Christopher Nolan once again proves that he is truly one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation.
I generally don't really get into the plots when I review movies on here, but I'm not about to reverse that trend, at least not with this movie. The less you know about it going in, the better it is. If you've seen the trailers, don't worry- they don't give the whole movie away, and really only scratch the surface.
One of the reasons why Nolan is one of the best is because he is so imaginative. This movie is basically a heist type movie, yet it doesn't follow strict conventions of that genre, and it is wholly unique in its own right. Setting the story within the mind, and within multiple levels of dreams is one of the coolest and most intellect engaging ideas I've come across. I do have a couple of nitpicks though. The movie is not as complex as it seems or could be (but it's not straight forward either), and a lot more could be done within the dreams- the possibilities are limitless. So, even though this becomes an action movie, it's far from formulaic, and it's a damn impressive feat at that. Also, the lack of boobs was surprising. I can suspend disbelief, but with a male dominated cast spending lots of time in the human subconscious, it seems reasonable to expect boobs.
Other than that, I have no real complaints, except this slight one: a few of the action scenes (mainly the chase scenes) are a tad blurry and out of focus in the closer shots, making it a little hard to tell what's happening. But thankfully it's never bad enough to be really distracting. Still though, it did catch my eye. I appreciate that not everything was spoonfed to the audience and you had to pay attention, but you didn't struggle to "get it" no matter how hard you focused. The pacing is wonderful. This is a long movie, but I never got bored, and never checked my watch or anything like that. A few critics have pointed out that some of the exposition in the beginning is too much, and it bogs things down a bit, but it is necessary since it lets people know the basics of what's happening. It never felt like too much either, at least not to me. I found it all very absorbing and captivating. The cast is wonderful,and their acting is likewisie really good, although it's not great across the board. I wish Ellen Page would have been given a little less ponderous dialogue, but like how she played a major role. DiCaprio is terrific, continuing in his recent tradition of playing emotional and mentally damaged individuals. I figured that Cotillard would have a relatively minor role, but I'm so happy she also is at the forefront of things. Levitt is decent, Watanabe is good (although slightly unintelligable at times), Murphy is good as usual, but Hardy is the scene stealer. It was nice to see Berenger again, too.
The screenplay is just fantastic. Nolan has been working on the film for 10 years, and it shows. Everything is crafted so meticulously and thought out ridiculously well. I don't like to try to guess the ending of movies, but even though I thought I knew the general direction this film would take, I had no idea how it might get there, and was ore surprised to find out that I did get surprised by things. The thing about this movie getting the most attention is the visual effects. They are absolutely brilliant. I loved how very little of what is on screen is CGI- with in camera stuff and practical effects being the preferred way of doing things. It gives me hope that CGI won't totally dominate. The action sequences are intense, and in some cases (hotel hallway scenes) really creative.
This is a new classic, and definitely will become a new standard of how to make a film. Nolan has always been a bar setter, but this time he's set it ridiculously high. It does take influence from film noir, heist movies, Bond films, sci-fi films such as The Matrix, and throws in a heavy dose of emotional weight and psychoanalysis, and, even though it is a bit pretentious, it takes all the things it borrows from, flips it over, and creates a totally unique,awe-inspiring, and thought provoking motion picture.
Oh yeah, one more thing: the music is absolutely fantastic. God Bless Hans Zimmer. The usage of a certain Piaf tune is awesome and perfect as well.
I've given this one a lot of thoguht, and I'm going to re-review it, well add more of a P.S. I'm keeping the original review up, since I like it, but I must say, this film doesn't quite have the wow factor when held up to closer scrutiny. The impact is slightly diminshed, and the film isn't as good as it initially seemed, but it is still quite an enjoyable achievement. Also, while I love Ellen Page, and love that she plays a major role, her character really doesn't have all that much (if any) motivation to do what she does, making it kind of a waste. I still love the fact that the twist to this movie is that it may or may not have a twist. It's also cool that the dream world is grounded more or less in reality, which is unexpected, but the film could have been a lot more "out there" and really gone off the deep end with it. I'm still extremely zealous about this movie, but in the grand scheme of things, perhaps I'll knock it down a notch even more. Not so much out of spite, but for the fact that letting it sit for a while, and personally experienceing some changes and maturations in my life has impacted my view, and, while this still might be a high water mark for intelligent action cinema, it's not the Citizen Kane of it either.