Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Stuff of Dreams

I don't get to the theatres nearly as often as I would like, but I got there tonight to see Inception, and I am damned glad I did.

Forgetting for a moment how cool I think writer/director Christopher Nolan is after giving us films like Memento and The Dark Knight; disregarding how much I love movies that ask serious questions about the way we perceive reality; never minding how much respect I have for those who can pull off a taut, emotional drama, a caper film and a number of incredible action set pieces, LET ALONE ALL OF THIS IN A SINGLE MOVIE.

Having decided ages ago I was going to see this movie, and knowing the kind of film it was intended to be, and how close to the vest Nolan was keeping the plot, I was actively avoiding trailers, interviews,'behind the scenes' snippets and even reviews so I wouldn't have too many expectations and so I could enjoy being surprised. Obviously I wish the same for you, and so I will be keeping this post as spoiler-free as possible.

First and foremost, this is not a movie for everyone, even though it has something for everyone; it is not only a trippy concept, this running around in the dreamscapes of others, but the structure of the movie itself is extremely complex. Like Memento, this is not a movie you can half-watch, and you will want to empty your bladder immediately beforehand, lest you be forced to miss a critical juncture. However, even if the sci-fi Jungian element of a shared unconscious leaves you cold, the emotional journey of Leonardo Dicaprio (and his effective and understated portrayal of it) is sound. Even if you prefer your storytelling linear and non-composited, the action set-pieces and caper elements are consistent and well thought out, especially those that take full advantage of the dreamscape's possibilities.

Comparisons to The Matrix are inevitable; both films deal with the possibility that reality is not what we think it is, both films take great pains to make sure the viewer understands the rules of the new reality, but while The Matrix does a better job with the rules, the more complex story and greater emotional heft of Inception make it a better film, at least in my opinion.

Inception is not perfect by any means; there are a number of times where the story takes a turn, or new rules are added, and you have to grip the armrests and be pulled along for the ride, taking it on faith that better comprehension will come in a moment, which usually happens. It is a movie that because of the subject matter, is difficult, if not impossible to anticipate, at least most of the time. I also found myself struggling to make out some of Ken Watanabe's dialogue at times.

Highlights include the savvy internationalism of the movie, great performances by everyone, and a fantastic, simple and powerful score by Hans Zimmer, who also scored Batman Begins and The Dark Knight for Nolan. As far as the visuals go, well, this kind of movie, maybe even more than Lord of the Rings, is why sepecial effects were invented; to tell stories about the impossible, without making you worry about seeing the strings or mirrors.

Christopher Nolan has not only promised us a third Batman film, but has also agreed to 'godfather' the re-boot of the Superman franchise. Even though these two characters are completely different and will require handling in completely different fashions, Nolan's sure-handed approach to the fantastic and the impossible, and the real human stories they can contain, make me very optimistic for these films, as well as anything else he should turn his gaze to.

Go see Inception, and quickly; the ending alone merits another blog entry, and I don't know if I can wait until the DVD release...


  1. I have to agree, this was an excellent movie on several levels. The rotating fight in the hotel was probably my favourite big of action. Can't wait for everyone to catch up so we can get together and chat it up.

  2. Bloody brilliant film! I think I might even take exception to your statement about "Matrix does a better job with the rules", as the subject came up after the movie on the way to the inevitable post-experience beer, and I made the opposite case. However, further discussion will have to wait, as it will involve deep and possibly spoiler-like discussion.

  3. Absolutely the best movie I have seen in month of Sundays. I too look forward to some kind of deeper discussion - may have to video conference!

  4. As I haven't seen it yet, could it be compared to Dark City?

  5. Sure, in the same way that The Matrix could. Inception is a far more familiar setting, and the only sci-fi element is the surreptitious bio-tech that allows the characters to share dreams. Also, most of the characters are aware of this technology, and some have been prepared to resist the infiltration of their dreams.

  6. Two thumbs up from me. Like the storyline, this film works on several levels. A real work of art with a capital A.