McConaughey propels thought-provoking ‘Interstellar’ voyage

Interstellar2

This latest Christopher Nolan film challenges audiences to keep up with the director’s cerebral vision and fast-paced storytelling. “Interstellar” moves at a speed and distance that doesn’t afford us, the moviegoers, the time to get complete answers along this fascinating journey. With such vast space to cover in the film, Nolan must play loose with the math and science equations, staying focused instead on the many threats facing the talented cast. After all, the stakes are high; Earth is becoming uninhabitable and another planet must be found…right now. Like a rock skipped across the smooth waters of a lake, Nolan couldn’t slow down to fully explain the mathematics of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, or how space travel was possible from a Midwestern farm to deep inside a wormhole. That deceleration would’ve halted the 3-time Oscar nominated director’s story and sank this movie. Cleverly, Nolan decided to toss one life and death challenge after another at the cast and audience, keeping both groups entertained while the rock (the main story) skips along at a high velocity.

Despite being just shy of three hours long, “Interstellar” delivers full-throttle action at a nearly non-stop clip. Every scene has new challenges or dangers lurking, often instigated by windy dust-ups or callous behavior by man. Between buzz-kill talk of spatial and temporal coordinates along time dimensions and falling back to Morse Code for answers from above, the movie’s real strength is its sense of isolation and loneliness that comes across the big-screen in a jarring, powerful way. “Interstellar” strives to connect universes and planets for humanity’s survival, but it’s the film’s portrayal of people being separated from family and others that makes it enlightening and suspenseful.

Selling the notion of loneliness in outer space to grounded theater ticket buyers requires exceptional acting, which this movie has in spades. Every member of the award-winning cast delivers, including youngster Mackenzie Foy (“The Conjuring” 2013) as Matthew McConaughey’s inquisitive daughter, Murphy.  Academy Award winners Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables” 2012) and Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules” 1999) join a perfectly cast Jessica Chastain (Oscar-nominated in “Zero Dark Thirty” in 2012), who plays an older Murphy. Notwithstanding those performances, “Interstellar” is about Matthew McConaughey and him alone.

Interstellar

The first film I began to take notice of Matthew McConaughey’s dramatic acting chops was in 2011’s “The Lincoln Lawyer“. Before that, his talent was measured mostly by his looks or laughs in such comedies as “The Wedding Planner” (2001) or “How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days” (2003). At the time of my review for “The Lincoln Lawyer“, one reader sarcastically asked me if McConaughey went shirtless in the movie? Oh, how times and McConaughey’s devotion to his acting craft have changed for the better. The truly great actors mature and get better with age, taking on the more vulnerable and risky roles to raise their game.

How important is Matthew McConaughey to “Interstellar” and its success? Very. As the stalwart father-engineer-astronaut figure who just goes by “Coop”, McConaughey takes a mind-boggling space travel narrative, without traces of romance or laughs, and transforms an above average movie into a very good one. Director Nolan’s nimble storytelling attempts to drop viewers the furthest distance from their starting point, omitting key connecting dots along the way. It’s actually McConaughey that keeps the viewers glued to the galactic ride, using his slow, calming delivery to sell us the story. In this thought-provoking sci-fi thriller, McConaughey leaves his shirt on, proving his dramatic acting skills and the character “Coop” have made leaps and bounds over the years.

Grade: A-

“Interstellar” is rated PG-13 with a running time of 2 hours, 49 minutes.

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