It’s always nice to see a major Hollywood film have guts. In this regard, I do not mean guts as the promotion of a political or social issue. Rather, taking on the task of presenting something unique and complex to moviegoers with… less than par cinematic intellect. Frankly, I feel as though film audiences (particularly American audiences) demand spectacles and cheap fun rather than legitimate, artistic motion pictures.
Inception is, by all regards, a spectacle. It looks and feels like big budget Hollywood, it is written, directed, and produced by high profile personnel, and is comprised of quite a prominent cast. However, Inception is also quite brave. Brave, not because of some self-proclaimed style or look (I’m looking at you, James Cameron), but because of a genuinely fresh, well-executed plot/story. The term inception refers to the act of supplanting an original thought in the mind of a human being through the navigation of their dreams. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Cobb, a man known for his ability to navigate people’s dreams in order to obtain suppressed information from the unconscious mind (extraction). Yearning for the chance to return stateside to see his children, Cobb (against the advisement of his partner-in-crime, Arthur) accepts a job proposal from Saito (Ken Watanabe), a businessman who is desperate to see his business escape the perils caused by a business rival. The job that Saito offers Cobb involves planting a thought in the mind of Saito’s business rival (Cilian Murphy). The film follows Cobb and his team of elusive misfits as they weave themselves through layers of dreams in order to accomplish their goal.
Inception looks and feels like a Christopher Nolan film. It possesses the same darkish grit that characterized Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and feels just as epic. The film’s score is a stunning accompaniment to the genuinely heart-pounding drama involved in following the interwoven dream realities. As far as production is concerned, Inception belongs in a master class. The writing, specifically, is the component that gives the film an edge over other spectacle films. I can only imagine the first impressions of studio executives when they heard the proposal for a film with such a premise… “We want to make a movie about dreams… but there will be dreams within dreams, and then dreams within those dreams… sound peachy?” I’m sure the actual exchange was something of the sort. In any case, the intricacies of the storyline are handled masterfully by Nolan and company. Presently, I can’t think of many other individuals I would trust with such a complicated narrative (see Nolan’s Memento if you don’t understand where I’m coming from). As the expression goes, he dotted his “i’s” and crossed his “t’s” Although I’m sure there will be some Wikipedia message board populated by goofs in the narrative (most likely from the same characters who previously brought you lostpedia.com), I doubt there are many to be observed by most viewing audiences.
While acting is generally lost (or at the very least considered an inferior priority) in Hollywood spectacle films, there is some decent work done here. Leo DiCaprio has paid his dues and proven that he can be the main focal point for practically any kind of film. I know many who have been hesitant to give the former Mr. Jack Dawson credit (even I was spectacle for a while), but he really has earned it. In Inception, he plays his role to a tee – a determined agent with a fair share of demons to control. Although no one in the supporting cast really outshines any other, there are excellent supporting performances across the board. Ellen Paige delivers a convincing performance as Ariadne, the newcomer who must suddenly play a pivotal part in the execution of the inception. Tom Hardy and Cilian Murphy are equally successful in their respective characterizations, and a warmhearted kudos to Joseph Gordon-Levitt who has clearly transcended his previous screen credits (most notably 10 Things I hate About You and the successful television series, 3rd Rock From the Sun). The ever-circulating rumor mill hints at Levitt as the front-runner for the role of The Riddler in the next Nolan Batman film. While I’m not sure I “buy” him in such a role, I can be no less convinced of his merits as an actor after seeing Inception.
My only problem with the film has to do with its complicated narrative. Although the film takes great care in making sure the storylines work coherently, I felt as though the first third was slightly awkward based on the amount of explaining that needed to be done in order for audiences to comprehend what was really going on. Granted, a film must explain its premises before it can develop them. However, there were points when the explanations of the different variables associated with dream navigation came in too rapid succession. It was almost too much detail to digest in too short a time frame.
I must confess, I was worried by all of the positive criticisms of this movie both by professional critics, as well as from my legion of facebook friends who were not shy about proclaiming it “prolly the best movie ive ever seen” and a movie that “blew my mind in like 12 different ways.” I can’t bear to count all of the times I have heard massive praise for a film only to be let down as a result. To my delight, Inception actually lived up to all the hype. Now, a few days after the film’s theatrical release, I am reminded of the days and weeks following the release of the original Matrix film. It really is exciting being able to see a big-budget American megafilm that doesn’t severely lack in important areas. I have a feeling people will be talking about Inception for a good deal of time to come. I just hope there is no talk about a sequel… let greatness rest. I implore you.
© 2010 Brent Bracamontes