper’s daughter who can’t forgive her father for abandoning her. Nolan regular Michael Caine is a welcome screen presence playing, er, Michael Caine. An unbilled performance by a well known actor playing a key role will have you looking twice.

I experienced Interstellar in IMAX. Nolan shot many key scenes in this format and I found the rocket launch and alien planet scenes absolutely breathtaking as the already huge picture opened up vertically to fill my entire field of vision. I definitely recommend that you go out of your way to see this film in IMAX.

From tiny spaceships floating through the enormity of space to beautifully stark alien vistas, Interstellar is a feast for the eyes. Nolan has created a lived-in universe with no obvious signs of CGI (although I’m sure it was used).

Despite a few plot holes and a lengthy 169 minute runtime, Interstellar captivated me. A must-see, it is a near perfect masterpiece.

Published in: on November 20, 2014 at 17:11  Leave a Comment  
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Film Review: Elysium

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 3rd September 2013.

South African director Neil Blomkamp burst onto the scene in 2009 with District 9. A sci-fi action flick set in Johannesburg, the film examines our world twenty eight years after a refugee alien race arrives on earth. Making a strong statement on apartheid, District 9 was well received by filmgoers worldwide and made leading man Sharlto Copley into a star on the rise. Now Blomkamp returns with Elysium, another sci-fi feature, and expectations are high.

In 2154, the earth has become overpopulated and polluted. The rich have left the planet and now reside on the space station Elysium, where they are kept healthy by machines and seem to do nothing else but have pool parties. Isn’t this the plot of Wall-E?

Back in Los Angeles, now a crime ridden dustbowl of poverty and desperation (I’m not entirely sure that it has changed much over time), we meet Matt Damon’s ex-con, Max De Costa, who has just been exposed to deadly radiation and has five days to live. His only hope is to get to Elysium. Unfortunately, his salvation is off limits to all but the elite and he is forced to hijack his way off the planet.

Pursued by Agent Kruger, Sharlto Copley’s homicidal secret police officer, De Costa is also at odds with the plans of Elysium’s Secretary of Homeland Security Delacourt Rhodes, played by Jodie Foster.

Elysium retains the same visual aesthetic set by Blomkamp in District 9. His slums are really…slummy. This time the apartheid allegory is replaced by the refugee debate, very topical in today’s political climate. A scene where a spaceship laden with asylum seekers (or is that Elysium seekers) is blasted en route to Elysium really struck home for me. The film’s message may be at times heavy handed but at least it has something to say, unlike recent sci-fi blockbusters such as Oblivion and Prometheus.

Just like District 9, the action and violence is brutal and raw. I winced several times as Copley’s Kruger dispatched the good guys with his particular penchant for blowing the human body to pieces. In a rather gruesome scene, Damon’s De Costa has a powerful exoskeleton literally screwed onto his body in order to become a fighting machine.

Matt Damon is an appealing leading man, with the acting chops and physical gravitas required for an ex con who will do anything to save his life, and maybe the lives of others. I have no explanation for exactly what Jodie Foster is doing in this film, except delivering her lines in a multitude of strange accents. Wasted in a barely two dimensional role, I half expected her to start twirling a moustache as the evil Elysium powerbroker. And the only compliment I can give Sharlto Copley is that he is 100% dedicated to a performance that makes his Murdock in The A-Team movie seem subtle.

Elysium is a step sideways for Blomkamp. Hampered by a few dodgy performances and an overpowering moral message, he nonetheless once again creates a believable world, albeit with police robots and health spa space stations. I am looking forward to where Blomkamp will take me next, as long as it isn’t a slummy slum.

Published in: on September 10, 2013 at 23:55  Leave a Comment  
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