Thursday, July 22, 2010

Movie Review: Inception

Credits Release Date: July 16, 2010 (conventional and IMAX theaters)
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenwriter: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action throughout)
Official Website:

The Plot of Your Dreams
Using a similar concept as the Matrix trilogy, Director Christopher Nolan brings us a film of terrifying possibilities, dealing in concepts that make us ask the question, “what if we aren’t in control of our lives?” Starring Leonardo DeCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page, Inception is a story as disturbing as the title makes it out to be.

Dreams are the true definition of solitude and one of the last remaining aspects of life that belong only to you and are shaped by you alone. Sometimes dreams are good, sometimes they’re bad, but without a doubt they belong to no one else but you. Nolan now has created a world where not even the dream world is beyond trespass and corruption. This made up world is full of criminals called Extractors, agents who attempt to break into people’s dreams to steal valuable information. The ability to steal ideas from ones mind is the common practice among extractors, but the art of changing someone’s mind, called inception, has never been successful…or has it?

Dom Cobb, (DiCaprio) along with his team of highly trained extractors embarked on a mission to put a new idea into the mind of a young businessman, Mr. Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to help advance the productivity of Mr. Sainto’s (Ken Watanabe) business empire. However, along with Fischer’s mind initiating defense mechanisms as a way of fending off possible dream extractors, Cobb is haunted by the memory of his deceased wife who continually walks into any dream he enters with deadly purposes. With his team ignorant of this fact, Cobb tries to finish the assignment while keeping his friends alive to return to the real world.

My Sleep-Deprived Opinion
The most difficult thing to do with this film is explain it. The story is so complex and jam-packed that the only way to truly understand what it’s about is to watch it. This is not a film for someone who wants to sit back and turn the analytical part of their brain off, this is a story filled with thought provoking ideas and a hard to grasp story concept. It’s obvious that a lot of thought and preparation went into this movie as Nolan began working on it as a teenager only for it to now become a reality. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it’s told bold to state that this film could very well be the next Oscar winner for best motion picture.

After having a few days to think about the film and what it was trying to do, I’ve decided the most satisfying aspect of Inception was its film noir characteristics. Right off the bat we can tell this story has a very dark undertone with a classy, early 20th century appeal. The whole idea of entering into ones dreams is terrifying enough in and of itself, but with Cobb’s lingering memory of his wife constantly attacking him at every opportunity, we find that the inner darkness of Cobb is what drives this film into its very essence.

One thing Nolan is a master at is making the standard, formulaic composition of a film look new and fresh. The explanations of the dream state of mind is never given to us in conventional ways, but rather displayed to us in a series of visual concoctions that both shock and awe. Nolan doesn’t try to treat his audience as intellectually inept, but he does keep us guessing as to when we are seeing the dream world and the real world. One thing to keep in mind though, as you may or may not fully understand each of the moment to moment parts of the film, the intuitive part of your brain should be able to grasp and understand what is going on within the story. This film allows the audience to do what most other films won’t allow you to do…Think! You can’t just walk into this movie and expect it’s meaning to be handed to you like most films do; you actually have to take time and think about what it’s trying to say and do.

While the story does focus in on the dream state of mind, Nolan takes advantage of modern technological advancements and play out the dream world on screen, which also blends into the basic theme of the story. As Leo constantly explains throughout the film, the dream world always seems real in the moment, it’s only when you wake up when you realize it wasn’t real. Nolan doesn’t try to make the dream world so intangible (like a lot of stories do) that the realistic aspect goes away, but there is that tiny bit of curiosity and wonder, begging each one of us to ask ourselves if we actually know which world we are looking at.

Utilizing the relationships Nolan has built with actors he’s worked with, he brings in three caped crusader friendly actors with whom all helped make the Batman franchise so successful; Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, and Ken Watanabe who all dominated the screen in Inception with their tremendous performances. But Inception isn’t lacking in experienced superhero actors from other comic book films such as Ellen Page, who starred as the girl who could walk through walls in X-Men 3. I was initially weirded out by this casting choice of Nolan’s, but she grew on me as the film progressed and ultimately, with her believable performance, I accepted her as an integral part of the cast. Now while Mr. Joseph Gordon-Levitt hasn’t appeared in any comic book films, there are rumors that he could be the next villain in the third Batman installment as the Riddler. His performance might have been the most impressive of them all; his mature and adult demeanor over-shadowed his boyish face and gave the story that much needed balance within the cast.

The complexity of the story, while still not impossible to understand, can be very hard to comprehend and follow during its two hour duration. You may even leave the theater a little unsure of yourself, which is partially the point. Questions should be floating around in your head about the different stances the film takes as well as the inner workings of the story’s details. Dreams haunt us and linger in our memories, and sometimes we hold onto a dream so much that we lock it away and never let it go, only to cause ourselves more personal grief and pain. How far can we go until that memory gets the better of us and takes over completely? Was Don Cobb finally able to let go, or is he still there in a dream?

I can’t imagine the difficulty in creating the special effects for this film. Nolan, who tries very hard to use more physical effects than digital CGI effects in all of his films, went all out with Inception; Yes, Gordon-Levitt actually is floating around and fighting agents in the air and yes the train actually does run through the middle of a downtown city street. Most everything (Keyword, MOST) that went on in this film did not happen in front of a green screen, but right out in the open for all to see. All of the stunts were done right in front of the camera and not within the confines of computer generated illusions. This is special effects work at its finest. James Cameron should take lessons from Nolan.

And the Conclusion I Woke Up Too…
Nolan stated that his intention with this film was too put the audience “into the experience, what I like to call a 'tumbling forward' quality, where you're being pulled along into the action." As far as I’m concerned, he did just that. This movie went above and beyond in how detailed, realistic, believable, and well written film was. He took an idea from his childhood and gave it to the rest of the world to behold. This film was an absolute joy to experience with its original concept, incredibly well-written and researched script, and thought provoking ideas. In my opinion, this film was perfect.

Rating: 11 out of 10 stars
(Yes, I did that on purpose. Best film of 2010 thus far!)

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