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Director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) sets his mind-bending sights on space in the new epic Interstellar. While some moments are out of this world, in all the film is not quite stellar.

To put it simply, Earth is experiencing drought and famine; the planet is dying. A team of scientists has been trying to find a planet that is viable for human colonization, and they may have found some in another galaxy. Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, is brought in to pilot a ship that will visit some of the more likely planets. To do this, he must leave his children behind, knowing that a lot of time may pass before he sees them again, if he ever returns.

Visually, this film is a wonder. The other planets are fascinating, the space travel is intense. Even the dust bowl that is Earth is something to behold. A constellation of human stars are on hand as well. In addition to the excellent McConaughey, the cast includes Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, and Casey Affleck. Cooper’s closest teammate on the crew is played by Anne Hathaway, who for some reason just doesn’t seem to fit this role.

The denigration of our planet is a strong theme, as is the effect that disaster has on human hope and imagination. Cooper says, “We used to look up in the sky and wonder about our place in the stars; now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”

Cooper also struggles with the tension of being an explorer in an exhilarating frontier and a father who wants to return to his family. Everyone faces the choice, in some way, between what benefits the individual and what represents the common good.
Hans Zimmer has created very dramatic, affecting music, using more organ than you’ll find in most modern movies. On the flip side, there are more moments of well-used silence than in most modern movies.

Unfortunately this imaginative movie is bogged down by too much pseudo-scientific talk and a 169-minute run time that makes viewers feel that they themselves may have aged a few years while the team was in space. While Interstellar raises more big questions and has more emotional warmth than last year’s Gravity, I found myself wishing for the economy of story and time to which Gravity adhered. That said, moviegoers in my packed theater kept a respectful silence through a number of quiet scenes, indicating that the film had captured their attention. I’d recommend the IMAX experience for this one if possible (and if you don’t get seasick) because of the overwhelming visuals.

Interstellar is an admirable offering from a creative and visionary director. It just didn’t quite send me over the moon. (Paramount)

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