Friday, July 16, 2010


"Inception" is astonishing intellectually, just like your average "twisty" Christopher Nolan. However, that cannot make up for the fact that the film has stumbles, in the areas of dialogue (which is a very common issue for Nolan; as many such as Nathaniel Rogers have said, this film is very Nolanesque in its strengths and weaknesses), and also a subplot that echoes "Shutter Island" in a major way (not least because Leonardo DiCaprio is the lead in both), although, as my friend pointed out, it's probably not ripping it off. But it must be said: I was very, very entertained by this film, which had me checking my watch in a good way.

The film is pretty much incomprehensible at the beginning, which is entirely intentional, as it reflects the maxim that you are plunged into a dream and that you can't remember when it started. After a weird encounter that comes back later in the film, we see Leonardo DiCaprio's Cobb and his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) do an extremely intricate "job" with Saito (Ken Watanabe), some sort of energy magnate, and you see why we need some information on the whole process.

After a dizzying set of (as Ebert and the film said) "dreams-within-dreams-within-dreams" and weird uprisings that I thought were (as my friend said) "cliché" but then realized otherwise, Saito deems the process of him being protected a failure, but tips the two off about what really could help him out: an inception. Don't believe what the trailer tells you, or else you'll be as screwed as I was going into this film, as an inception is pretty much an idea that is put into someone's head and designed to make the person in question think that they were who thought it up. Arthur tries to back Cobb away from the job, but Cobb is tempted by Saito's terms of the deal, which apparently will "bring him home."

But, at this point, you're asking: who exactly are Cobb and Arthur? Apparently, they are contractors (techincally "extractors") from some unseen employer who go into dreams made by an "architect" for a certain person and retrieve information from the person's ever-flowing subconscious, which the person cannot control and that flows the info into certain locales. Cobb also lends his services in protecting a person's subconscious from extractors because he knows all about how one would "break into" (as said before) the dreams. Cobb is the best in the business in this field.

They lose their architect on their previous excursion, so they have to find a new one for the present work at hand, which happens to be planting a subliminal message into another energy magnate's (Pete Postlethwaite) son's (Cillian Murphy) head that he will disband the company and allow Saito to have an energy monopoly. They find the best in the business in that field, Ariadne (Ellen Page, looking like she stepped out of that Cisco commercial), who has another agenda besides just doing her work, which is Cobb's past and his dreams (involving his wife Mal, played by Marion Cotillard in a role that is as disturbing and similar to Michelle Williams' wife-to-DiCaprio role in "Shutter Island"), which she feels are necessary to know about. And we find that Cobb gives out lots of instructions, but doesn't follow any of them himself.

I will leave it to you to see this film, which I recommend, though it does have some problems. As said above, dialogue is not a strong suit of Nolan's work, whether it be just poor or overly "expositional" (which is what people said about "The Last Airbender"). Also, as my friend said, there are not just a few "clichés" in the plot. And also, as a friend noted, the film uses "montage techniques" a little too much. But the biggest problem is the "emotion" (which many have mentioned). Whenever Cobb and Mal's relationship comes up, the film stumbles a bit, going between (as said before) "creepy" and sentimental. I mean, I guess what happens is warranted, but it felt a little tedious at the end. How many films are you going to have where DiCaprio plays a character who is good at their job but is pestered by some sort of problem within? I also found something else: the (as others have said) "set piece" pretty much determined how interesting a sequence would be, and Nolan hit it correctly most times.

Some of the cast members (including DiCaprio, Page, and Tom Berenger) are not always (as has been said) "satisfactory" for different reasons, but, as has been said, Gordon-Levitt, along with Murphy and Tom Hardy, do very good jobs in their roles. But no matter about the faltering: this is a film definitely worth seeing, despite the stumbles, for what it has to offer, for the (as has been said) "ensuing discussion," and as a very enjoyable summer film that seems caught "in limbo" (as they say in the film) between being a repeat viewer and a first timer (although I, like Lisa Schwarzbaum, will probably watch it again). B


Stephanie said...

After reading your review, I am even more curious about this movie. I'll probably wait 'til it comes out on DVD, though, especially since I have a feeling it will require more than one viewing. :-)

Nick Duval said...

Waiting for DVD also has benefit of riding out the hype until it dies down a bit. It's a little much these days.

Anonymous said...

True, but waiting for the DVD also means that you miss seeing this picture on the big screen, and this is A BIG SCREEN MOVIE. What I would do is see it once on the big screen, then decide whether or not to watch it again on the big screen, or watch it on DVD.

BTW Nick, I believe Saito is trying to prevent an energy monopoly, not create one. As for the dialogue, at least it's not as bad as it is in a James Cameron film.

Nick Duval said...

Maybe, but by preventing one, he's also presumably trying to create one for himself.

Ah yes, it is a big screen movie, you're right.

The dialogue in a Nolan film isn't terrible, but it's not that great. One expects it to be serviceable, as the ideas are so grand. Cameron dialogue you assume will be cheesy.

I personally think "Avatar" is a better film than this one, for a few reasons, though. I will be disagreed with.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in hearing why Avatar is better than Inception, Nick. Please elaborate. :-)

Nick Duval said...

Here's why Avatar is better:

1) Avatar creates a (as said before) "universe" that is unmatched in Inception. Of course, there are cool shots in Inception, but Avatar is insane.

2) I liked the use of slow motion better in Avatar. Somehow it felt more validated. In Inception, it went a little over the top.

3) I was thoroughly satisfied by the last third of Avatar, while that seemed partially like one of (as others said) the weaknesses of Inception, just because it was so hard to follow and also because it heavily engaged the "emotional" aspects. By the final shot in Avatar, I was gasping at the spectacle. By the final shot in Inception, I understood but I had been confused in the events leading up to it.

4) Inception stumbled when it came to its romantic parts at least a little bit. Avatar, while at least being a little (as others said) cheesy, didn't.

Similarly, both films have oblique beginnings. Both have insanely astonishing intellect. But Avatar's (as said before) "expansive world" is a little better for me. I dunno, I don't remember either of the films sensationally well right now, but still...

Stephanie said...

I agree that the dialogue was a weak point in this movie. I guess they made up for it by distracting us with several intriguing ideas and plenty of interesting imagery. :-)