Shoot for the Moon, as the saying goes. Miss and you’ll still land among stars. The logic, presumably, is that stars are a fine consolation prize. That’s the deal with Chris Nolan’s latest and most audacious project yet: Interstellar is almost a masterpiece.

We begin in the near future. The planet is dying and food grows scarce. A troupe of astronauts looks to other solar systems for solutions. Leading them is Matthew McConnaughey, who must abandon his family in the hope of potentially saving mankind.

Gotham City, dreams within dreams, and now space: there’s no denying that Nolan takes you places. But Interstellar isn’t really about space. It is hugely concerned with the human condition. Fear, love, and hope take the spotlight as much as space shuttles and black holes.

Nothing less should be expected from the man hailed as the saviour of the blockbuster. But it proves just too much to handle. The various ingredients don’t quite emerge perfectly done, even with a generous baking time of 169 minutes.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a slow build. The first hour or so admirably ensures you give a damn. There’s familial sweetness among the less-than-idyllic conditions. It’s a sombre situation with a tinge of hope – with none of the slow motion and epic backslapping of Armageddon.

When we get to the final frontier, Interstellar hits its stride. This is Nolan at his best, offering mesmerising beauty and mind-bending physics, much of which is backed up by Real Science. Ever wanted to see a black hole? This is about as close as you’ll get. It looks gorgeous at a crisp 1080p.

More after the break

For Kubrick fans, the shadow of 2001: A Space Odyssey is hard to miss. Interstellar navigates its cosmic playground with a good deal of panache. Claustrophobic interior scenes are juxtaposed with sweeping vistas of massive planets. There are even a couple of mildly creepy robots.

And yet Nolan avoids being eclipsed, as he chooses a separate path. It’s an entirely different vibe, with a lot more turbulence. Take the soundtrack, for instance: the majestic Johann Strauss is displaced by an enigmatic Hans Zimmer. Sadly, sound effects are often ramped up enough to overpower dialogue.

Crucially, while Kubrick went headlong into the void, Nolan keeps an eye on Earth – with mixed results. After two hours of restraint, the final act veers into the realm of ridiculous convenience.

Scientific concepts are thrown about, and optimism rockets. Anne Hathaway borders on cringing while she delivers a monologue about the importance of love. And so the bold, mature journey ends on a contrived, tedious note – and about 40 minutes too late.

Should you watch this? Oh yes, very much so. Despite some gaping flaws, this is still a journey well worth taking. Its scale and ambition are deeply impressive, it is impossible to fault the production values, and the spectacle on offer is like nothing we've seen this year.

Interstellar may be hard to love, but it is easy to admire.

Buy Interstellar on Blu-ray at Amazon

Bonus features

  • The Science of Interstellar
  • Plotting an Interstellar Journey
  • Life on Cooper’s Farm
  • The Dust
  • TARS and CASE
  • Cosmic Sounds
  • The Space Suits
  • The Endurance
  • Shooting in Iceland: Miller’s Planet/Mann’s
  • Planet The Endurance
  • The Ranger and the Lander
  • Miniatures in Space
  • The Simulation of Zero-G
  • Celestial Landmarks Across All Dimensions and Time
  • Final Thoughts
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Celestial Landmarks

Duration: 169m

Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Picture: 2.40:1, 1080p