- Nov 15, 2001
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
Interstellar is an epic, flawed, conceptually ambitious, and surprisingly intimate film from one of cinemas most exciting directors, Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight, Memento.) Featuring excellent performances from the entire cast, with Matthew McConaughey’s lead as Cooper being another exceptional moment in his filmography. On the grandest cinematic canvas, Nolan explores the closeness of a father with his children, across time and space, impossible situations, and the direst of threats to humanity, anchoring the enormity of the story with the smallest, most emotionally potent of threads. That the film does not connect with all of its ambition should not diminish the power of what has been accomplished.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 168 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraViolet
Release Date: 03/31/2015
The Production Rating: 4/5
“We've always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we've just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And we've barely begun. And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.”
In a near future, where the world is affected by food shortages brought about by a ‘blight’ affecting crops, and where the slowly deteriorating options for food crops has given way to barren lands and dust storms, farming is perhaps the most noble and necessary skill. Earth is reeling from the disaster of food shortages. There is no more military, no more exploration of the skies above, and almost all resources and functions have become dedicated to mankind’s survival in the here and now. A former pilot, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey,) farms corn with his young son Tom, and daughter, Murph, until he is mysteriously led to a private facility where work is underway to save humanity. Cooper is quickly inducted into a four-person mission to pilot Endurance, a secretly maintained and improved craft - a legacy from the defunct NASA days, into a black hole - journeying across the universe, and distances that would otherwise take hundreds of thousands of years to make at the speed of light, to find hope for man’s future. In accepting the duty, he must leave behind his children to the care of his father-in-law, a decision his son accepts, but his daughter, with whom he is a kindred spirit, does not. The nature of the travel; the dilation of time, the experiencing of different elapsed time as a result of the missions proximity to the enormous gravitational mass of the black hole, mean his children will age considerably faster than Cooper. Both time and distance are forces against which cooper cannot escape.
Interstellar is expectedly mature filmmaking from Christopher Nolan, working from a screenplay written with his younger brother, Jonathan, and features some the most grounded exploration of the science of gravitational force, black holes, and the conceptually fascinating experience of time dilation put to film. Less veiled and symbolic than Stanley Kubrick’s outstanding 2001: A Space Odyssey – a film which Interstellar has, in part, been inspired - Nolan’s impressive film sets about with similar intent to that of Kubrick’s masterpiece, examining space and the challenging adventure of man through the prism of scientific exploration, testing of man’s capability, and a curious mystery established as a foundation for the story. The film largely succeeds. Through solid dialogue and the fine balance of visual effects and storytelling, the seemingly high-concept notions of time dilation become natural, graspable elements of the story for broad audiences.
Any serious science-fiction fan or steward of astrophysics (of which this reviewer is both,) will be familiar with the root concept of gravitational mass and time dilation. Even Star Trek: Voyager showed exceptional emotion in an episode (“Blink of an Eye”) exploring the rise and fall of a world over centuries as the USS Voyager orbits a planet that experiences time at a much faster rate than the area of space above the planet) and the concept is fascinating fodder for science-fiction. And the concentration on what the difference of time experienced has on a father and his family across the gulf of space is magnificently, intimately portrayed. It roots the heart and emotional center of the film, with the ache and helplessness of different aging serving as a dramatic constant. Time becomes the threat; the enemy; the element of danger – and is an effective ‘villain.’ The film is not without its flaws, however. There’s an unfinished sense about Interstellar. Marvelous ideas are established and explored, with some deeper philosophies introduced for the viewer to ponder (and not for the filmmakers to unravel for us, thankfully,) but still, there’s a sense that there was more depth to gain from key moments in the film.
