Still mourning the loss of their son, the Peterson’s get an unexpected visit from recently discharged David Collins (Dan Stevens). Having told the family that he was a close friend of their son, they offer him a room to stay in until he finds his feet. Determined to keep his promise to their son, he takes it upon himself to make sure everyone in the family is living a happy life. Despite his good manners and charm, something doesn’t seem to add up.
The Guest is a characterization of everything I want in a film. It may not offer anything groundbreaking or deep in its storytelling, but what it does offer is an incredibly fun ride. It’s neither just a thriller, horror or comedy, but a combination of all these genres. Taking familiar tropes and mashing them up to make a film that keeps you guessing. At times it’s campy and in others purely badass, but never over the top. It finds the perfect balance between a comical and ominous tone, which keeps it fun but suspenseful at the same time. Dan Stevens known for his role on Downton Abbey, totally gets his character. He doesn’t just play him as a soft spoken badass, but gives the character a comic element. There’s something about him throughout the film that makes you smile even when he’s threatening another character. For a period where blockbuster films are starting to blend into each other and originality is becoming scarce, it’s nice to veer into the indie side and actually be surprised by a film.
Every element of The Guest blends together perfectly to succeed in its vision thanks to director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett who have brought us numerous films in the past. Most notably Your Next, which has become a cult classic of sorts. It’s shot and edited stylishly keeping the action exciting and tense, even getting a sneaky spaghetti western sudden zoom shot in there during a bar fight. A lot of the scenes feel like homages to old school films, just from the electro-pop music alone. It’s easy to tell that inspiration has come from Wingard’s and Barrett’s personal 80’s favorites.
The soundtrack may be one of the best of this year. It’s not only infectious but aids each scene immensely, setting the tone and atmosphere of each moment. When David Collins gets out of the shower and Anna Peterson (Maika Monroe) is standing there totally swooned, you can almost feel her start to sweat. There’s something about the music that feels unconventional in such a barren environment, but it works so well.
The Guest is fully engrossing from start to finish, blending genres and gore to give a film that’s heaps of fun. It’s self aware and by no means takes itself seriously, with a protagonist that would give Ryan Gosling’s Driver a run for their money.
Christopher Nolan brings us not only his 9th directorial triumph but the most ambitious film of 2014. Starring the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and a black hole or two; this film was always going to be one of the most anticipated films of the year. Interstellar, not only directed by Nolan but also co written with his brother, tells a story set in the distant future where earth is failing to provide humanity with enough food to survive. In anticipation of Earths demise, NASA prepares a mission which could not only save humanity but take them to places they have never been before.
All year round Interstellar has burdened us with its teaser trailers, teaser’s for the teaser trailers and just your average trailer keeping with Nolan’s trademark ambiguity. Well I guess it worked as they’re sitting on a healthy 330 million worldwide box office two weeks into their release. Further proving the pull power of the Nolan, McConaughey, Sci-fi combination. Although they were probably hoping for a bigger opening weekend, only to be foiled by Big Hero 6.
There have been big questions surrounding this film since its release, such as whether or not the hype took away from the films experience and without Nolan would Interstellar be getting a lot more criticism than it has been. In my opinion either way this film achieved what it was meant to do, which was give the audience an experience that would leave them pondering and debating. It’s been two weeks now and there are still discussions about the films theories, the science and the story. I can’t remember the last time I watched a film and was still thinking about it this far past my viewing. Except for Blonde and Blonder, I mean to this day I can’t think of a film that I’ve hated as much as that, despite it’s gorgeous leads. Interstellar on the other hand is memorable for the right reasons. Yes there are problems with the screenplay relating to character logic and plot holes involving who “they”are and probably some of the science, but in all honesty they weren’t as prominent until I sat down and fully digested the film. Upon viewing I was in awe of the visuals, the acting, the father-daughter relationship and even the science. Interstellar absorbs you into the film, making you think and emotionally invest into McConaughey’s character and his motivations. You can criticize the film as much as you like but there is no doubting that this is a must see film of 2014, not necessarily because it’s a great film but because it’s an ambitious film.
