An elegantly directed sci-fi adventure considerably undermined by yet another painfully flat Nolan screenplay, Interstellar charts the epic attempts of a small group of scientists and astronauts to locate a planet capable of supporting the human race as its Earthly sustenance quickly dries up. Mathew McConaughey heads the cast as the mission’s pilot desperate to get back to the children he left behind before they age beyond the point where he can help them while Ann Hathaway’s stiffish scientist and a couple of nicely conceived robots keep him company on board the spacecraft. Back on Earth, Michael Caine is the brains behind the mission, Jessica Chastain is the grown up version of McConaughey’s equally clever daughter, and Casey Affleck is his son who, like the majority of remaining humans, is attempting to farm what’s left of their desertification-headed planet.
Regaining his 2008 Dark Knight directorial form, writer-director Christopher Nolan composes a quite beautiful and thrilling action thriller that achieves a perfect balance between mood and energy with no small help from Hans Zimmer’s sublime score. Making the deftest use of Hoyte Van Hoytema’s stark and striking cinematography, he avoids overplaying the CGI card keeping the story front and centre. The story isn’t bad either and, predictable as its key moments are, it serves Nolan’s grand ambitions for a Kubrickian like space epic. More the pity then that the screenplay does not. Bloated with expositional dialogue and artificial sentiment, it bungles its way towards a gargantuan mishandling of a straightforward (“save the world before it’s too late”) premise with the kind of overblown piece of psycho-physical drivel that plagued Inception. Co-penned with his more adept writer-brother (Jonathan sat Inception out), this script at least shows more restraint than that 2010 monument to tedium but not nearly enough to engender its protagonists nor their dilemmas with the depth and cadences that the premise deserved. The well conceived drama emerging from the astronauts ageing more slowly than their loved ones back home is an exception to this and proves to be the movie’s one successful appeal to the audience’s emotions.
Ultimately, the problem with Interstellar is yet again one of Nolan reaching beyond his capabilities by attempting to match the work of masters who simply operated at a level higher than his own (that’s not an insult Chris, most filmmakers toil in the shadows of Kubrick and Tarkovsky!). The innumerable references to 2001: A Space Odyssey eventually feel less like a homage and more like an attempt to disguise that failure, proving far more imitative than emulative. That said, the couple of HAL-inspired robots (the Bill Irwin-voiced “TARS” in particular) work fantastically within the confines of this story, coming alive in a whirl of mechanised motion during the best of the action sequences and adding most of the humour outside of them. And, thankfully, it’s these such lighter more grounded touches that sees Interstellar passing muster as a sci-fi thriller even while failing as an attempt at something more profound.
Rating: The Good – 72.6 Genre: Thriller Duration: 118 mins Director: Brad Furman Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe
A slick legal thriller that gets the most out of Mathew McConaughey’s self-assured charm while simultaneously feeding a central murder plot and a whole lot of subplots. McConaughey stars as Michael Connelly’s successful defence attorney Mick Haller who works out of his chauffeur driven car for anyone and everyone who can pay his exorbitant fees. When a brash rich kid Ryan Phillippe is charged with the attempted murder of a prostitute, Haller discovers disturbing parallels between that case and another involving a former client (Michael Pena) who Haller convinced to take a plea in order to avoid death row. Armed with John Romano’s purposeful script and clear dialogue, director Brad Furman manages to bring the streets of LA into the middle-upper class world of lawyers and their clients through a healthy balance of stylish editing and a top cast. The plot is considered and drives the film forward despite the potential distraction of Haller’s wider presence. On that note, McConaughey is more than comfortable in the lead and exudes all the easy charisma to set the overall tone but shows much discipline in allowing both plot and subplot to take first billing. Marisa Tomei is a refreshing presence as his age appropriate ex-wife while Phillippe, Pena, William H. Macy, and Bryan Cranston bring a level of depth not to mention fun to the story. The whole thing makes for a nice hybrid of the 21st and 20th century thrillers given its brash visual and character profile and grounded plot. For the latter reason alone, The Lincoln Lawyer isn’t the type of movie that blows the doors off the movie theatres but it’s that degree of modesty in its ambition that makes it so easy to bounce along to.
Rating: The Good – 90.6 Genre: Comedy, Drama Duration: 102 mins Director: Richard Linklater Stars: Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Matthew McConaughey
With Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater gave us perhaps the most original and entertaining rites-of-passage film. Set in 1976, the film follows a group of high school kids on their last day of school before the summer break as the incoming seniors hunt down and haze the incoming freshmen. This is a film that seduces its audience by channeling a spirit of youth that we all can and want to identify with. It captures a very particular notion of freedom and anticipation that from an adult’s perspective seems to be something we will only ever get to appreciate again in retrospect. Dazed and Confused is also the best demonstration of Linklater’s unique package of talents: his easy-listening brand of dialogue; his ability to skew archetypal characters a couple of degrees either way and make them interesting again; his ability to establish believable relationships between them; and lastly the unobtrusive yet intimate manner in which he frames every shot.
Dazed and Confused is one of those precious few films which creates an unmistakable sense of time and place through a combination of era-specific music, some clever photography, and some witty but well sourced costume and production design. However, it’s the sound of the film which is most memorable as the source music would make Scorsese or Tarantino proud (the latter of which, you might be interested to know lists this as one of his favourite films) and it provides the primary fuel for Linklater’s time machine. The performances are too many to fully note here but Sasha Jenson’s quirky Dawson, Rory Cochrane as the uber stoner Slater, and Matthew McConaughey’s creepy yet ridiculous Wooderson deserve a special mention. Dazed and Confused is a landmark movie where all the pieces fit so well together that it effortlessly resonates with you. Whether you grew up in that era or not, it’ll ensconce you in a warm sense of nostalgia and you’ll be forever going back for more.