Inception is, in layman’s terms, awesome. It is a thinking man’s film for the masses that will excite, inspire, and blow your mind. First of all, don’t worry about spoilers. I will reveal nothing beyond the trailer.
The film centers around a man named Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) who steals ideas from people’s minds(this is called “extraction”). He is then hired by someone (I will not say who) to perform something called “inception,” which is the act of planting an idea inside someone’s head, a much more difficult practice.
Other actors in the film include Ellen Page (Juno), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer), Tom Hardy (Bronson), Ken Watanabe (Letters from Iwo Jima), and Marion Cotillard (La vie en rose). It’s quite a solid cast that delivers very solid performances across the board. There is only one weak point: Ellen Page’s character, Ariadne, wasn’t as believable as the others, especially because she has almost zero character development. That being said, she played the part well. The actor that steals the show is of course Marion Cotillard. She plays a sort of femme fatale that is seductive, disturbed, and dangerous.
The story of course is hard to comment on, seeing as spoilers would be nearly unavoidable, but a few things can be said without giving anything away. First of all, I appreciated the fact that the film created its own mythology, so to speak. What I mean by this is that the film doesn’t take advantage of the theory that “anything can happen in a dream,” which would have probably lead to the film being an absolute mess. Instead it establishes its own unique set of rules and physics for the dream world. This allows for more powerful, intricate, and in many cases, perilous situations. After all, if anything can happen, there would be no sophistication to the film, only pure spectacle. It’s important to note that the trailers make it look like this: pure spectacle. While I normally hate trailers that misrepresent the movie, I harbor an even greater hatred for trailers that reveal the entire plot. If given the choice between the two, I would obviously choose the former, which is apparently, and thankfully, what the studio chose as well.
While the dialogue was strong and well constructed, it tended to tell us more than it should have. In my opinion, the film should have done more showing, rather than telling. A few of the situations and interactions seemed almost engineered with the sole intention to spark dialogue that would explain some of the mythology. It only happens a few times, but it’s enough to think it was slightly lazy writing (emphasis on the “slightly”). It could have been done in the interest of time because the film is already about two and a half hours long. That being said, I would rather watch a long movie that develops its ideas more thoroughly instead of a hurried movie (see 2001: A Space Odyssey for an example of a film that chose a longer run-time over a shorter, more hurried one).
The cinematography is as gorgeous as they come. Wally Pfister employed several different film formats (anamorphic 35mm, Vista-Vision 35mm, and 65mm) in order to capture the action to a great degree of detail and clarity. The Nolan/Pfister collaboration has always been known as the guys who don’t make compromises when it comes to their photography. They use 35mm and greater to capture images that have incredible power and beauty, as well as anamorphic prime lenses (fixed focal length lenses that are sharper than zooms and are able to capture a fully widescreen image on a full 35mm frame by squeezing it horizontally). This is something I’ve always admired them for. They choose quality over everything else. Also, Inception surprisingly has very little CGI. They choose in camera (pro-filmic) effects over digital ones whenever possible. One example of this is a fight scene that occurs in a hallway in which gravity is shifting all over the place. The filmmakers built a set that could rotate freely (similar to how they accomplished the artificial gravity effects in 2001), which allowed them to place the camera and actors inside. What results is a fight scene that progresses onto the walls and ceiling. The cleverness of the camerawork astounded me, and inspired me to move beyond anamorphic 16mm (what I’ve been working on lately) into the higher formats (such as anamorphic 35mm and 65mm).
Inception is a must see. It is a highly entertaining and thrilling work of art. Everything about it is unique and interesting, from its engaging story to its gorgeous cinematography. In my opinion, Nolan has solidified himself as a filmmaker worthy of standing beside the likes of the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, David Lynch, and Paul Thomas Anderson (among a few others), as the last few true filmmakers of our generation. These people are worthy of praise because they are not afraid to make a truly challenging film. They have shown us that film is a form of art, and a form of entertainment second.
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(All ratings are out of five, with halves)
Story: **** 1/2
Dialogue: *** 1/2
Art Direction: *****
Overall “Film as Entertainment” Rating: ****
Overall “Film as Art” Rating: ****
Overall: **** 1/2