Directed by: Christopher Nolan Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard Running Time: 2 hrs 26 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: July 16, 2010
PLOT: A team of "dream extractors," (DiCaprio, Gordon-Levitt, Page, Hardy), those who steal ideas from people's minds for a living, are hired by an energy company mogul (Watanabe) to do the impossible - plant a destructive idea into the brain of his competitor.
WHO'S IT FOR? This is an sci-fi actioner for attentive viewers – a lack of focus will be your enemy. And the moviegoers who ask questions every five minutes to the person sitting next to them, those evil people will be the true villains of the Inception experience. As for age demographics, this is one of those rare golden action movies that will best be enjoyed by mature thinkers.
EXPECTATIONS: Though this is my most anticipated movie of the summer, I had abstained from seeing previews or trailers (with an exception of the first teaser), in case the advertisements were trying to bring in its audience with the wrong idea, and also so that most of the striking visuals would be completely fresh for me.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb: While he doesn’t shout here as much as he happens to in a decent amount of other films, one can just feel the tension turning knots in head the more we learn about his character. His only weakness in this performance is Cobb’s family issues – DiCaprio can’t entirely sell the urgency of being a father who wants to see his children, which is actually a key part of the story. Still, this is DiCaprio’s first summer blockbuster, and he does a great job in carrying Inception with one of his best characters yet. Score: 8
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur: Speaking in a slightly monotone manner, Arthur is a slick “sidekick” to Cobb, who for the most part is efficiently serious. His size is used towards comic relief, along with a riff-raff relationship with the fellow Eames, but throughout maintains his “business” attitude. At the center of probably one of the best action sequences ever conceived, Gordon-Levitt creates his own style of smart action protagonist – he is not just doing an imitation. Score: 9
Ellen Page as Ariadne: Our surrogate into the world of dream extraction, we are glad to be with her, and more importantly, to learn with her. For those pessimistic about Page, who seems to be most famous for her snappier roles, she doesn’t have that bite, nor any remotely annoying quality in this round. Inception provides further proof that she can certainly act without the crutch of snappy dialogue. Score: 9
Ken Watanabe as Saito: Putting his audience into a sticky spot, some of Watanabe’s broken English can garble up his dialogue. As a “tourist” in the world of dream extracting, Watanabe's character has a strong professional presence, even when “sidelined” by a surprising incident that occurs soon into the job. Score: 7
Tom Hardy as Eames: It’s a good feeling knowing that Christopher Nolan is a fan of Bronson, and especially the actor who played the notorious inmate in last year’s possibly underrated hard-hitting biographic film. In this role, Hardy has the same brawny charm, but plays things up in a more comedic fashion than one that is immediately psychopathic. Inception helps mainstream his image, and is setting him up for the chance to be something bigger in a few years to come. Score: 9
Marion Cotillard as Mal: To our surprise, she’s the villain. But to no surprise, Cotillard is great in this movie – we can certainly understand why someone like Cobb would be so weak for her. Technically, in this story she does not exist (not a spoiler), but we do feel her presence, and fear it, whenever she appears. Playing opposite DiCaprio in some tender “flashbacks,” she has her own subtleties, but they are her strong points. Score: 9
TALKING: With Ellen Page representing the audience’s willing curiosity, a lot of explanation is provided to flesh out the movie’s ideas in a handful of sequences. In these moments, everything is laid out clearly, and without the information being piled on top of one another too much. Not for nothing, the script’s bits of comic relief work also. Just as the audience is gripped by a hold-your-breath action sequence, so do they share a laugh of relief when a character delivers a simple line to slightly lighten up the drastic situation. Score: 9
SIGHTS: The script’s imagination calls for the creation and manipulation of entire urban landscapes, and the special effects can keep up. Whole rows of skyscrapers are designed, often providing spectacular moments in architecture, and then sometimes manipulated to awesome extremes. The film’s moments of action are often charged with never-before-seen visualization, (with an exception of some cappy gunplay) and are beautifully piled on top of each other by editing in full control. But even with three sequences going on at once, in different time spans, the momentum loses neither speed, nor balance. Score: 10
SOUNDS: Yes, Nolan’s visuals contain huge ideas. But the cinematography only provides half of the film’s size – it’s Han Zimmer’s epic score that gives the film it’s full magnitude, and completes the urgency to scenes that are already setting the audience’s heart beat at racing rates. With booming timpani on top of slamming brass, Zimmer adds a crucial explosive element to a movie that needs this type of musical assistance in order to reach its full, awesome potential. I woke up this morning with Zimmer's score stuck in my head - I must have had a fantastic dream. Score: 10
BEST SCENE: There are many glorious elements within Inception. The first van roll sequence features the best moment in the film, as it is one of the most creative action sequences ever put to film.
ENDING: After all of that, the movie ends with a great “gotcha” conclusion that underlines the questioning or whether or not we are actually in “reality.”
QUESTIONS: Is the usage of “Non, je ne regrette rien” a direct reference to Marion Cotillard’s performance of Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose? If so, then there’s a whole bunch of trippy stuff about that ending that one could consider, but I don’t even want to discuss. My mind could very well just shut down. Also, isn't "Your mind is scene of the crime" a misleading tagline for a movie such as this?
REWATCHABILITY: Absolutely. Even during a second viewing, the mind-explosiveness of the action is still very prominent – your heart will still skip a beat or two when that van flies off the bridge. As for the mental requirements, your mind is still very willing to re-enter into the puzzle of Inception. This is the sort of complicated movie that welcomes repeat viewings, not to necessarily make sense of something unclear, but because the viewer wants to contain as much of the movie’s ideas as possible. While a second viewing had me with more questions than the first viewing, I am sure a third viewing will even me out, and put me back into a state of unquestionable awe.
Ever so the architect of his own spectacular action scripts, Christopher Nolan has constructed for his blessed audience a maze that we can never be happy enough to be caught in. But through the many mental zig-zags of the landscape of the brain-busy Inception, not only are we guided along with great respect from Nolan’s script (he explains everything to the right amount, in the best ways possible, and doesn’t abandon us to let us figure much of it out on our own), but our eyes feast about spectacular sights to blow our minds, while still trying to collect in our heads the movie’s many ideas. Within this seemingly complex film are beautiful and long sequences, which expand on a viewer’s creativity, but remain based in a stunning collection of logic. The ideas of Inception receive an extra layer of awesome when considering how feasible certain actions are, once using the arena of dream logic.
Oddly enough, the weakest aspect of Nolan’s dreamy movie is his handling of typical shootouts. The guns used in these shootouts all sound too cappy, and the actual shooting seems to be completely understated. While his chase sequences are heart pumping (the beautiful reality of an action protagonist actually getting stuck in an alley way is very suspenseful), the gunplay is shockingly typical. This detracts from some of the effect of the third act of this movie, which partially stands as Nolan’s audition to direct a Bond movie some day.
Nolan forgets the basics, and only in that instance, does it actually harm his picture’s goal towards perfection. The rest of Inception stands as wholly original, without seceding to any action clichés, or even slight predictability. Inception very much functions like an action movie, but like the way that The Matrix made us rethink the creative potential of the genre, so does Nolan’s film. One could certainly argue that King Nolan has even more ingenuity running rampant here than in The Matrix, which has now been dethroned from the dignity of "Smartest. Action Movie. Ever."
FINAL SCORE: 9/10