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View through the wormhole

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Interstellar (12a)
Running time 148 minutes
One of the great traditions of sci-fi ‘end-of-the-world’ films is that Humanity somehow manages to find a way out of a situation caused by its own ignorance and arrogance, usually involving fleeing to another world to start the same sorry process all over again.
Interstellar, a vast, rambling adventure spanning galaxies and centuries, is partially of this ilk, in that there isn’t a hint of regret at sponging it all up, and the new world mankind ends up in what appears to be a giant toilet tube in space, with layers of Earth-like reality wrapped in it.
I don’t know about you, but the idea of a Stepford Wives-type life in a giant toilet tube doesn’t appeal straight away, even if it has got Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain in it.
Still, it’s a fine adventure with some well-explained science in it (folding up a bit of paper and poking holes in with a pencil is my favourite); awesome special effects (want to see a thousand foot-high tsunami?); and good actors – Matthew McConaughey, Sir Michael Caine and Matt Damon also star.
So what’s the tale? Man has ruined Earth, exhausted its resources and screwed up the climate until there is the threat of worldwide starvation within a generation.
Ex-NASA pilot Cooper (McConaughey) now farms, despite blight and dust storms, but his sharp-as-a-blade daughter Murph is convinced a ghost is communicating with her.
Clever Dad interprets the message and it leads them to a secret NASA facility where Prof Brand (Caine) is planning a space shot to another galaxy using a ‘wormhole’.
McConaughey, plus the prof’s daughter Amelia (Hathaway), start looking for possible new homes, following the trail of earlier explorers who went ahead years before.
They encounter giant waterworlds and ice planets, but it looks hopeless, especially when they realise one of the earlier explorers, Prof Mann (Damon), has gone mad and has been sending back false messages.
In a good 2001-like fantasy, there then follows a long sequence of altered reality which you can try and work out if you like, but I suggest you have a word with the two writers first. They being brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, a team well known for altered perceptions and difficult philosophical concepts (Memento, Inception).
Apart from the special effects, there are fine performances from McConaughy and Hathaway, with atmospheric music by Hans Zimmer and a story sufficiently good to keep you rooted to the seat for 148 minutes.
I know it must seem like just a moment in time for the filmmakers, but this idea came about nearly 20 years ago when the producer Lynda Obst meet theoretical physicist Kip Thomas on the set of the 1997 sci-fi film Contact and they fell into conversation about this and that.
After some interest from Spielberg (he eventually drifted off into another orbit), Warner Bros and Paramount – normally rivals – teamed up and split the $165m cost, hoping for galactic-sized returns.
On the basis of opening weeks in the US and critic reviews, they should get their money back with interest.

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