Film Reviews


By • Jul 25th, 2010 •

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“Hey, this movie gets exciting when the main characters sleep!” sounds a bit strange, but in Director Christopher Nolan’s summer movie-house treat – INCEPTION, it’s the gospel truth! INCEPTION is that very welcome rare summer blockbuster that builds thrills from offbeat elements, not just empty satisfactions such as cool gun-fights, rooftop to rooftop leaps, etc. etc. At almost two and a half hours, INCEPTION rarely asks its audience to like it, like most summer blockbusters do. It offers more filling satisfaction – the action scenes are less in number – but they burst with imagination! The film goes from the screenwriter’s mind to the IMAX screen with apparently little interference from studio execs.

The story, in a nutshell: Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a recently widowed head of mega high-tech thieves who gather information by invading other people’s dreams. Their new target is Robert Fischer, (Cillian Murphy, from DARK KNIGHT and 28 DAYS LATER) the young slacker heir to one of the world’s more powerful corporations. Cobb and company must break into Fisher’s dream-world hours after elder Fischer passes away. Secrets holding the fate of Fisher’s corporation, and God knows how much money, is in Fischer’s head. A new member of Cobb’s dream-invaders is Ariadne (Ellen Page from JUNO) a bright young American architect student studying in Paris. She got her job of building Fisher’s dream settings by successful sketching for Cobb, tough-to-solve mazes in a minute or so. You would think there would be SHINING-like mazes popping up in the film, but Nolan is not that simple. The whole film itself is a maze. When are we dreaming? Is this elevator shaft Cobb’s men hide out in an escape route? We’re all safe in an airport, but is the airport real? What’s curious in INCEPTION is the look of young Ariadne’s dream-scape. Here’s a young girl, obviously raised on Youtube, Tivo and Hipster culture, and yet her antique dream-designs are very drab – personality free – like something out of long ago Stalin-era European architecture. (If you don’t know what I mean, look at Lenin’s Tomb, or almost ANY building on a SUNY campus in New York State)

Nolan burst onto the scene ten years back with his mystery-chase-told-in-reverse indie hit MOMENTO and came to inherit the mile-high budgeted BATMAN movie franchise. Nolan repeats imagery from his previous hit THE DARK KNIGHT (The gunman on a motorcycle chasing Cobb’s van reminded me of the Caped Crusader). Where THE DARK KNIGHT excelled better than INCEPTION was in the characters. Of course, we all cherish DARK KNIGHT’s quotable and insanely insane villain (Heath Ledger’s Joker) and some of the supporting characters, like Aaron Eckhart’s mile-deep Harvey Dent or Maggie Gyllenhall’s compelling Maggie. You just don’t have those eccentricities and complexity in the characters here. DiCaprio’s Cobb is too cold and too wrapped up about his dead wife to really care about. There is a haunting back-story of Mal (Marion Cotillard), Cobb’s deceased wife, a suicide – but Mal seems to host a “so-what” drone-personality. (This is DiCaprio’s second film this year with a “deceased-wife-with-terrible-secrets” back-story The other is of course, Martin Scorcese’s SHUTTER ISLAND. Please, the dark-secret back-story has been getting old for some time now; can we switch to “lost toy as a child”?) Ariadne is rather one note, almost a plot device. My complaints end there. See this engrossing strangle-hold to your senses on the biggest screen possible.

When I left the Press Screening for INCEPTION, there was line of eager moviegoers waiting for the film’s midnight opening. The line traveled down a few staircases of a Manhattan uber-multiplex. I was giving these people a big thumbs-up over what they were about to see. It’s Nolan’s touches, like guerilla style film-making in an expensive movie, that helped make THE DARK KNIGHT a hit grossing over a billion dollars. (I always remember sound effects in that film, such as distant people coughing during one of The Joker’s evil speeches). INCEPTION has similar indie film “unpolished” touches that make the film engrossing. Already a couple days after that premier, there are news specials and major articles focusing on INCEPTION’s terrain, the mysteries of dream. As I am writing this, a dream specialist is on the evening news, explaining how one can direct and mold their dreams to their liking. Let’s see, I’m dreaming that Christopher Nolan keeps this pace going and we get decades of great films out of him, and I’m also dreaming that Michael Bay’s remake of WIZARD OF OZ with Megan Fox gets green-lighted.

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