Ten, nine, eight, seven…
Every year has its fill of “must see” films, with dramatic classics and bash-’em-up blockbusters vying for our attention and our money. One Room With A View’s Top 20 Films of 2014 is full of these, but only one film this year, and for many years before, has been a true cinematic event. No other film matched it for anticipation or sheer scale, making Interstellar the only film of 2014 that had to be seen in the cinema on the biggest screen you could find.
The spoiler-free synopsis is simple: in the prophetically close future our world is dying, and our only hope of salvation is to search the heavens for a new home. Enter Matthew McConaughey, acting yet again at the peak of his McConaissance performing power, as Cooper – one of the last believers in the value of exploration, be it through space or science – who leads the last mission to save the human race. No pressure.
It is hard to say more about the actual plot without taking away some of the experience for first-time viewers. This is a rare opportunity to go into a film without knowing what will happen, explicitly or implied. You will gasp at all the right places, watch open-mouthed or fists-clenched as intended, and meet the twists of fate as our characters do. It is a grand yet intimate tale Nolan is telling, leaving something for everyone and everything for some. This is a fantastic film, which fills its two hours-and-fifty-minutes running-time yet flies through at twice that speed.
“Do not go gentle into that good night” is the chorus, refrain and mantra of Interstellar, with Dylan Thomas’ poem providing the scenes on screen with new subtext at each repetition. At its heart, Interstellar is simultaneously a call for bold pioneering activity to make new discoveries, and for quiet introspection of who we are as individuals and the meaning of our relationships with those closest to us. Generational responsibility, leaving your world in a better place than you found it, finds its avatar in the relationship Cooper has with his daughter; a relationship that lets the actors involved give all they have and which consistently delivers the biggest emotional punches.
Nolan is often cast as the saviour of film, with his insistence that celluloid offers a better quality of experience. Extensive use of IMAX footage and stunning cinematography make Interstellar prime choice as Exhibit A for the defence in the case of celluloid versus digital. Some cinemagoers were lucky enough to see the movie projected from 70mm film, a special experience in its own right and all the more so in this case. Interstellar is sure to become a staple at screens with this capacity, whilst time allows.
Hoyte Van Hoytema – the cinematographer who captured so many gorgeous vistas and intimate close-ups – and Double Negative, the visual effects production house responsible for yet more breathtaking shots, flourish under Christopher Nolan’s direction. Between them, they could have delivered a silent portfolio of images and it would have still been a masterpiece. Add in Hans Zimmer’s score – filled with majestic organ cues, sounding as if the planets themselves were creating the sounds, and the urgency of a ticking clock moving us on and on relentlessly – and Interstellar is deserving of the highest praise in all departments.
Nolan’s ninth feature film yet again proves that blockbusters can have brains, and that scientific accuracy can be an advantage when asking viewers to suspend disbelief. The mind behind the movie magic was, to a large extent, theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. By basing the design and the details in actual theory, the fact that no one has actually been on an interstellar journey is quickly forgotten and the sense of awe and wonder is heightened. By exerting control on the reality they are prepared to show viewers, denying us unscientific acts solely for the spectacle, Nolan et al. show us how little control we as humans have on our physical and temporal surroundings.
From Peter Pan to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, time has been portrayed on screen as an enemy – a force we humans have no control over and can only observe helplessly as it takes its toll on us. Interstellar takes this to new heights as we see the depths of despair our characters face at the cruel hands of time. Whilst much of the film shows time in its most complex natures, another scene exemplifies Nolan’s use of time by showing it at its most simple; a ten-nine-eight-seven countdown becomes a moment of exquisite filmmaking.
Time has been the enemy of many films, whose stars wane over the years. Time will tell if Interstellar will stay strong on repeat viewing and on smaller screens, but for 2014 there can be no doubt: Interstellar was not just a film you watched, it was a film you experienced.
Ten, nine, eight, seven… We have lift off.
One Room With A View’s Top 20 of 2014 (so far)
20 = X-Men: Days of Future Past
20 = Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
19. The LEGO Movie
17. 22 Jump Street
16. The Wind Rises
15. Mr Turner
13. Starred Up
12 = The Raid 2
12 = Nightcrawler
11. Dallas Buyers Club
10. Gone Girl
8. Guardians of the Galaxy
Keep your eyes peeled as we count down to our Number One Film of 2014.