Christopher Nolan's space odyssey is an admirable and adventurous folly
A film of soaring ambition and spectacular flaws, Interstellar is the ninth feature from movie messiah Christopher Nolan. His latest wields a Spielbergian sense of wonder, plunging us into a dystopian near-future; taking us through space and time on a journey that's perilous, stupendously beautiful and, well, long. Those who worship at Nolan's altar will find food for thought here, alongside a tendency to extend beyond its own apparent comprehension.
Matthew McConaughey is Cooper, a former pilot who's become a reluctant farmer as part of mankind's efforts to survive on a ravaged, disintegrating earth. Cooper is ripped from his family – most wrenchingly his 10-year-old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) – when he's recruited for an intergalactic mission to find humanity a new home. It's the brainchild of Professor Brand (Michael Caine), who also sends his own daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway, in a thankless, cold fish role).
The retro aesthetic and score squares with humanity's regression, and usefully recalls sci-fi films of the 70s and 80s, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Starman. Nolan delivers awe and nail-biting tension but, as he swings from the micro to the macro, fails to create a strong sense of the alternate reality the astronauts are risking everything for. The script comprises stiff scientific discussion, clunky exposition and cinematic clichés and, frankly, it all gets a bit silly.
Topher Grace pops up in a role that seems designed to reflect audience bewilderment, and tonal confusion arises from the decision to combine quipping robots with a pompous, cod-philosophical flavour. McConaughey's folksy charm might seem an odd fit for the material too, but he delivers conviction in spades, particularly during a bravura reaction sequence.
The pretentiousness and hit-and-miss risk-taking is easy to mock but it's also admirable for a film to boast such a brazenly adventurous spirit, and to find Nolan still making singular and cerebral films inside the system. Interstellar reaches for the stars and has its share of magical moments but, unfortunately, does disappear repeatedly up its own black hole.
General release from Fri 7 Nov.