Monthly Archives: November 2014

Film Review: Interstellar

Interstellar

With the Earth’s food supplies running out, farmer and former astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) travels across the universe in search of an alternative home for Earth’s inhabitants.

There are few directors whose films generate as much excitement as Christopher Nolan’s. And for good reason. With a back catalogue to date including Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception, Nolan might not be prolific but he certainly knows how to make a film.

Which brings us on to Interstellar, his most ambitious project yet, which given the head fuck that was Inception, is no mean feat.

What starts off on Earth as a relatively low key drama soon expands to the far reaches of our universe and beyond. Space exploration in films is of course nothing new but here it feels special for the most part, and some of that is down to the film being routed in realism. Sure, some of the science may not totally add up, but much of the film (the first two thirds in particular) feels plausible and not beyond the realms of possibility. It’s both exciting and scary to think this may one day become science fact rather than fiction.

Space exploration is only one aspect of the film, however, and as with the majority of Nolan’s films, Interstellar has family at its heart. It owes a debt to Robert Zemeckis’ Contact in this respect, knowing all the while that Cooper’s daughter Murph (but weirdly not his son) is at the forefront of his mind. It adds some emotional weight to the story that hasn’t worked for some but I thought gave the film a more human feel.

Black Hole in Insterstellar

Unfortunately, this good work is partly undone by some pretty hefty plot contrivances and whole strands of story that simply don’t work. Matt Damon’s brief storyline, for example, just feels forced and unnecessary, whilst trying to work out how Cooper ended up finding the NASA headquarters and being involved in the mission makes less sense than anything else that happens in the film.

But what Interstellar lacks on plot and script, it more than makes up for in ambition and grandeur. It looks absolutely stunning for a start, particularly some of the shots in the depths of space, whilst its final act is a brave one for a mainstream blockbuster. It does things other films would be afraid to do and should be applauded for that. It takes its cues from 2001: A Space Odyssey and whilst it does fall some way short of Kubrick’s masterpiece, it’s still quite the spectacle.

All the actors give decent performances with Matthew McConnaughey, Anna Hathaway and Jessica Chastain all handling their roles pretty well. None are particularly spectacular but do what they need to do when they need to do it.  However, it’s Mackenzie Foy as the young Murph who truly sparkles and adds some real emotional clout to the film. Foy’s character is central to everything happening to the film and fortunately she carries such pressure with ease.

Interstellar is not Christopher Nolan’s best film but is still a film to be appreciated, if just for its technical achievements. Like Gravity, it may not have the strongest script but is a visual marvel and will make you realise why you fell in love with cinema, particularly if you’re a sci-fi can. See it on the biggest screen possible and just drink it in.

Pros

  • Amazing cinematography
  • Pure cinema at times
  • Great performance by Mackenzie Foy

Cons

  • Some horrible plot contrivances
  • Some sections *cough* Matt Damon *cough* just don’t work

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Sunday Soundtrack: Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)

Nothing subtle about this choice of Sunday Soundtrack whatsoever, but it’s Wayne’s World and there’s very little else to say. Party on.

If you have any suggestions for future Sunday Soundtracks, leave them in the comments below. Also feel free to leave favourite Wayne’s World moments just because.

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Film Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl

When Nick (Ben Affleck) comes home from work to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) has disappeared, a large-scale manhunt ensues. However, as evidence comes to light and secrets are revealed, Nick ends up being squarely at the centre of the investigation.

David Fincher has amassed quite the body of work, but what’s impressive is that pretty much every one of his films is admired and revered. Even films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has its fair share of fans, and so it’s no surprise that Gone Girl developed a fair amount of hype in the run up to its release.

Fortunately, for the most part, it delivers on its hype and will go down as yet another strong entry in Fincher’s filmography.

At first glance, Gone Girl is a simple whodunnit but it soon evolves into something much more (it’s difficult to go into any kind of detail without spoiling the whole thing). It becomes en examination of a marriage that seems perfectly normal on the outside but is actually anything but underneath.

A good chunk of the film is told from Amy’s point of view via a diary she kept and with each entry we learn a little more about her Nick’s relationship, all the time becoming that little bit more intriguing and eye-opening. However, as is always the case with a biased POV, it always leaves the question of just how much of this can we trust.

Ben Affleck - Gone Girl

Fincher does an excellent job of creating two distinct sides to the story, and as we’ve come to expect from him, the film is at its best when it delves that little bit deeper into the darker side of the human psyche. He paints a disturbing portrayal of middle class suburbia, and suggests that even the most seemingly grounded of people harbour deep secrets whilst happy marriages conceal darkness and can go sour very quickly. What’s also interesting is that Fincher injects a surprising amount of dark humour into the film which adds an even more unsettling edge to everything.

The film is also an interesting examination of the media and how it can manipulate the truth and push a certain agenda based on empty assumptions. As far as TV stations and newspapers are concerned, Nick is guilty until proven innocent, something that rings very true with today’s media.

Ben Affleck is a decent male lead, giving Nick just enough of a nasty side to make you question his involvement, but it’s Rosamund Pike’s Amy that really shines. In the flashbacks recounting her diary entries we see her as the ideal loving wife, although Pike somehow lets us know there’s a little more to it than that and subsequently we’re never really sure if she can be trusted. It’s a fantastic performance that makes Amy the focal point of the film despite Affleck’s Nick receiving more screen time.

 Not everything works quite so well, however, with the ending in particular feeling somewhat rushed and abrupt, leaving us abandoned in a story that feels only partly told.

Despite misgivings over the ending, Gone Girl delivers a healthy dose of intrigue and misdirection, ultimately culminating in a film that can’t help but grab your attention. It might not be in the upper echelons of Fincher’s work, but it doesn’t have to be in order to still be thoroughly entertaining.

Pros

  • Great performance from Rosamund Pike
  • Twisty, turny story
  • Fincher’s trademark great direction

Cons

  • Rushed, abrupt ending
  • Weaker supporting cast

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Quickie: Pride

Pride Film PosterWhen a group of gay men and lesbians turn up in a small Welsh village in support of the miners’ strikes, not everyone is happy to have their support.

The UK miners’ strike of the mid 1980s ripped apart not just families but whole communities, and so it’s a little surprising that it’s the subject of a comedy. What’s even more surprising is that for the large part it works brilliantly.

Most (in the UK at least) will roughly know how the miners’ strike concluded, so there’s no huge conflict in that regard. Instead, it comes from the tensions between the LGBT community, their handful of non-gay supporters and, well, just about everyone else.

The script, written by Stephen Beresford, is a perfect combination of heartfelt and (often very dry) humour that will have you giggling to yourself just as much as you catch a lump in your throat. This script is impeccably delivered by all involved, partly due to the fact that they all look like they’re having a wonderful time with it. Imelda Staunton in particular is wonderful, although there are few, if any, weak links in terms of casting.

A few cliches and stereotype issues aside, Pride will only fail to connect with the most cold hearted of viewers, and whilst it may be stretching it somewhat to call it a ‘feel good film’, there are few films this year that are quite so adept at making you grin from ear to ear one minute and reaching for the tissues the next. Unless, of course, you’re massively right wing.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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