Interstellar also is modestly snagged, beyond some too ‘on the nose’ scripting, by a plot development before the final act of the film which feels far less fresh and considered than the rest of the film. The story of Interstellar is clearly examining the manner in which mankind would operate, with unadulterated heroism and unconscionable selfishness vying for survival, as the situation becomes ever more dire, yet late in the film the somewhat bumpy deviation, which serves as a catalyst for the finale, feels contrived, robbing some of the grandeur and, frankly, intimacy of the story at that point. The ending of the film takes additional liberties with the scientific grounding – in ways that I, again, won’t spoil here, but I will say that I was ultimately satisfied with the turn of events as the film closes.
The cast are superb in their roles, with Matthew McConaughey delivering yet another terrific performance as practical, aspirational man grappling with the choices he’s made and the world he’s left behind (and trying to save.) There is surprising weight in his performance, in quiet moments and through his unassuming manner as a leading member of the dangerous 4-person crew. As his fellow members, Anne Hathaway as biologist Amelia Brand, Wes Bentley as Doyle, David Gyasi as Romilly, and Bill Irwin as the voice (and puppeteer) of the ex-military, mobile, intelligent machine, TARS. Each are finely cast, with Hathaway’s Brand demonstrating a fine balance of capability and vulnerability. John Lithgow is wonderfully understated as Cooper’s father-in-law, Donald, and Michael Caine reliably solid as Professor Brand, architect of the mission and father to Amelia. Jessica Chastain’s strong headed delivery of the older Murph, and Casey Affleck’s older Tom – Cooper’s grown children – are very, very good, and follow fine portrayals of these characters from the younger Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet.
Interstellar, despite some imperfections, is a superbly entertaining, masterfully crafted, and expertly portrayed film. Though it may not achieve the intellectual heights it sets about exploring – finding greater success in the emotional center of the film – Interstellar is still to be applauded for its ambitious reach.
Director Nolan insisted on shooting Interstellar on film, a position that required Paramount to make an amendment to its policy of phasing out the use of film (over digital,) and has been seen as a major moment in the saving of Kodak film. Shot on 35mm film, with a significant portion shot on 70mm for IMAX (shot using 15/70mm IMAX cameras,) - providing a shifting aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and 1.78:1, the organic feel of the picture is welcome. While digital can stun with the clarity of images, there is nothing like watching the detail of film and the inherent warmth, familiar flare if the lens from concentrated light sources, and the texture that is awash over the scenes. On Blu-ray, Interstellar shines. Clarity is impressive, with cloth textures, facial textures, and the lived-in wear and tear of surfaces in the homes and aboard the Endurance rich. Others have noted a stray hair noticeable on one particular shot. That isn’t enough to affect the video quality score.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
Visually, Interstellar is a grand adventure with fascinating landscapes (some courtesy of isolating glaciers,) tactile sets, and contrasting color palettes for different places and times. On earth, there is warmth from the dust-blown towns and homes are punctuated with vivid green fields (where crops survive,) the craft, Endurance is heavily toned in whites and contrasting greys/blacks, and the planets visited themselves provide variations on the cooler palette.
Paramount provide Interstellar with an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, faithfully aligned with the theatrical experience, with one notable caveat. Some movie-goers complained about the sound mix in the theatrical screenings, with issues of unintelligible dialogue drowned by audio at the low end, and even complaints that Hans Zimmer’s score was too overpowering (the organ in particular.)
Audio Rating: 5/5
That isn’t the case here. Dialogue was never an issue through my calibrated home theater system – with everything intended to be heard and clearly understood being heard and understood. The low-end audio was impressive, aggressive at times, and moving when the action pulsed, or the emotional potency quotient was amped-up by the perilous journey.
