Thursday, July 22, 2010


Well, I thought this film was fantastic.

Let me just say this right now: I hate dream sequences. There are few things more ponderous, pretentious, or down right off-putting to me than a drawn out dream sequence in a film or TV show. They almost always serve no purpose beyond allowing the director to use a fisheye lens and have some weird, trippy effects. One of the reasons I quit watching the Sopranos was how, seemingly every few weeks, the episode would just stop while they shoe-horned in some moronic dream sequence where characters would fly through the screen carrying giant talking fish heads or some other such nonsense.

More than that, I don't even care about dreams. If I even dream, I rarely remember them, maybe one or two a month, if that. I have no interest in talking about dreams. I don't believe in the power of dream theory or dream symbolism. And please, for the love of god, don't tell me about your dreams -- unless you're Martin Luther King Jr., but even then keep it short. I actually used to date a girl who believed in all of that stuff I just said I hate and would call me every morning to tell me every exacting detail about her previous night's dreams. This went on for weeks before I finally had to tell her to stop because I didn't fucking care, though I think I put it in nicer words than those.

Anyway, this movie isn't really about dreams, it just takes place in dreams. Its story deals with the power of the unconscious mind and how some of those things are manifested in dreams, but it uses those things as a macguffin to tell its story and doesn't dwell upon them. That is to say, this is a visually stimulating, brilliantly written, powerfully acted heist film... that takes place in people's dreams. More than that, I don't really care to say, because it would ruin the fun of seeing the film, and because it doesn't really matter. I'm sure there are people who are going to write graduate thesis papers on the ideas put forward by this movie, but I don't care, so long as nobody makes me read them. I just thought it was a really good movie, with an original, exciting story, great set pieces, and an amazing cast.

If it seems like Leo has become the go-to actor to play tortured souls who have lost loved ones and are forced to deal with psychological torture (like in Shutter Island), that's only because Leo has become the go-to guy to play everything. He's just that freaking good. Since Titanic, I'm not sure if this guy has been in a bad film, and he's certainly never been bad in a film. That's a streak that may be unparalleled in film history. This guy knows how to pick films and he is always amazing to watch. I know there are a lot of Leo haters out there, but when you actually talk to them, they will almost all finally admit they haven't seen him in anything since Titanic. 

And the rest of the cast is just as good. This is, seriously, one of the coolest casts I've ever seen, since maybe Usual Suspects or JFK. Shinzon from Star Trek Nemesis, that guy from 28 Days Later, the kid from Third Rock, that Japanese guy who always plays the Japanese guy in everything, Juno, and Michael Caine. And they were all great. Who knew that kid from Third Rock grew up to be such a dapper heartthrob? He was probably my favorite character, though Tom Hardy (Shinzon from Nemesis), pretty much stole every scene he was in. And while Ken Watanabe is an astoundingly good actor, I think I prefer him in roles where he speaks Japanese and I get to read subtitles. I just couldn't make out a lot of what he was saying, I'm sorry to say.

And as much as I hated Juno, I didn't mind Ellen Page, even though I don't understand what purpose her character really served. From a storytelling point of view, I guess they needed an audience proxy that could travel with Leo and learn his secrets, but it felt a bit clunky and unnecessary all things considered. But at least she's likable and very, very pretty, all though she does look a bit too polished and perfect, like a porcelain doll or a mannequin.

Oh, and if the trailer had simply said: Tom Berenger is in this movie, that would've been enough for me.

Actionwise, this film was off the hook, in my opinion, although don't go in thinking this is going to be a nonstop thrill ride. It's actually light on action, it's just that the set pieces are so incredible they almost steal the show. Gordon-Levitt's fight scene in the zero-gravity hallway has rightly been described as a show-stopper by most reviewers, and you won't get any argument from me. This is one of those films that looked so cool in the trailer, I looked forward to seeing it through the whole movie and kept getting scared that it wouldn't live up... and it did. That fight scene was amazing, with flawless special effects and a determined performance by the actors. I loved it. And I also loved the chase sequences, skiing sequences, and everything else. If I have any criticism at all of Christopher Nolan's ability to direct amazing action set pieces, it's just to question why he didn't do that in either of his Batman movies? The man can direct action, so why was every Batman fight scene just intercut closeups of Christian Bale's face and hands? But don't get me started on those movies again...

Anyway, Inception. I loved it. Honestly, this was probably the best move I've seen all year, and it has been a pretty good year so far. Chris Nolan has always been an intelligent, thoughtful filmmaker who has yet to really impress me with one of his films. Prestige came close, but it ultimately fell apart because every character was a moral cockroach and because the entire film made no sense and had no purpose. Memento was clever, but boring. Insomnia put me to sleep. And the Batman films were brilliantly written, meticulously directed films that completely shoe-horned in Nolan's idea of what Batman should be, instead of what he actually was in the comics. But Inception is the real deal. No, it isn't going to change cinema as we know it, but it is going to entertain, enthrall, and capture your imagination.

But if you want to read another opinion, check out my friend Justin's Blog. He didn't like it so much.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

I think you're right about the dreamworld being a sort of MacGuffin in this film. The mechanics of entering dreams and what's possible within them is left frustratingly underdeveloped. This clearly bothered me a whole lot more than it bothered you.

Sometimes I feel as though I've become too jaded about movies, and then I'll watch something like Transformers and think it's pretty good. So I don't know why I'm on a totally different page with this one.

jmccrea said...

I think your review is quite original and I agree about Tom Berenger. Isn't it great to see him in a film that is suitable to his abilities. I respect Nolan for his individual vision and his obvious respect for individual actors... whether or not they are hooked into the Hollywood scene! Sign me off as: kansasslick