(Spoilers... Don't read if you still want to watch the film.)
Coming into this film, I had mixed feelings. There was an obvious excitement because Nolan was taking the helm of something challenging both mentally for the audience but moreover, a challenging concept to make engaging. This 'challenge' has surfaced itself in every review or critique I've encountered in the form of, 'this film is ambitious'. As if to say that although this film aimed high it didn't make the cut for what Nolan is capable of. This notion seems harsh to me. I agree it's not perfect and I would also agree that, the use of emotion/tone at points is misguided or peculiar but fundamentally this film is good/great.
Christopher Nolan will be a directing great in history; he has already amassed an army of followers, with modern greats like The Dark Knight trilogy, The Prestige and Memento. But this film to me was very reminiscent of Inception. It had this science fiction theme yet had a harshness that fully grounded it. I will expand on that later but I think it's important to note since Nolan does this in many of his films. His Batman universe was so successful because it was nothing like the previous comic based films of the last two decades; it had no 'campiness' or sense of unbelievably. Gotham felt worn, the characters felt real and the plot seemed vaguely believable with terrorist-like plots.
The film sees earth essentially near death, with blight killing all the crops around the world with corn being the last useful source of food. Many forms of work having become obsolete or redundant, which is where Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) a former pilot and engineer come farmer is found. He is the main character in the film and the one, who all that will happen, revolves around. He has lost his wife and lives on his farm with his two children, Tom and Murphy and his father-in-law Donald. The mission is a nutshell, means he and the crew are surveying planets that have all been visited by individually by 12 pioneers a decade or so before meaning they have a shortlist of 3 planets that could be habitable due to 'ping' messages coming from the pioneers. This interstellar travel has been made possible by a wormhole allowing them to travel unimaginable distances in an instant, yet there is a sense of trepidation and wonder, as the wormhole seems to have been 'placed' there for their escape from the dying earth. Another problem is the newly found galaxy is home to a black hole, an object that through gravity and General Relativity means near it, time will tick extraordinarily slow, 1 hour on a planet equally seven years on earth. Having been a fan of science my whole life and having done a presentation on black holes previously, I was familiar with the science but I feel that although the film does 'dumb' this down, it still walks the line of, if you aren't paying it enough attention, you will lose the plot or events.
The whole film plays heavily on the themes of science vs. fiction vs. emotion/feeling. This has benefits as it grounds the mind boggling science with emotional ties that are laced throughout the film but also falls flat on its face when some characters seem to change their motivation throughout the film (Dr Brand played by Anne Hathaway, wanting to visit a planet because she was in love with the pioneer assigned to said planet). The film also suffers from a constant drumming in about Cooper being a traveller, explorer and the constant exposition of the science... Again reminiscent of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character in Nolan's Inception, who's role seemed to just explain things to Ellen Page. This drumming came very annoying because the film is long, near 3 hours meaning all 'acts' of the film get extended and since the plot is complex, means exposition is important but also drawn out. The crew is eventually and quite predictably whittled down to Cooper, Dr Brand and 2 robots TARS and CASE. I will soon talk about all the characters and the performances.
When I said earlier that fiction is a conflicting theme I mean this in an almost supernatural aspect, with what seems to be a God-like race looking out for those on earth. This for me felt fine as they never dwelled on it too long and felt like something that although it was complex, ultimately would be something very obvious to the plot. And it is explained, but to not spoil it too much, it is a futuristic, fantasy, freaky element that links the entire plot together. Don’t get me wrong; you can be very critical of the working out of the characters and how they reason decisions together.
The cast is stellar… Matthew McConaughey is great throughout; coming off the back of Dallas Buyers Club expectations are obviously going to be high. I personally think he delivered in the vast majority of the film, with exception to a couple of scenes where his acting is maybe a bit too much but again, solid performance. Anne Hathaway is another good appointment, she is solid and plays a somewhat strong female character, although at points comes across a little badly scripted and confused in her reasoning, going back to a love vs. reason situation. Michael Caine, Casey Affleck and the other members of the crew were solid in their roles and kept the story engaging. Jessica Chastain and her young counterpart, Mackenzie Foy were both great and gave a lot of emotion and drama to what could be a very detached film.
The voice of TARS and CASE, Bill Irwin and Josh Stewart were brilliant and gave the movies its entire humour and just felt like awesome creations from their differing ‘personalities’ and their looks and motion.
The visuals and sound for this film are terrific; they work in every scene from waves the size of mountains, to clouds of ice. The score for the film is very Hans Zimmer-y and BUM-BUM in style. It is epic and just works extremely well with the epic scale of this film. The visuals are gorgeous and the worlds feel real, harsh and lonely as seen on the 2 main planets visited. The black hole looked and felt the way it should, something you can’t really return from…