THE EARTH is in terminal decline as Interstellar (12A) opens, with the planet in the implacable grip of a food crisis that is slowly starving the world to death. Once an engineer, now a struggling farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) receive some intriguing signals left hanging in the thick dust that chokes the air, messages Murph believes have been sent by a ghost. Cooper, applying a more scientific approach, tracks the messages to a disused ex-military facility, where he discovers ‘the Lazarus Mission’ — a desperate plan to send manned exploratory probes out into space to discover habitable planets before the human race dies out.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar is that rarest of beasts, the thoughtful blockbuster. Superbly choreographed action sequences alternate with philosophical digressions about the meaning of life, as Cooper and his crew, headed up by Amelia (Anne Hathaway), plunge through a wormhole and discover a number of alien, hostile environments; meanwhile, back on Earth, the grown-up Murph (Jessica Chastain) refuses to forgive her father for abandoning her, even if it means the possibility of a life-line for humanity. Unusually for a blockbuster, and despite Cooper’s epic trek, this is an emotionally intimate story, one that suggests that, of all humanity’s unique skills and characteristics, the most powerful tool we possess is the capacity for love.
It’s overly long at 169 minutes, and the science grows increasingly wobbly the longer it goes on, but the performances are terrific (Michael Caine, Wes Bentley and Casey Affleck also co-star), the story is always absorbing, and the visuals are at times spectacular (the sound design, incorporating Hans Zimmer’s beautiful score, is also excellent). All told, Interstellar is the most enjoyable blockbuster of 2014.
Recently returned to Dublin after travelling the world asbegins, art college drop-out Ciaran (Fionn Walton) has trouble fitting back in to a place he knows only too well. The tone is set early on, when Ciaran gets a bus from the airport to the city centre; as he stares out through the foggy windows at a rainswept motorway, the tannoy announcement advises him to “wander around the city to get his bearings”.
Written and directed by Donal Foreman, the film is a very impressive feature-length debut that offers a fresh take on an Ireland still coming to terms with the economic crash and its struggling recovery.
As Ciaran wanders through his old haunts, cautiously engaging with his old college friends and trying to spark a relationship with Jess (Annabell Rickerby), whom he abandoned when he went travelling, the scenes are presented as the cinematic equivalent of Polaroids, as cinematographer Piers McGrail offers persuasively fleeting, impressionistic moments in which Ciaran tries to give voice to his sense of rootlessness.
Equally impressive is Foreman’s insistence on seeing the city of Dublin afresh, bypassing the usual clichéd landmarks to imagine the city anew (when Ciaran pauses to stare up at a statue, for example, it is of the largely forgotten patriot William Smith O’Brien).
Despite playing a character who seems to be physically and emotionally shrinking away from the world around him, Walton is excellent as the intelligent but inarticulate Ciaran, who only truly comes alive in the presence of strangers, among them the sparky Melissa, a terrific turn from Aoife Duffin that threatens to steal the entire movie.
stars Keira Knightley as Megan, who is experiencing a ‘quarter-life’ crisis. All of her friends are gainfully employed and/or married, and her nice-guy boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber) is pressuring her into getting married too. Megan, whose current job involves holding up a sign directing people to her father’s business, suddenly cracks: a tentative friendship struck up with Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) leads to Megan moving into the teenager’s bedroom to escape the world’s demands, much to the surprise of Annika’s divorced father, Craig (Sam Rockwell).
What follows, despite brisk, functional direction from Lynn Shelton, is as numbingly predictable as the set-up is implausible, as Knightley simpers and smiles through a cutesy little-girl-lost routine, while Rockwell barks out his harsh one-liners in a vain bid to leaven the saccharine sweetness.
Quite why we’re supposed to sympathise with the well-educated but unmotivated slacker Megan is never explained, while potentially the most interesting character in the movie, Annika, is more or less left on the sidelines as window-dressing, despite a blackly funny, world-weary performance from Moretz.