Short reviews of Interstellar, A Most Wanted Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Fault in Our Stars
By Sascha Krieger
Interstellar (Director: Christopher Nolan)
Christopher Nolan is a master of time, imagination, interlacing realities and the unravelling of certainties of time and space and what is real. Interstellar takes his art of dream weaving to space. It tells the story of a former astronaut caught on a drying planet resigned to accepting its fate of dying a slow death. Of course, he will embark on a quay to save earth taking him to the edges of the universe and beyond. If this sounds like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, then because it is meant to. As always, Nolan’s story-telling is impeccable, his visualization of a great duster-ridden earth and an empty, not very welcoming space even more so. He asks the big, existential questions and has a fine cast lead by Matthew McConnaughey for this. The problem of the film is two-fold: one, the homage to Kubrick occasionally crosses the border to pure copying, particularly in the film’s finale. Secondly, unlike in earlier films, Nolan not only asks big question but tries to answer them as well. This takes the viewer’s imagination largely out of the equation and turn the unknowable and unsettling into bland certainty. As understandable as Nolan’s admiration of Kubrick is, as much dos it provide a stumbling block for his film. Having said that, Interstellar is for much of its duration a mesmerizing story to the edges of human comprehension, interweaving the real and the imagined, waking and dream. The point is: it could have been even better.
A Most Wanted Man (Director: Anton Corbijn)
A Most Wanted Man will likely be remembered for being Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last film. That’s alright but the story of a German intelligence officer trying to combat terrorism but being entangled in a web of confusing and shifting loyalties does deserve to be appreciated for its own sake. Based on a John Le Carré novel, the film is laconically and quietly narrated, featuring long immobile sequences, accentuated by plain close-ups, all of it drenched in pale, greyish colors that seem to suck of life from a story that tells of people becoming more and more like robots. Seymour Hoffman is the perfect fit for Gunther’s stubborn, hard-edged and robust personal, keeping his secrets while reveling them at the same time.A Most Wanted Man is a quietly and unpretentiously narrated film about guilt, betrayal and getting by. And while it reminds us of the power of one of the greatest actors of the last few decades, it also reveals a lot about Anton Corbijn’s very much matured skill of story-telling.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Director: James Gunn)
A small-time criminal, a moving tree, a raccoon, a green-skinned martial arts expert and a muscle man. The most likeliest bunch to save the universe? Obviously not. But do they have style? You bet. Guardians of the Universe is somewhat of a miracle: an action-packed and highly entertaining Hollywood blockbuster, a fast-paced and hilarious comedy, a sharp-tonged persiflage and a visually stunning feast for the eyes. Mind, this is all one film. If one wants to see Guardians of the Galaxy as a funny good versus evil science fiction tale, one may. At the same time, it both caricatures and pays homage to the genre while creating visual effects and a dark-tinged yet colorful imagery that is entirely original. Its protagonists are ridiculous and heroic, everyday as well as fairy-tale. Guardians of the Galaxy is popcorn cinema, a cineast’s wet ream and food for the brain. And the best: you only have to pay for one film to get all of it. Now isn’t that a bargain?
The Fault in Our Stars (Director: Josh Boone)
John Green’s novel about two teenagers suffering from cancer is one of the best-selling adolescent books in recent years, having gathered a large and highly demanding fan base. Living up to expectations wasn’t easy for a film adaptation but Josh Boone accomplishes this feat. Much of this is due to his stellar cast, particularly Shailene Woodley as the resigned, bitter and self-pitying Hazel Grace and the ridiculously optimistic Gus. Unlikely matches, their characters fall in love and they manage to make all of the plot twists, the unlikely relationship, every single cliché more than bearable – they render them credible. Boone’s direction is relaxed, giving the actors much room to unfold their stories, bathing them in soft light and framing them in calm images that never overdo the use of close-ups. The film has, despite its dramatic content and far from happy ending a light-hearted and life-affirming feel that mixes tears with laughter and smiles – the characters’s as much as the audience’s. No small feat indeed and one of the most moving as well as heart-warming films of 2014.