Critic Review - New Yorker

An astonishment, an engineering feat, and, finally, a folly.

July 19, 2010 Full Review Source: New Yorker | Comments (301)
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Harry S.

Harry Schwarz

Can you make sense of Dali? Of course not. Magarite's apples hiding faces has no real explanation.They are images that are dreams painted on canvas. Inception will be a sci fi and cinema classic long after Denby is gone. It is simply one of the great cinematic works of art in film history, right up there with Kubrik's 2001, which was also called folly by Pauline Kael of the NY Times. Years later after rewatching the film she totally reversed her critique.

Jul 27 - 12:47 AM

Dan B.

Dan Bendt

"Now and then, you may discover that the effort to keep up with the multilevel tumult kills your pleasure in the movie."

"For long stretches, you?re not sure whether you?re in dream or reality, which isn?t nearly as much fun as Nolan must have imagined it to be."

My favorite contradiction comes towards the end:

"... but Nolan is working on so many levels of representation at once that he has to lay in pages of dialogue just to explain what?s going on."

The reviewer describes the effort to keep up was killing his pleasure of the movie, yet critiques Nolan for continuing to explain it to those (like the reviewer himself) what is happening.

Quotes like these make it quite clear the reviewer became lost somewhere in the storyline. Most who appreciated the film somehow didn't seem have this trouble, which is why there seems to be so many angst-ridden comments here. I'm not going to take the stance that the people that appreciate the movie are somehow more intelligent than the critics that didn't enjoy the film. But a review like this certainly leaves some room to question whether those who call the film "folly" -- actually understood it.

One thing is certain. This film definitely seems to have stirred up the pretentious "film geek" crowd, who will not accept a modern film to rival their beloved "masterpieces". Especially not a big budget movie with, heavens-forbid, action and special effects, from a director who also directed, gasp, a comic book movie. The movie is beautifully crafted, and challenges the notion that great film art must be an obscure commercial failure to be appreciated.

Jul 27 - 11:46 PM

Tom E.

Tom Evans

I'm not usually one to side with the New Yorker, but this review is dead on! Inception is an overwrought snore-fest. It has the potential to be so much more, but falls well short. It does not come close to the brilliance of The Matrix!

It lacked any sort of true character development or relations. And the characters spent the ENTIRE movie explaining every aspect of the plot. A story that cannot stand on its own, without constant explanation, is not a strong story. And once again, we have Leonardo DiCaprio playing....Leonardo DiCaprio.

This quote by Denby pretty much says it all:
"Cobbâ??s intercranial adventures arenâ??t like dreams at allâ??theyâ??re like different kinds of action movies jammed together."

This movie is over-rated!!!!!

Jul 28 - 07:42 AM

Tom E.

Tom Evans

(Here's my review. If you don't agree with me, that's fine. It's only a movie!)

I found this movie less than inspiring, to say the least. Here's why:

1. The characters spend the ENTIRE movie verbally explaining the world. Any story that cannot stand on its own, is not a compelling story. This was the weakness of the Matrix sequels. The original was amazing (and surprising), while the sequels were weighed down by their own conceit. In Inception, we know exactly what's coming every step of the way because we're told over and over again!

2. The relationships among the characters was contrived and lacked substance. I just didn't feel the tension. Michael Caine had a throw-away role that really wasn't needed. Tom Berenger's character seemed fabricated as well. And the story picked up seemingly inconsequential characters throughout the movie. I felt no emotional reaction to the relationship between Fischer (Murphy) and his father, nor with the relationship between Saito(Watanabee) and Cobb(DiCaprio). In short, I felt no emotional empathy for ANY of the characters. Even the relationship between Cobb and his dead wife is poorly conceived. What's more, I felt no investment in the objective of the overall story. Competing energy companies? Who cares??

3. The special effects. This is supposedly a dream world, so the sky is the limit with what you can do. The dreams all take place in boring linear landscapes, with very little creative inspiration. The dreams were too real -- too boring. Unlike the Matrix, the effects were anything but groundbreaking. And the ending was predictable. Nolan had unlimited creative license but instead chose typical action movie vehicles - like gun-toting thugs to represent someone's subconscious.

