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Review: Interstellar

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Interstellar opens tonight (Nov. 4) at the Indiana State Museum IMAX with exclusive screenings (in 70mm) at 8 and 11:15 p.m.

Written by director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception and the trilogy that started with Batman Begins) and his brother Jonathan, Interstellar is an ambitious, complex and sprawling film set in the near future. Earth is becoming uninhabitable due to “the blight.” Dust storms abound. Society still functions, though the emphasis is firmly on agrarian matters. Textbooks have been rewritten to state that the American space missions were merely Cold War hoaxes designed to get the Soviet Union to go bankrupt trying to compete with us.

“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars,” says astronaut turned farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey). “Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.” Sounds like a statement one might make right now.

Cooper lives with his bright 10-year-old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), his 15-year-old son Tom (Timothee Chalamet) and grandpa Donald (John Lithgow). Murph maintains there is a force in her room she calls a “ghost” for lack of a better word. Significant. One day, the family spots a drone and hops in their truck to pursue it (like North by Northwest, but this time the people on the ground are chasing the plane). They end up at a secret NASA facility where scientists are planning an expedition to find a new home for humanity.

Professor Brand (Michael Caine) explains (there's a lot of explaining in this movie) that someone or something has opened a wormhole near Saturn. NASA sent a group of astronauts to look for new Class M planets and now they're preparing a mission to go to the best of the bunch and it would sure be nice for Coop to lead the mission, along with Brand's scientist daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), astrophysicist Romilly (David Gyasi) and red shirt co-pilot Doyle (Wes Bentley).

Coop reluctantly agrees, which pisses off Murph so much that she grows up to be Jessica Chastain and still remains mad at her beloved deserter daddy. Tom, who grows up to be Casey Affleck, doesn't show a lot of emotion, because he's underwritten that way.

Think I've told you too much? Hell, that's just the basic set-up. I won't detail any of the space adventures. Suffice to say things get trippy and Hans Zimmer's score gets so loud at points that you can't understand the dialogue. Not that I likely would have grasped the technobabble anyway. I was utterly lost during one explanation until I heard a reference to “the slingshot effect,” which I only recognized because it was used in Star Trek.

The film offers grand visuals, including a bizarre-beautiful key scene in a location I couldn't describe if I wanted to. The least stirring moment involves two guys in space suits trying to have a fist fight. The through-lines in the nearly three-hour epic are “Will Cooper make good on his promise to reunite with Murph?” and “Will the space mission save mankind?”

I was entertained and fully engaged for the first two-thirds of the story, despite my frustration at the one-note characterizations of the two women (and most of the men). McConaughey delivers — who better to play a philosophizing space cowboy? — and Bill Irwin does good voice work as this film's clunky-cool version of HAL, who looks a bit like a mini-monolith. The last third had too many cutaways between Earth and space, and I found myself just wanting Christopher Nolan to wrap it up.

And how Nolan wraps it up will likely stir debate. For me, the conclusion of both through-lines were curiously muted. Interstellar is basically 2001: A Space Odyssey on a feedback loop. Do with that what you will.

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Related Film

Official Site: www.InterstellarMovie.com

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan

Producer: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Lynda Obst

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet

Related Film

Official Site: www.InterstellarMovie.com

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan

Producer: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Lynda Obst

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet

Related Film

Official Site: www.InterstellarMovie.com

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan

Producer: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Lynda Obst

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet

Related Film

Official Site: www.InterstellarMovie.com

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan

Producer: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Lynda Obst

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet

Related Film

Official Site: www.InterstellarMovie.com

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan

Producer: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Lynda Obst

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet

Related Film

Official Site: www.InterstellarMovie.com

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan

Producer: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Lynda Obst

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet

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