Hans Zimmer’s score for Interstellar is an excellent sonic accompaniment to Nolan’s bold reach. The score, derived from a note Nolan shared with Zimmer asking the Oscar winning composer, with whom he has now collaborated five times, to write music for an intimate father-son story the composer had outlined on a single page. That intimate beginning is the resonating center, emotionally, of the film, and though Zimmer is given ample opportunity to unleash the power and volume of his considerable arsenal of sound, buoyed at times in this score by the sound of Organ, recorded at Temple Church in London. The score is a superb example of music serving as the connective emotional tissue, representing a kernel of humanity in the enormity of both time/space and the pressures of the mission at hand. In the context of the film, Zimmer’s score is absolutely wonderful (I’ll confess, I am listening to the score as I write this review.) The score won’t immediately standout with memorable themes, but its DNA is so intrinsically linked with the visuals, I believe that if you were to hear passages of the score outside of the film, you will easily be taken back to the story of Cooper and his sacrifice.
Interstellar features a fine collection of extras, including an extended version of The Science of Interstellar, a broadcast special covering the grounded science at play in the film. A terrific and fascinating piece that heightens appreciation for the mind-blowing concepts that exists in the furthest reaches of the universe we can see (and some much, much closer.)
Special Features Rating: 5/5
The TARS and CASE feature, which takes a look at Nolan’s desire for a practical machine to be onset with the actors (augmented with CGI on where necessary,) is particularly satisfying given how unique and memorable these machines were in the film. As a lifetime fan of film scores, Cosmic Sounds, which cover’s Hans Zimmer’s process for creating the soundtrack, is also noteworthy.
Feature film in high definition
The Science of Interstellar: Extended cut of the broadcast special.
Plotting an Interstellar Journey: Discusses the film’s origins, influences and narrative designs.
Life on Cooper’s Farm: Bringing Americana and the grounded nature of a farm to a sci-fi space movie.
The Dust: Learn how cast and crew avoided sand blindness, and see how to create, and clean up after, a catastrophic dust storm.
TARS and CASE: Designing and building these unique characters and how they were brought to life on set and in the film.
Cosmic Sounds: The concepts, process, and recording of Hans Zimmer’s unforgettable score.
The Space Suits: A look at the design and build of the suits and helmets, and what it was like to wear them.
The Endurance: Explore this massive set with a guided tour by production designer Nathan Crowley.
Shooting in Iceland: Miller’s Planet/Mann’s Planet: Travel with the cast and crew to Iceland and see the challenges they faced in creating two vastly different worlds in one country.
The Ranger and the Lander: A look at the other two spaceships in the film.
Miniatures in Space: Marvel at the large-scale models used in the explosive docking sequence.
The Simulation of Zero-G: Discover the various methods that the filmmakers used to create a zero gravity environment.
Celestial Landmarks: Explore how the filmmakers used practical special effects informed by real scientific equations to give the illusion of real space travel for both the actors and the audience.
Across All Dimensions and Time: A look at the concept and design of the Tesseract, which incorporated a practical set rather than a green screen.
Final Thoughts: The cast and crew reflect back on their Interstellar experience.
Feature film in standard definition
Digital Copy of the Film (Ultraviolet, iTunes, Google Play)
Interstellar is gripping at times, pulsing with tension and spectacle, and deeply personal at its center. Director Christopher Nolan bravely takes a number of risks –in terms of story, science, and visual effects – and through these risks, as he has said, he seeks a way to leap from making a good film to a great film. The risks largely pay off. There will be some debate over the important, mysterious thread through the film, something I have purposefully stayed away from in my review above to avoid any potential spoiling of the experience for newcomers – but debate is good. A film that you can walk away from with little to contemplate simply won’t risk becoming a great film.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
There is great splendor in the visual effects on display. The lensing effect as the explorers approach the black hole is a beautiful rendering of one of the things described in great detail in a number of expertly written books from expert and notable authors, including the great Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kako, and others. The masterfully rendered effect, based on the scientific work of Kip Thorne, displays the gravitational lensing effect, and the accretion of light and matter – it is fascinating and good reason Interstellar won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
I have a strong feeling that, over time, Interstellar will become even more appreciated than it is today, and it has been widely critically celebrated. It is a film that rewards repeat viewings. A fine film, with a superb high-definition release from Paramount.
Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss
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