Posted by Cantankerous Panda on September 26, 2010
At last, my long-awaited review for Inception is here. Who DOESN’T want to talk about this movie? Now, I’m going to attempt to write about this in a way that allows people who have yet to see it to skip over the spoilery parts, but if you’re super-strict about such things you might just want to come back here after you’ve seen it. And yes, you should see it. I am breaking my pattern here and telling you upfront that this is a film to watch. I saw The Prestige and I did not enjoy it, but I really liked this film (and yes, I understood The Prestige far too well, which is part of the reason why I didn’t like it–but I’ll get into that when I write that film up). So, for those of you who are terribly behind on your cinema exposure, go see Inception and then get back to me.
Now, I guess I should start off with a general look into why this film is being pimped left and right. There are a few reasons for this. One is that there are going to be huge Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige) fanatics who will praise practically everything he’s done. But the others actually have considerable merit. The plot is an interesting sci-fi concept that is explained enough for the audience to mostly follow along while still maintaining an air of mystery (and a bit of confusion). That’s something that I think can be a crucial part of certain sci-fi plots–we need the basic ‘science’ behind it, but confusing the audience just enough to gloss over some of the less perfect parts can be pretty key (not to say that was Nolan’s intention, but it certainly helped). The other major player in this “YOU MUST SEE THIS FILM” game is Nolan’s visual style and use of effects. It’s a film that really does beckon the viewer’s jaw into a slackened position as certain scenes unfold. It’s both exciting and beautiful at various points. And the wirework is so much fun that all I could feel (after the general thrill of watching it) was jealousy–it looks like a blast.
The trailers don’t give away much about the film, so allow me to break it down a bit for you: the film takes place in a world where there are machines that people can be ‘plugged into’ that allows them to have shared dreams. It’s different from other films that have a similar concept in one major way: dying in these shared dreams doesn’t kill you in reality. They really are dreams— but they are dreams that are controlled and built by different people. And it’s possible to induce a dream within a dream (and so on) with this technology. The big danger of this technology is that it means people can sedate you and reach into your subconscious in your dreams so as to steal your most hidden secrets–something that they call ‘extraction’. People started to teach their brains to set up ‘security’ to prevent these attacks, but it’s possible to trick the brain. Other things prompt your brain’s defenses to step it up, such as playing with the dreamworld so much that the target’s subconscious (represented by the random people populating the dream) becomes aware of the ‘attack’ and, therefore, become aggressive towards the entity that is toying with the ‘reality’ of the dream.
The main focus of the plot is to attempt to perform something that is considered ‘impossible’ by many– implant an idea into a person’s subconscious so that it feels organic to the person when they wake up, as if they simply got the notion from a dream. There’s a particular target, and a reason behind this. It’s all very elaborate and fun to watch, so I don’t want to get too much into this situation. The other focus of the film is the main character’s troubled past. That character is Cobb, AKA The Extractor (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is rapidly losing control of his subconscious and allowing a very violent representation of his wife, Mal (Marion Cottilard of Public Enemies, Nine, Big Fish), into the shared dreams.
*Spoilerish* There’s a lot of pain and torment that Cobb goes through, much of it dealing with accepting reality and letting things go. It’s a storyline that I honestly wasn’t that interested in watching, but I accepted the idea of adding a certain amount of depth to the whole situation that has a deeper emotional meaning. It was just fairly overdone and, in a lot of ways, very similar to Shutter Island, which I found amusing. In any case, the only person who knows what’s happening with Mal is Ariadne (Ellen Page of Juno, Hard Candy, Whip It), the young new ‘Architect’ of the shared dream who somehow immediately becomes a super-psychiatrist. She recognizes the dangers that Mal brings into the mix with their mission and she takes it upon herself to ‘fix Cobb’, since he’s not telling the others how bad things are getting. It’s all very nice and perfect, but again, I was able to accept it enough. *Spoilerish*
And now some of the other highlights! Joseph Gordon-Levitt (10 Things I Hate About You, ‘Third Rock From The Sun’, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) was a huge part of the film, which is awesome for him (and for me). I have appreciated his career choices since I saw him in Brick, which is a superbly fantastic film that everyone should see. In this film, he plays Arthur, AKA the Point Man, who is basically the cool, collected, and sane member of the team. He’s been working with Cobb for awhile and they have a good working relationship going for them. What makes Arthur’s role so much fun is that he gets all of the crazy flying-through-the-air scenes, which are made ‘possible’ in the dream because the outter dream puts these sleepers in a state of freefall. It makes sense when you watch it, trust me.
The film is pretty awesomely shot and it’s just fun to watch. I give major props to Christopher Nolan (who was the writer AND director) for this one–I found the story to be infinitely more compelling than The Prestige, and the various atmospheres he created for the film were just phenomenal. There are some elements he introduces that clearly are very dream-like due to their unnaturalness, though I often thought that the film didn’t go far enough with making the dreams more dreamlike. I get that they are controlled dreams, so the linear aspects of them make sense that way, but I still wish some of the more crazy aspects of dreaming were explored.
More perks! Tom Hardy (Layer Cake, Star Trek: Nemesis, RocknRolla) was insanely fun to watch as Eames, especially due to his constant snarkfests with Arthur. I really enjoyed how the twinkle in his eye, accompanied by his smirk, sent a gleefully teasing “Fuck you” to straightman Arthur. He really just has so much fun teasing Arthur that you’re inclined to want to egg him on just to see Arthur’s reactions.
And then there’s the appearance of some more familiar faces. Michael Caine (Hannah and Her Sisters, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) plays Cobb’s disapproving-yet-caring father, who just happens to be an architect and is the perfect person to talk to when trying to locate a brand new DREAM architect (and thus, we meet Ariadne).
Ken Watanabe (Memoirs of a Geisha, Batman Begins) plays an intense businessman who may or may not be trustworthy. I say ‘intense’ because I don’t think I recall him cracking a smile in the slightest at any point in the film. He’s just incredibly focused on the task at hand, even in the most extreme situations.
Cillian Murphy (Red Eye, Batman Begins–I’m getting really tired of typing this) plays the target of this whole messy operation, which concerns the future of the company he inherited from his father, played by the awesome Pete Postlethwaite (The Usual Suspects, Clash of the Titans, The Town). Cillian is surprisingly not creepy, which is good because I was afraid of the poor thing getting typecast.
Chris Nolan seems to enjoy employing the rinse-and-repeat tactic some directors use with actors.
Do I recommend this film? Absolutely. Is the film worth the hype? I think so–and I think it’s going to be a major contender at the Oscars. There’s enough tension to keep you guessing, and there’s been an incredibly heavy debate about the realities of the film and what the ending really means. I personally think it’s pretty straightforward, though intentionally filmed to be ‘ambiguous’. I’d love to talk about it with anyone who has seen the film *hint comments hint*, and now that I have reviewed this months after the film was released, I am hoping that most of you have seen it :P.