July 22, 2010

Movie Review: Inception

inception1_largeAs I left the theater I knew I had seen something special. Inception is nothing short of an incredible experience, a film that engages the audience on an intellectual and a visceral level. Christopher Nolan has truly knocked this one out of the park. Inception is an example of what I wish we would get more of, a big budget film that comes from an original idea that is not a remake or a sequel. However, it did lead to a problem, I had and still have no idea where to begin when it comes to discussing the film. It actually took a little while for me to regain my speech. Seriously, I walked the long hallway of the theater with thoughts flying through my head but nothing making any actual connection.

Now that I have seen the film twice and read some thoughts that others have posted I sit here in front of my computer trying to find a place to begin. Inception, in many ways, defies description.  could tell you how it begins and how it ends and you would be nowhere closer to understanding how one relates to the other. I could give you a rundown of what happens in the middle, but even then you would likely not be sure how you got from point A to point B. Still, the film, for all of its layers and convoluted relations between dream and reality it is surprisingly straightforward.


Before going further, I feel I am running a big risk writing about the film. You see, the film has been heaped with a lot of praise and anything I have to say, I fear, would just disappear into the echo chamber. Alternately, I fear being seen as an also ran. I have read some very eloquent comments on the film, they have expressed thoughts and theories in a much more thoughtful manner than I could ever aspire to. Still, I feel a desire to soldier on, I can only be me and share my thoughts on this amazing film.

Not long after I got out of the movie, as I was able to collect my thoughts,  I sent out the following over Twitter and Facebook: Inception is a heist film where the heist is not the point but a means to an end, a much needed emotional catharsis for our central protagonist.

I think that is a pretty good summation of the film. Christopher Nolan has made a movie that is involving first on an intellectual level as the rules of the world are set out and we begin drilling deeper and deeper into the story and then on an emotional level as that portion of the story makes itself known.


As Inception opens we are introduced to Dom Cobb (Leonard Dicaprio), he is a master extractor or a man who can enter someone's mind and "steal" that person's secrets. With him is his point man, or the guy who makes sure that the process goes smoothly, and his name is Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). There is also the architect, the person who creates the landscape of the dream.

Now, I could go on with this description, but it would just sound so dry and unappealing that I would be doing more harm than good. The movie does have a lot of rules that are set up during the first third of the film, don't worry they are not all that hard. What is much harder than the rules is the implications of what is going on. You see, there are many different levels of the dream and within the dream characters are going through different emotional states, knowingly or not. This primarily deals with Dicaprio's Cobb who is a damaged man struggling to keep it under control. The problem is that memories have a way of haunting you, don't you know.

Inception is a very literal minded film that is more concerned with the idea, the execution, and our central protagonist than with making the dreamworld all that surreal. It is an interesting angle of attack considering the technology that is at our disposal these days. Still, it strikes me as the right way to go. After all, I am sure that Christopher Nolan was more interested in keeping the focus on Cobb and the forward momentum of the story and less about making a surreal visual experience that would risk losing audience to the altered reality. This is not to say the world is boring by any stretch, Nolan does do a god job of bringing his visual sensibilities to the screen, just don't expect anything Lynchian.


The performances are all quite good. Dicaprio does a wonderful job of anchoring the film and allowing his mental issues to slowly become more pronounced as the film moves forward. In many ways Cobb is a lot like Teddy Daniels, his Shutter Island character. He has a certain charisma and way of becoming a character that draws you right in. This is no different.

While Cobb may be the only character that gets any genuine depth, he is surrounded by many interesting characters. Joseph Gordon-Levitt exudes a certain "cool" factor as he keeps the plan moving forward and has one of the best scenes in the film (you'll know it when you see it). Ken Watanabe has a genuine mystery with Saito, never quite sure what he is up to exactly. Tom Hardy plays a forger, someone who can play with what you see in the dream world and is something of a tough guy. Then there is Ellen Page's Ariadne, the architect. Named for the character from Greek myth who helped Theseus escape the Minotaur's maze, Ariadne is part architect and part therapist while acting as the audience's stand in. And let us not forget the haunting/frightening/beautiful Marion Cotillard as Cobb's wife Mal, she does not have a lot of screen time, but she is an integral part of the story even when she is not around.

The more you watch, the more you are drawn in. Seriously, I was hooked from the start. Nolan has made a movie that initially engages the intellect and slowly brings in the emotional element that helped build to the full cinematic experience before the final moments.

Even more than that, the film is a technical marvel. The film crafts an intricate sequence in the latter half of the film that sees our group separated and existing in different levels of the dream state. Each layer has a different version of time, the deeper you go the more elongated time becomes, minutes become hours which turn to weeks which become years. Not to mention the closer to the surface you go the more of an effect he upper level has on the one beneath it. Just watch as we cut back and forth between these different layers and keep their respective times and movements in sync with the others. It is enormously impressive.


I now feel like I am rambling and nowhere near as eloquent as my fellow writers, so I will bring this to a close. Let me just say that this is a movie that begs to be seen multiple times, it wants to be discussed, it wants different interpretations to be made about it. I am positive that Nolan knows what the reality is, yet he is smart enough to wrap it up within many details that make multiple viewpoints valid and desired.

See Inception. It is a smart film that is built upon an original idea and need not be a remake or a sequel of any kind. It is masterfully directed, brilliantly conceived, fantastically acted, well composed, and features some of the sharpest editing I have seen in some time.

There I go.... becoming part of the echo chamber. Even if you do not agree with me, it's all right, that is the beauty of the subjectivity of the cinema.

Highly Recommended.


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