A number of films are just now being released or are going to be released soon that have piqued my curiosity. Below are my quick first impressions of each of them together with some preview clips.
Interstellar: I’ve already seen this movie once and am dragging my father to go see it with me again soon for a nerdy daddy-daughter date. The latest from every geek’s favorite director, Chris Nolan, it’s my favorite movie of the year so far, and I plan to offer a full review of it at some point. It’s an exciting and moving sci-fi adventure, with an agreeably small amount of objectionable content. Although it’s grounded in a secular worldview, it’s definitely worth seeing. The cast is excellent and the special effects are gorgeous. McConaughey’s performance alone is worth the price of admission. Rated PG-13 for a little violence and a handful of swear words, including, regrettably, one f-bomb.
The Imitation Game: As you’ll see in the list, ’tis the season for biopics, and this one is especially interesting to me. It focuses on Alan Turing, a programmer and code-breaker who worked with a secret team to crack the Nazi code in World War II. In the process, he built one of the first computers and is now considered to be the father of computer science. Besides the fact that I geek out over all things WWII, code-breaking, mathematics, computer science and the like, and besides the fact that the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Turing (psssst, Oscars), my interest in this film is motivated by the fact that I have actually met one of the code-breakers. Peter Hilton, the youngest member of the team, went on to give lectures about their work at universities around the country, and I was fortunate to see him speak shortly before his death. My father brought me, and I’m not sure I was even 10 years old yet, but the talk was a delight, and meeting Hilton afterwards even more so. Though Turing is the focus of this film, it tickles me to see Hilton in it.
The Theory of Everything: This is a new biopic of Steven Hawking that focuses on the progression of his neurological illness and his marriage as he worked on his ground-breaking theory of the universe’s origins. Frankly, I have a bit of trouble thinking of Hawking in a sentimental way, since he’s been such a voluble opponent of Christianity in his writings. (Personally, I find this ironic, since his theory that the universe had a beginning initially made the scientific establishment nervous because it pointed too uncomfortably to a Creator who caused it. But that’s neither here nor there.) In any case, this is in fact a very sentimental film, and it may be that it touches on some human truths in the process. I’ve read that the young relationship with his wife is very sweetly portrayed, although it hints at their unfortunate mutual permission to find romance elsewhere as his illness became wholly debilitating. Eddie Redmayne is a very good up-and-coming young actor, who’s already generating Oscar buzz with this performance. Minimal objectionable content, rated PG-13 mainly for the disturbing thematic element of Hawking’s illness.
Citizen Four: A documentary on Edward Snowden, the man who leaked the truth about the NSA and had to flee the country for it. It contains actual footage of interviews with Snowden. Looks gripping and intense. (Rated R for language.)
Unbroken: Probably the most hotly anticipated film of the year, this is Angelina Jolie’s adaptation of the best-selling true story about Olympic athlete and war hero Louis Zamperini. I was also fortunate enough to see Louis speak before he passed away, although I regrettably didn’t get a chance to meet him. Most of you probably know the story already, but it’s an unbelievably harrowing roller-coaster ride. He survived getting shot down over the Pacific, only to spend months in a brutal Japanese prison camp. While I’m cautiously optimistic about the film, I have some concerns. First of all, the acting and the script seem kind of cheesy just from the trailer (although I’ve heard that the violence is quite gritty and brutal). Secondly, I haven’t seen any talk of whether it even addresses the best part of Zamperini’s story—his conversion to Christianity at a Billy Graham crusade, which brought him out of a downward spiral of depression and addiction caused by his wartime trauma. In our politically correct milieu, will this inspirational story end just at the point where it becomes truly inspirational? You be the judge.