It’s my last post as a non-married man! Which also means I’ll be off enjoying some sun and the beaches of California, so I’ll be taking a break from movies for a bit, but I couldn’t think of a better film to leave off with than Inception.
When it comes to film, there are films which succeed at being acknowledged works of art (2001 a Space Odyssey), and films which succeed at being entertaining (Bubble Boy – That movie cracks me up.). Occasionally you find films which succeed in both regards. Inception is one of these films.
Christopher Nolan (director of Memento, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige) comes off of the worldwide success of The Dark Knight, not with another Batman film, but by returning to his roots with the keep-em-guessing twist and turns thriller where the audience literally has trouble keeping track of what’s up and what’s down, but has a heck of a time enjoying the ride.
The film follows Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a mercenary thief, who can is hired to acquire something extremely valuable for his clients – secrets. He does so by entering a shared dream state with the target, and then proceeds to utilize the context of dreams to pursue his objective, and literally steal the information from their own mind.
On his latest job, he runs into some trouble with a particularly resourceful target, Saito (Ken Watanabe), who entraps Cobb into doing a job for him with the promise of a new life. Saito enlists Cobb to do something many believe to be impossible – plant an idea within the dream of a target in order to affect their conscious decisions, a.k.a. Inception.
Cobb recruits a team of dream specialists – Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) his right-hand man, Eames (Tom Hardy) the Forger, Yusuf (Dileep Rao) a specialist in sleeping drugs, and Ariadne (Ellen Page) the builder. Each specialist has a particular role within the inception plot, and to give any more information in how it plays out would be to ruin the very mind-bending twists and turns of Nolan’s cleverly executed film.
As with so many of Nolan’s works, Inception relies heavily on exposition, much of which is carried out through the introduction of Ellen Page’s character to the team. She’s a fresh-faced college kid looking for all the answers, and her questions provide much-needed answers for the audience as they get on board with the premise. However once the audience becomes familiar with the concepts, Nolan hits the gas and it’s an action-packed ride to the finish.
Was Inception without its weaknesses? No. The ending, for one, draws a strong line and lands firmly on the side of artistic, leaving many theater-goers with a twinge of dissatisfaction. You can see where the director was going, but you kind of wish he’d just played to the masses and gone with a more satisfying conclusion. Don’t want to say any more about it, when you see it, you’ll understand.
I’m a fan of soundtracks, and Hans Zimmer has done his fair share of scores I enjoy. He and Nolan have had a good partnership going for a while now, so his involvement on Inception should come as no surprise. The music is extremely similar to that of Dark Knight, and the deep blaring horns start to get a bit excessive after a while. There’s a brilliant parody of this on YouTube combining Dora the Explorer and Inception, and the blaring horns get called out. Pretty priceless.
The visuals are amazing in this film. Nolan clearly had a vision that exceeded what’s been done before. The film had a Matrix-esque quality to its originality of visual effects. But at the same time, many of the visuals are presented in Ariadne’s first venture into the dream world, where she begins to play with being able to manipulate the dreamscape. After that, the concept of being able to manipulate the dreams to extreme effect seems to get lost. It’s like the fact that anything and everything can happen in dreams is swept to the side in order to provide a more efficient plot device. I wanted Nolan to do more to push the envelope. He shakes things up, and connects some interesting ideas, but he could have gone farther.
The performances were excellent. Nolan rounded out his cast with several familiar faces to his films – Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow – Batman Begins) plays Robert Fischer and Michael Caine (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige) plays DiCaprio’s father. I’m always a fan of Ken Watanbe’s work, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really finding himself a good breadth to his work. Plenty of rumors are flying as to his potential as the Riddler in Nolan’s next Batman film. One has to mention Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) and really, Ellen Page finds yet another chance to flex her acting muscles in another genre.
This film was witty, it was intriguing, it kept me guessing and kept me interested throughout. It was 2.5 hours long and I barely noticed, which is always a good sign. It finds a nice balance between the artsy and entertaining, giving itself some substance without getting too tied up in the pursuit of cinematic art. Most of all, this film is original. Something we see far too little of these days. Nolan may find inspiration from older classic films, but the execution on top of this core is purely Nolan.
I’d recommend seeing this one on the big screen, although the IMAX wasn’t anything to stand up and shout about. So maybe save the few bucks and see it on a regular screen.
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