August 22, 2010

03.08 & 10.08: Inception

A word of warning before we go any further: if, somehow, you're reading this and you haven't seen Christopher Nolan's Inception, skip reading this and go see it. Experience it as free of any foreknowledge as possible. It's ok, we'll wait for you.

may be the most complete Christopher Nolan film yet; it seems every film he has done previously has been working towards this cinematic dream. There is the intricate, puzzle-box nature of the endeavour, issues of control and grandiose action honed on the Batman films. It’s also his most emotionally connected film since his breakout Memento; too often his films can feel cold and distant. Not Inception thankfully which is grounded in an emotionally full way, thanks in no small part to the contribution of Leonardo DiCaprio.

This is the most intelligent summer blockbuster in quite some time. Not only is Nolan asking you to think, he’s asking you to engage. Not only do you have to follow the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream narrative (not all that hard, and surprisingly linear) but you have to engage with what's going on up there, you simply cannot be a passive audience member. Honestly, it's been a few weeks since I first saw it and I'm still mulling things over. Not in any steady, studious way but there are parts still there, ticking over in my brain. I've also read various interpretations of what it's all (really) about: is the whole thing a dream, is it real, does it matter? One reading of the film saw it as how Nolan sees the filmmaking process and how each team member represented an aspect of a film crew: DiCaprio as the Director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the Producer, Tom Hardy as the Actor etc. and with the exploration of cinema being similar to a dream, it's not a big stretch. You could even argue that the whole film is an "inception": planting the idea in your head that the whole thing was a dream. Or was it? In my opinion, it doesn't matter. If it was all a dream of Cobb's, it renders it no less valid.

But going back to those actors: this is a super-star cast, with every member wringing the last drop of character from their screen time. DiCaprio and Gordon-Levitt are always great to watch, and their characters and relationship carries an interesting dynamic (the first time through I though Gordon-Levitt's character, Arthur, was actually working to betray the team but at the same time he seemed like the really dependable guy). Marion Cotillard brings a real fury, and sense of loss to her femme fatale character while the most enjoyably scene stealingly watchable is Tom Hardy as Eames. After this and Bronson the man should really be a bigger star.

And Nolan balances this cast superbly, juggling the dynamics between them all. But that's not all he's juggling. My gods. The man has not only made one of the most mind-boggling films of the year, it's also a sci-fi/heist/James Bond adventure/psychoanalytical film. With some of the most staggeringly original action scenes since, well, The Matrix. This, more than The Dark Knight even, is the film that all his future work will be judged against. This is, as I said oop top thar, the film his career has built towards. I'm still pondering things around it (by the by, I'm fairly convinced the whole thing is a dream, or at the least, in his head. It fairly well spells it out at various points throughout the film) and think I will be for some time. It brings a smile to my face that something as original, intense and intelligent as this was made in today's Hollywood studio climate. Not only made, but released succesfully but picked up by audiences who were engaged with the whole thing. It's nice to think that every once in awhile, for all the sequels and retreads and Twilights and Epic/Disaster/Whatever Movies, we can still get something as truly great as this.

But hey, what did you make of Inception? Anyone want to lob their two bob in? I'd love to hear what you guys made of it.


  1. We love love loved this film, and want to see it again soon. Luckily we have our unlimited cards, so will do. It is the first film in ages that we have had serious debate over. It really gets viewers thinking and talking and doubting and wondering.

    The whole thing is a dream thing was what I ended up going for too, as certain things just didn't fit with me. One being: how did he go from France to Kenya and back so quickly? I know we don't need to see every flight he took, but in that little plane? it takes a long time in a jumbo, so with that small private jetstream it'd take a while. Silly thing, but the airline brain of mine is still ticking over.

    But the hallway scene, oh the beauty.. poor JGL with the weeks of learning to fight in a spinning tube!

  2. Damn you and your unlimited cards! But yes, one of the things I (and I suspect, many others) love about this film is how it does provoke discussion. It's far more pleasant to have your brain engaged and teased than bludgeoned, ala Transformers 2.