Posted on 07/30/10 07:04 PM | Last edited on 07/30/10 07:04 PM
INCEPTION(Christopher Nolan; 2010)
Since I can't seem to post pictures till this shit is fixed (whenever that will be), I suppose this review will seem a little normal aesthetically till Rotten Tomatoes (somewhat) returns to normal.
Warning: Minor Spoilers…
It’s been a while since I saw it, but with a film like Inception it takes a lot of time to fully digest. Nolan’s latest effort is the kind of ambitious filmmaking we audiences need more of. Sure, Michael Bay and Tim Burton can pollute cinemas once and a while with their escapist projects, but when we need something containing substance, Nolan tends to deliver more so than any other “mainstream” director these days. I definitely had this film on my radar for quite some time, but was never really “wowed” until the theatrical trailer hit the internet in May of this year. Still, once plot details began to leak out of Inception’s story structure, I instantly lowered my expectations because this seemed like the kind-of movie that demands multiple views in order to piece it all together (let alone comprehend), and that, in my opinion, is what hurts the overall film and keeps it in this state of limbo that could otherwise have made it a far more solid work. My biggest complaint about Inception would be that it is too open-ended. I like my films to have a core, and a conclusive ending. Nolan leaves far too much in the balance, and when all is said, and read, and done, it leaves me with a headache.
Like many, I think the story is genius. The premise alone would make me want to see Inception, but the intricacies and events that unfold make it far more worthwhile than your average heist film. The latter-half of the film is definitely video game-like, but I consider that a positive. The way Nolan conveys the story in a nonlinear fashion harkens back to virtually all of his filmography, thus far, and, at first, it was comprehensible. Some things began to get shaky once the plot devolved into its original horror concept. For anyone that doesn’t know, Inception was originally going to be a high-concept horror film (like, say, A Nightmare on Elm Street). But it gradually became a heist film that it is now. This is evident in the character Mal, which I’ll get to in a bit.
Overall, though, the story is riddled with potential red herrings, and it obtrusively asks the viewer to question everything their seeing, and that began to drive me insane. I think what kept this film from being a solid 90% in my book was that final five-second shot. That turned Inception into something completely different, and, to be honest, I was disappointed. To some this is far from a flaw, and I’d happen to agree with them. However, it does keep me from enjoying Inception as a solid, straightforward heist flick, and had it not tried to blow my brain up like a pyro-technician on the set of Transformers I’d definitely nominate it as a Best Picture contender.
Then we have the characters, whose only purpose is to succeed in their part with the Inception. No one but Cobb and Mal has an arc, or an ounce of nuance. Eames is the only one that’s really worth investing care in because he’s naturally charming, but because I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt so much, I definitely rooted for him from time to time. Ariadne did barely anything to live up to her alluded mythological name, and Saito’s only worth caring about because his fate is so interwoven with Cobb’s. To say that the characters are shallow is a little unfair, but they’re certainly far from being three-dimensional.
Cobb and Mal are another story. For most of the film, we wonder why he can’t return home to see his kids, and slowly we begin to understand why, and wonder how in the world he will cope and solve this. I really liked the way Nolan uses the character of Mal in Inception. She’s scary for sure, and there are many instances that show what this film would’ve been like had it remained a horror project, but the way she manipulates and tortures Cobb’s subconscious is fascinating, and she’s definitely the most-interesting female character Nolan has written to date (which honestly isn’t saying much). I can’t help but agree that Nolan doesn’t write good female roles. They either have zero depth, development, or personality, or all of the above (prime example would be Rachel Dawes).
I think the performances were the most-solid aspect of Inception. Well, that’s not true; the cinematography was the greatest thing about this movie. But unlike some of the iffy acting I saw in The Dark Knight, everyone here does a great job, even if their character doesn’t permit them to show much range. Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy do damn good work here, especially DiCaprio. There’s a scene with him and Marion Cotillard that results in fatality, and he really nailed that mix of anger, regret, and just pure heartbreak. Should DiCaprio get a nomination for his work here? Yes. I think he did an outstanding job, especially when compared to the work he did earlier this year with Shutter Island.
The pace is great despite so much exposition; it incrementally sucks you in. The action really explodes in the latter-half, and then there’s the now seemingly iconic zero-G hallway fight scene. I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time this January and Inception is the first film since then that made me question how in the world they pulled something like that off so flawlessly. Obviously some digital wire-work was at play, but still, the ballet-like movements that Joseph Gordon-Levitt uses in dispatching his foes is breathtaking in what appear to be long, continuous shots. I’m still left scratching my head, but at this rate I’ll be penetrating bone soon.
Hans Zimmer’s score was better than usual, because this time some synths proved useful, particularly that resonating roar that is now tied-in with the film itself. That being said, the quieter moments of Inception’s score are boring to me, and far too similar to past work. It’s not till the action picks up do we get some good stuff, and the final four minutes are the highlight. Despite my feelings for Zimmer over the last decade or so, his work here was decent. I just find nothing interesting about synthesized film scores when a symphonic orchestral piece of work would've been far more impressive, and Inception’s score continues to prove my feelings justifiable.
I’ve noticed some criticism regarding the way Nolan interprets dream worlds, and how his vision is not nearly fantastical or surreal as something Lynch or Kubrick could’ve created. On that note, I wholeheartedly disagree with such a comment. For one thing, I can’t stand Lynch, and another thing, this is Nolan’s vision. Even though it is literal, I still prefer it over anything the other two filmmakers could’ve dreamt up. Besides, it’s specifically Nolan’s vision; to argue is pointless because it’s his. Feel free to have your own interpretation of what dreams look like, and let Nolan have and express his. This is a completely arbitrary (if not rhetorical) critique on anyone’s part, and it peeves me to no end.
All in all, while I’d like to offer my theories as to what is real and what isn’t in the end, I simply need to see Inception more to even begin contemplating what I think completely. Did Nolan achieve what he set-out to do? Yes. Did he do it perfectly? That’s still up for debate. Perhaps Inception will grow on me over time, but as it stands, it’s still a fantastic summer blockbuster that could’ve been near-perfect had it just been simple and straightforward. Sometimes simplicity is the best way to go, but Nolan should be credited for stirring such an on-going debate in film community circles. This is definitely a film worth seeing in the theater, and I highly suggest bringing someone along to argue with on the ride home.