4. The music. Similar to Shutter Island, the film score was overly dramatic, to the point of being manipulative and distracting. Loud, cacophonous music stings at inappropriate moments either mismatch the action or telegraph what is coming next. Perhaps it is meant to shake us out of our slumber after another long, drawn-out explanation of the plot. Nolan might as well be on a megaphone screaming "PAY ATTENTION!!!"

4. DiCaprio suffers from the Tom Cruise Syndrome. In other words, DiCaprio is always DiCaprio in every movie (save for maybe What's Eating Gilbert Grape). His mannerisms are the same, and he rarely deviates outside of a given range of emotion.

I know that there are lots of Nolan disciples out there, but I'm obviously not one of them (not even for the Dark Knight). This movie plays more like an elaborate video game, rather than a feature movie.

Sorry, but now that ticket prices are upwards of 12 to 15 bucks in my town, I tend to be a little more discriminating.

Jul 28 - 08:32 AM

Jessica O.

Jessica Oro

I paid 4.50. lol

I have actually seen three other dicaprio movies in the last two months.

Gangs of New York - quick to anger irishman
Man in the Iron Mask - royalty and humble peasent
Catch Me If You Can - intelligent, daring, yet still just a immature youth

He is not the same person in all those movies.

This movie I felt he was burdened with grief, self-loathing, and had to use restraint so not to endanger others. He was a man who was seperated from the ones he loved, and could only connect with his family through his own projections.

I was pleased with his performance.

Jul 28 - 11:38 PM

Hans S.

Georg Pauwen


you are right on.
This movie will just disappear in the shelves after all the dust settles. Hollywood needs to stir up things, to make money, in the end, it will not be remembered.

Nov 15 - 06:46 AM


ian thompson

I've subscribed to The New Yorker for probably 20 years now. Great magazine. Yet one thing I find consistently annoying are the movie reviews. And Denby's review of Inception is no exception. In fact, reading it feels more like an extraction (of the dental kind). Typical of Denby (and often of Anthony Lane), if the flick ain't French and made 30 years ago... it ain't worth watching. That he says he was lost in long stretches of the movie not knowing whether it was dream or reality shows he was either not paying attention or was lost in living up to his pre-judgments. (I can almost see David walking into the screening with his pad and condescension at the ready)

Jul 28 - 08:08 PM

Drake T.

Drake Tsui

So, I read the review. Looks like it's 90% David whining "I had a hard time figuring out what was going on."

Which seems to be a testament of his own intelligence, the story was actually INCREDIBLY basic. What was so confusing?

Jul 29 - 12:07 PM


Simon Barth

There are about FIVE types of people who walk out of Inception.
1. People who didn't understand it, and are still confused.
2. People who liked it for the action it had.
3. People who liked it for the PLOT and how it made you think.
4. People who just didn't like it because some of the logic didn't work for them (these people must not like many movies)
5. People who DID like it, BUT want to be non-conformists, and say they didn't like it, just to be apart from the "crowd"(you can usually tell who these people are, because they call everyone who liked it "sheep").

I, however, LIKED it. It had awesome action, and it wasn't just something pretty to look at, it had some real things to think about, and the ending made you have to rethink everything you just figured out.

Jul 29 - 12:42 PM

bahar N.

bahar N

It's funny how every fan of the movie in every fan post everywhere on internet thinks he understood everything in the movie and everyone comes up with a different interpretation of the flaws! LOL! They write pages and pages to defend their favorite filmmaker. I guess if Nolan would have received a little help from his fans he could easily mend all those mistakes!

Jul 29 - 04:04 PM

Hans S.

Georg Pauwen

As we all know, only the stupid pretend to understand everything. Smart people ask questions...

Nov 15 - 06:48 AM

Jason C.

Jason Cook

Vivega06 there are two types of movies, fun films and intelligent films, you sir proved by that comment that you prefer fun films over thought provoking films, and guess what? That is your right and it doesnâ??t make you any less smart then me or anyone else but donâ??t act like an ass and bash a film that takes more talent to write then 99% of the films that come out today. Nolan is imo the best film writer alive today; the man cannot make a bad film. All of Nolanâ??s films make the audience think which is how imo all films should be for adults. It sickens me that there are people out there that prefer films like Toy Story 3 or Step Brothers to this true masterpiece of film making.

