Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe
In many ways, Christopher Nolan’s noir caper set in dreamscapes is a love letter to the art of filmmaking, with a visual reference to “Rashomon” occurring in the film’s opening moments.
Which is fine by me. I’m all for self-referential material so long as it’s genuine and guarded. It’s when filmmakers actually make a movie about literally making a movie that they get caught in the dangerous bear trap of creating a distracting inside joke that nobody finds funny or entertaining, not even those who “get it.”
Similarly, this film also could have gone off the rails by beating you over the head with the fact that it’s an artistic exercise exploring the creative process. It could also fall into the trap of taking itself too seriously and getting wrapped up in the concept, making it largely inaccessible and a chore to watch.
In the hands of Christopher Nolan, that doesn’t happen.
It’s probably because more than anything, Nolan wants to entertain us. He did it with “Memento,” “The Dark Knight,” and every film in-between. He can get a bit too heady for his own good, but he doesn’t allow that to distract from the main point of filmmaking: to keep the viewer engrossed in the story and what they see unfolding before them.
Which is exactly what he accomplishes with “Inception,” a film that under any other writer/director would have spent more time convincing the viewer that the concept works and lose sight of its purpose and potential entertainment value. How he pulled it off is anyone’s guess.
One of the things I marveled at was the fact that I was able to actually follow and keep track of the story, even when it jumped between three different planes of a person’s subconscious (“dreams within dreams” and we’ll leave it at that). In fact, at times it seemed effortless. And the film’s pacing, dramatic tension and suspense in this structure is, to a writer, nothing short of breath-taking. I would often find myself completely frozen after a complicated sequence of events and asking myself how Nolan was able to write it without the entire story falling apart.
As it turns out, it took a lot of time and effort. After getting a spec script approved, Nolan spent eight years on and off working on the project. The film is an achievement and evidence of Nolan’s artistic vision and brilliance.
Still, credit where it’s due as well to a game cast. My only gripe was that we didn’t get to see more interplay between co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon Levitt, who unfortunately becomes more of a peripheral character after the first act. Which is necessary for the purpose of the story, but also a shame; particularly since I thought the two had great chemistry and I prefer him as an actor to DiCaprio.
Then there’s the score from Hans Zimmer, which while a bit too reminiscent of his work on Nolan’s previous film still adds that extra bit to an action sequence that stirs you from your rib cage. In terms of visuals, the film is equal parts stunning and haunting.
I could go on, but I’d be gushing even more than I already am.
The flaws that exist in the movie’s logic have been examined in other reviews, but to me they’ree so tertiary I didn’t not notice them. Not only that, but even when they’re pointed out I have a hard time reconciling that they actually happened. I was too caught up and in awe of the cinematic acrobatics pulled off in this film to notice the minor gripes of contrarians and those critics that strive to get attention by authoring the loudest dissenting opinion of an otherwise universally praised film.
It i’s rare I come out of a movie saying that it was one of the greatest films ever made. I rarely if ever make that claim, and often I find myself on an island by myself when it comes to other films people think are instant classics (“The Departed” being a prime example). However, as I watched this film I felt something I haven’t felt in a movie theater in a very long time: genuine, organic excitement.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that “Inception” is one of the best films ever made. In terms of greatness and influence, I’d say it falls somewhere between Kurosawa’s post-noir work and “The Matrix.” I say the former because I want people who discount it just because it made money to go a little crazy, and I say the latter because I can already feel the pretenders becoming “inspired” by this film and making insipid clones that mire my enjoyment of the film in hindsight.
But, for now, I’m coming off the high of seeing Christopher Nolan at his best. “The Dark Knight” proved he had his craft down. This movie proved that not only is he a master craftsman, he’s also an artist. He is, with full knowledge of an already daunting level of hyperbole, the cinematic equivalent of Michaelangelo: an artist has mastered his technique but still retains the creative inspiration that transforms his work into something more than a well-cut form of marble. His “David” is an action-adventure movie that is accessible to both pretentious jerks like myself who examine film as art and people who just want to munch on popcorn and be entertained.
It is not flawless, but nothing beautiful ever is.
In short, it was freaking awesome. Seriously, go see it.
- Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye…
- Listen to me LIVE as guest co-host of Alternative to Sleeping tonight at 10pm!
- Realtors: “WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH” George Hearst III: “NONONOO SSSSHHH IT’S OKAY, it’s okay…here. Here’s a pacifier.” Kristi: “#oops.”
- Open Mic web series premiere tonight @ Lark Tavern
- Trust Me, You’re Going to Want to See This