Interstellar, a review

A veteran of crafting films bridging the gap between financial success and critical acclaim, there was no reason to doubt Nolan could do it again. Coming off the success of the Dark Knight films and Inception, the bar was set high for his first venture into space. The result is a magnificently beautiful homage to sci fi classics such as 2001: Space Odyssey, presenting a tour de force in aesthetics and striking set pieces if nothing else. After witnessing this ever escalating progression of extraordinary circumstances and scenarios you can’t say Nolan wasn’t ambitious.

While the locations, design and scope are indeed inspired, the basics such as dialogue and character motivation are less than stellar. The film is disappointingly shallow, like a beautiful photograph it’s stunning to look at but ultimately two dimensional. The film concerns itself far too often with vague references to spirituality, which in of itself could have been an interesting concept, but at no point does the film ever earn the overly dramatic exposition. The film would have benefited much more from subtlety in these areas, leaving it enigmatic and open to interpretation, instead of bluntly proclaiming the ubiquitous supremacy of love. Even with these blemishes the viewer’s interest is never lost, skilfully utilising the gravity of the situations rather than any poignancy or empathy for the characters to propel the film.

4/5 – Excellent!
Despite certain flaws, the film is supremely tense throughout, managing to maintain the suspension of disbelief. While excelling in this area it leaves the viewer wishing Nolan had striven for more depth; that the script had received the same level of care as the visual design. In the end the journey is more satisfying than the destination.

interstellar_voyage-wide

Gravity, a review

A film lauded with critical appraisal, Gravity promised a lot, especially for a venture carried solely on the performance of Sandra Bullock and a universe of CGI. The film takes the concept of a catastrophe in space and cherishes it, being extremely conservative with what it deems necessary. The result is a genuinely intense and exhausting visual experience, making you content that you’ll never have to experience a spacewalk.

Alfonso Cuarón’s combination of hard science fiction and extremely long panning shots builds a unique, cold atmosphere, reflective of the silent desolation of space. The technical accuracy and lack of hasty transitions give a sense of realism and scale that extenuates the pressure, making the opening line of ‘Life in space is impossible’ seem strikingly factual. However at no point does the film feel compromised in service of the meticulous realism. Both Clooney and Bullock give sublime performances, knowing exactly how to deliver their lines in situations where overacting would seem inevitable. In a similar fashion the 3D is carefully understated, with the greatest compliment being that it didn’t stand out.

The film manages to concisely deliver almost all this information visually, taking a refreshing stand against insulting exposition in which films are compelled to explain everything. It gives the film an air of maturity and respect; mirroring the temperament that allows the astronauts to survive in the uncompromising void of space.

5/5 – Extraordinary
Lack of control and the resulting tension are the backbone of this stunning film, creating a beautiful disaster in contrast to the space ballet of 2001: Space Odyssey. Where the moon landing made a generation reach for the starts, Gravity will make you thankful to be safely on terra firma.

GRAVITY

2001: A Space Odyssey, a review

A veritable classic, this film is hailed as quintessential science fiction. For better or worse, it is impossible to view this film without being influenced by the zeitgeist that surrounds it.

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In simple terms this film is tale of human evolution and intelligence, mysteriously unified by the presence of the black monoliths. The plot is not explicitly disclosed, Kubrick instead prefers to imply it using a masterful combination of music and visuals. This series of beautifully crafted scenes leaves the viewer with the notion that they are witness to something great; a product of sublime filmmaking. This is in stark contrast to films that while initially enjoyable, are ultimately forgettable. This film is engrossing in a completely different way, asking more from the viewer than mere attention. The characters say very little, but convey a lot, with even machines managing to evoke empathy. Kubrick is able to use this minimalistic approach combined with a striking orchestral score to touch on the origins of humanity. Deciphering the allegorical meanings of the film seems purposely bewildering, which for the majority of the film is intellectually stimulating, but in the long final act seems obtuse.

4/5 – Excellent!
Kubrick’s enigma is truly justified when celebrated as a classic, showing the advantages the medium of film can provide, highlighting how if the director has enough vision then truly remarkable things can be achieved.  I can only feel that the film would have benefited from a more intelligible and coherent conclusion.