Just wait until my Batman series gets picked up by weird productions for a Showtime release. My series will make Inception look like a walk in the park as far as intelligent writing goes.

Jul 29 - 09:01 PM

Jon W.

Jon Welch

This man cares more about this Thesaurus than he does the movie review. Too bad he didn't put that enthusiasm into watching the movie.

Jul 30 - 10:48 AM

Eric M. Robbins

Eric Robbins

Jesus, does he give away the entire plot. You shouldn't know anything about Mal before seeing the movie.

Jul 30 - 12:12 PM

Niels N.

Niels Nielsen

There is no point in the tomatometer because everyone wants a good movie to get a 100 % and a bad 0 %. Why are you even reading the negative reviews? No matter how good and informative they are you won't like them. I've seen people insulting a critic for giving a negative review to a film you haven't even seen yet. If you disagree you don't have to insult the critic and even tell him to go die sometimes. Open your eyes people, there is no point in this website if every movie either get 100 % or 0 %.

Jul 30 - 01:43 PM

Hans S.

Georg Pauwen

Great remark. If everyone agrees, the site might as well be shut down. And we could all live happily ever a dictatorship.

Nov 15 - 11:24 AM

Parker R.

Parker Robson

either you have no respect for a good movie. and you probably gave cats and dogs a good review. inception was well written and gave me a question to think about and with a simple mind a person like me was able to figure out the movie. DAVID watch the movie again and pay attention this time and not laugh and the stupid jokes in cats and dogs.

Jul 30 - 02:53 PM

Andy Hao

Andy Hao

I just saw a loser. Better lose some weight, stupid.

Jul 30 - 10:40 PM

Matthias T.

Matthias Thackray

Is the New Yorker even a respected newspaper anymore?

Jul 31 - 12:24 PM

Steve P.

Steve Piehl

thats just ridiculous if you didn't like Inception your just fooling yourself and acting smarter than you are, if you didn't like Inception you just don't like yourself!

Jul 31 - 03:25 PM

Chan J.

Chan Jong

David Denby's statement is not really explaining itself, maybe some "because" or "due to..." would help the people to understand what's wrong with the movie because "...finally, a folly." doesn't explain anything and only pisses people off that enjoyed the movie, no?

Aug 2 - 04:35 PM

Tony H.

Tony Huisman

Not my problem if you couldn't follow the movie, David. When I saw it, I was blitzed and nothing got past me. So who's the retarded one?

Aug 3 - 08:55 PM

Tony H.

Tony Huisman

I would also like to point out that movie reviewers are a very curious bunch. Far too often we see that they will thumbs-down a film for lacking originality. Then the same reviewer will proceed to also write a bad review about blockbuster like Inception (with an idea that's never been done before) on account that it was too "overdone".

Really? With almost a century of film-making, original ideas slowly are becoming extinct. Get real. When a director throws a film your way with a completely new idea, relish in it.

Sure, the first hour was a little hard on the brain, but everything starts to fall into place before the halfway point. It really wasn't as hard to understand as you made it out to be. In fact, this was a sci-fi that was refreshing to me in a sense that I wasn't left with unanswered questions at the end of the film. So really, what's the problem?

Aug 3 - 09:18 PM

mick f.

mick fentele

I agree with the last two words, above.
I am staggered that so many people on this site - including 'critics' - believe Inception is a good movie. Reading them, I feel as if I have entered a parallel universe where everyone has lost their cotton-polyester pickin' minds. I also just spent a year in Khartoum, a town plastered with posters of Omar Bashir, an indicted war criminal, AKA mass murderer, who is feted as some kind of saint. Living in Khartoum felt like I'd fallen down the rabbit hole and woken up in Wonderland. Same feeling here. Someone said 'it's really intellectual'. If 'Inception' is intellectual, I'm the Mad Hatter.

Aug 4 - 03:48 PM

mick f.

mick fentele

PS. when i said 'the last 2 words above', I was referring to 'a folly'.

Aug 4 - 03:50 PM

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