Doug Whelan has the lowdown on this week's big releases...
Over the past decade-plus, director Christopher Nolan has progressed from indie darling to blockbuster saviour to the single most anticipated and venerated filmmaker in Hollywood. His latest effort, a science fiction epic about explorers' journey to the other side of the universe in a resigned effort to save humanity from ecological apocalypse, retains his knack for blending high-concept plot with down-to-earth realism and logic. The result is a flawed but highly engaging experience that is as frustrating as it is astonishing.
Sometime in the middle-distant future, humanity has all but given up. The world has fallen foul to some type of global farming catastrophe, and is running out of food. Farmer, father and full-time dreamer Cooper (McConaughey) discovers (through curiosity or destiny?) a secret plan to find a new home for humanity on the other side of the universe. He is quickly enlisted on the mission and blasts off to literally save the world, leaving his family behind.
Interstellar is easily Christopher Nolan's most visually impressive film to date, with his interpretation of space travel taking cues from 2001 and Star Wars equally. Artificial gravity, artificial intelligence and the manipulative abilities of space and time itself are presented in as matter-of-fact a way as possible. The contributions of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne are responsible for this approach, with Thorne credited as executive producer here. Nolan also deftly avoids certain sci-fi clichés in order to retain that sense of realism. For example, there, thankfully, is no wacky space-training montage. There is no time to waste, for the characters or for the audience, despite Interstellar clocking in at a shade under three hours.
Where the first hour is concerned with drama and relationships (time well spent), the subsequent acts are pure adventure and exploration. For every emotional beat exploring themes of isolation and loneliness, sacrifice and redemption, there are exquisitely staged action set pieces.
But for all the ambition and giddy perfection on show in Interstellar, the film still features the flaws we have come to expect from Nolan films. For one thing, there is its length. There is no real need for this film to be almost three hours long other than the 21st-century belief (post Lord of the Rings, perhaps) that length = worth. Also, the clunky exposition during some of the scenes aboard the spacecraft may leave one cringing.
Despite these issues, a riveting central performance from Matthew McConaughey combined with stunning visuals, a compelling story and Nolan's unique ambition come together for a satisfying and, at times, moving journey to the end of the universe and back.
Out of Here (4*)
Fionn Walton, Aoife Duffin
This neat little film from director Donal Foreman captures modern Dublin with naturalistic, engaging performances from an unknown cast and a captivating visual style.
Returning from a long trip away in Asia, college dropout Ciaran (Walton) finds himself somewhat disassociated from his friends and family, haunted by a sense of being left behind while those around him got on with life. Over the course of a week, he links up with friends and tries to get back to normal, but finds it's harder than it looks.
That's about it in terms of plot, but Foreman has a good eye and coaxes some beautiful shots out of a Dublin that is far too familiar to the main character - the same pubs, parties and late-night encounters he left behind are present, but a strange detachment hangs over everything.
There's a mild sense of "first world problems" in Out of Here that may lead some viewers to scoff, but that doesn't change the fact that it's an engaging and realistic portrait of youth in Ireland in 2014.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Gyllenhaal turns in a career-best performance here as a sociopathic loner who finds his calling in the murky world of freelance crime scene camera work. The American dream in negative exposure.
Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson
Mike Leigh's biopic of the later years of iconic English artist JMW Turner is a colourful, moving and hilarious period piece featuring a brave and torturous performance by Spall.
The Skeleton Twins
Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader
SNL alumni Wiig and Hader team up for this comedy drama about a set of estranged twins who reconnect after realising they both attempted suicide on the same day.
One Million Dubliners
A beautifully shot and engaging documentary about the past, present and future of Dublin's iconic Glasnevin Cemetery. Bring tissues.
Science-Fiction. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, Mackenzie Foy. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Cert 12A
When you think about it, the term 'science fiction' is hard to actually put a definition on. Countless books and films exist on the subject though, and author Damon Knight's comment sums it up nicely. "Science fiction is what we point to when we say it," he wrote in 1967.
Nightcrawler (Cert 16). As dark and disorienting professional profiles go, Nightcrawler stands apart slightly from Scorsese's Bringing Out The Dead or Mark Romanek's One Hour Photo in that its protagonist is already certifiably creepy from the get-go.