Interstellar is beautifully crafted which is a given for Nolan films nowadays as he reimagines space as a grand piece of spectacle while keeping its beauty and mystery intact. While we don’t get an intense sense of zero gravity and false orientation as Gravity of last year, we are still able to indulge in it’s bleak vastness and vacuum environment. The creation of the black hole alone is masterful which turns out to be scientifically accurate and may have even prompted a new discovery. There is no debate over how great this film looks, everything from the worm hole to the corn fields. Space isn’t the only bleak environment as earth is depicted as just as hopeless and on the brink of destruction. We have had some awesome illustrations of space lately and after ‘Gravity’, hopefully this becomes the standard for space films.
Going into this film I really didn’t know what to expect. The trailers advertised a lot of corn fields, a teary McConaughey and a few shots of the unknown, but I still made my way to the theater. Which only further proves that you can still make a badass trailer without giving away too much and still entice an audience. Granted I would never miss a Nolan film especially a Nolan film set in space. That being said, did the ambiguity help the film? for me it made it even more of an experience, which is exactly what watching a film should be. I’ve seen enough films after viewing a trailer and thinking “wow, it really didn’t hold back on giving away those plot points”, and ultimately your sitting waiting for those moments. So finding out that Interstellar is a lot more sentimental than I would have anticipated made for quite an emotional and unexpected experience.
Amongst the scientific mumbo jumbo at the heart of the film is a story about love and how love itself is a force to be reckoned with. It may seem a bit icky on paper and overly familiar but I totally bought into it because we’ve not seen love explored at this scale and optimism before. We’re told that love is “quantifiable” and how it might even “transcend space and time” during a love drunk speech by Anne Hathaway, a speech that initially felt off but with reflection made sense. But what really sells it are the performances by Matthew McConaughey and child star Mackenzie Foy. Their bond and their love are ultimately the stars of this film and without it, the film would have undoubtedly fell flat.
Initially this film starts off very negative, openly blaming humans for earths demise and current situation where farmers are more valuable than engineers. Only preventing the very nature of humans, which is to explore. What I liked is the progression from pessimism to optimism. McConaughey’s character has an epiphany of sorts, realizing no matter what happens humans will find a way, as we are also survivors by nature. Once the film goes in this direction, I couldn’t help but feel inspired and positive about the world we live in now.
Another element I enjoyed was the representation of time, and how time is different in certain parts of the universe. We learn that gravity has a lot to do with that. Knowing McConaughey is under some time pressure to see his children makes the film even more suspenseful and grueling. We understand that he has waited his whole life for this moment, to explore and discover new worlds, but ultimately he’s doing it to save his children. It kills him inside knowing that he’s going to lose time with them but the prospect of seeing them live in an even bleaker future is even worse. It’s a hard hitting reality about the preciousness of time and how much we depend on it.
Now in terms of the dialogue, it was very hit and miss. I understand that there are some complicated concepts and theories needing to be explained using scientific terminology and such. At times it was quite interesting and even enlightening but for the most part it just went over my head. Thanks to the fast pacing and heightened dramatic tension, it was easy to stay engaged in the dialogue, even though there were parts that I wish I could have rewinded and watched again. That being said if they would have toned down the science talk it might have made it a lot easier to fully connect with the film. Another problem was the expository nature of the dialogue. At times it was subtle and I didn’t mind that, but there were a few moments that stuck with me because it took me right out of the film. It’s never a good thing when one character is starting a conversation with “remember that time… blah blah”, unless its purely nostalgic. Nevertheless I can look past that for everything else this film is, which is pretty darn beautiful.
Interstellar may not be a perfect film, but for me, it’s not too hard to look past its flaws and see something pretty special. It has the spectacle, the aesthetics, the performances and the score to make this a fully captivating film. And if you aren’t happy with that, there’s even a talking robot that tells sarcastic jokes! We need more films like this.
Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Workweek and Lifestyle Design Blog. Tim is an author of 5 #1 NYT/WSJ bestsellers, investor (FB, Uber, Twitter, 50+ more), and host of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast (400M+ downloads)