Yes, I finally got around to seeing Inception last night. I dug deep and spent the full $17 for the IMAX version. It’s a little late in the game to do a full review, so I’ll just hit some quick (well, relatively quick ) thoughts. And if by chance you haven’t seen the film, rest assured that
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
…follow. So don’t say you weren’t warned.
(Actually, go ahead and say it. But no one will believe you, John Edwards/Jeremy London/Wall-E.)
(Yeah, that’s right, Wall-E. You know what I’m talking about, you little can-opener bastard. But we can hash that out later.)
Thank God someone still makes movies like this
This is an action-packed, effects-filled (but not effects-driven) summer movie that thinks it’s still cool to challenge viewers, to have well-rounded characters and complicated twists and best of all, a perfectly ambiguous was-it-all-a-dream ending. (Yeah, it has flaws too, but we’ll get to that.) Much like Christopher Nolan’s previous film, The Dark Knight, it’s both a summer movie and a “film.” These things do not have to be mutually exclusive, Hollywood. How much more proof do you need?
Inception still is a far cry from perfect
(Told ya.) As much as I enjoyed it–a point that I’ll get to further in a moment–it has issues. Nolan doesn’t do that great a job of conveying all the rules of the dream universe in a very organic fashion (next time shell out a little dough and let J.J. Abrams or Joss Whedon do a polish on the script), and ramping up the Hans Zimmer score over every scene of pretty people talking about what you can do and can’t do inside a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-pastry doesn’t always make it interesting.
Also, for a film so determined to explain every single dream world rule to death, isn’t it odd that the actual technology involved gets no explanation whatsoever? How is Ellen Page (that’s right, I’m too lazy to look up the characters’ names right now) able to “create” these worlds? I get the idea that it doesn’t matter if it’s all dream, but if it’s all a dream, would we get endless explanations about all the other stuff? Finally, why do you cast Michael Caine for all of two tiny scenes?
It’s still one of my favorite films of the year
Call it something strange about Chris Nolan films, perhaps, but I feel the need to grade on a curve. I rated The Dark Knight 10-out-of-10 stars on IMDB, for example, but not because the film was perfect. Christian Bale’s ridiculous Batman voice alone should knock off a few points. However, Knight gets extra credit for everything it does so very right, which is pretty much everything else. Knight packs in so much entertainment, so much suspense, so much adventure, it deserves 12 out of 10 stars. Then I’ll drop it a star each for the Batman voice and the fairly-clumsy execution of the fight scenes. That still leaves it a perfect 10.
Inception gets the same extra credit. I’ll dock it for the issues noted above, plus the fact that Ellen Page’s oddly ageless, doll-like face constantly distracted me. (Sorry, she looks like she’s 12. Even the very funny bit where Joseph Gordon-Levitt tricks her into a kiss seemed a touch off, because even though he’s only six years old than she is, he seems more like a creepy uncle.)
[Also, the critics who said Inception is disappointingly straightforward for a film based in dreams are dead-on. I really don't get why people think they need a second viewing to wrap their brains around it. This isn't like Fight Club, or Nolan's own awesome Memento, where a second viewing brings depth and significance to moments that slipped by us the first time around.]
That said, Gordon-Levitt is great in the film, as is Leonardo DiCaprio (despite his distractingly carefully-sculpted facial hair), as is Marion Cotillard, and on down the line. And talk about a breakout performance by Tom Hardy, whose charisma explains how he got cast as the new Mad Max. (Heck, it’s enough to forget about that other guy who played Mad Max… what was his name again?)
The way Nolan, his go-to cinematographer Wally Pfister and the effects team use CGI should make almost every other action director (Jim Cameron excepted) feel embarrassed. Those other putzes make reality look loke fantasy, while Nolan makes fantasy look like reality. Finally, Nolan’s ability to incorporate his action-adventure tale with heavy themes of love, obsessions and personal responsibility is nothing short of astonishing. Yeah, Inception gets a ton of extra credit, more than enough to make up for the nitpicks.
That said, I’ve had enough “tormented Leo DiCaprio” for a while
Maybe that’s because I just watched Shutter Island the other night. (I knew what was coming, having read the Dennis Lehane novel some time back. And I’ll get around to sharing my thoughts on that flick sometime soon.) I wonder if Nolan realizes the scene in Inception where DiCaprio is splashing water from the sink on his all-too-carefully-stubbled face is virtually identical to the opening scene in Shutter Island. Both films feature a tormented, guilt-ridden DiCaprio balancing on the line between reality and fantasy. Suffice it to say, if they get around to remaking Angel Heart anytime soon, I’d better not see DiCaprio taking over for Mickey Rourke.
GCI doesn’t have to be shitty
I know I made this point earlier, but fuck it, I’m making it again. (Sorry, did I mention this is a profanity-allowed review? Um… it is.) There seems to be this notion in Hollywood that’s it’s okay to drop half-finished, cheesy-looking CGI into any action film, because audiences don’t care. Well, Knight and Day (see my earlier review) has some of the crappiest CGI I’ve seen in years, and how many screens is it still playing on?
Meanwhile, Inception is one of the top-reviewed and biggest commercial hits of the year. (Notably, last year’s Star Trek, directed by the aforementioned J.J. Abrams, also had wonderfully realistic CGI. The believable effects helped us become invested in the characters and undoubtedly helped the film’s word-of-mouth and critical acclaim, and thus its box office.)
I didn’t miss Christian Bale
Did you? Hey, I loved the guy in American Psycho and he’s been a perfect Bruce Wayne in Nolan’s two Batman flicks. But I’m glad to get a break from the guy. Despite being an enormous Terminator fan, I still have no interest in watching McG’s Terminator Salvation and knowing Bale’s waiting for me isn’t helping.
It’s all a dream
Hey, that’s just my theory, and obviously Nolan wants us to wonder about it. But I think there are enough clues along the way to confirm it for me. What’s great about Inception is calling the whole thing a dream doesn’t discount everything that came before, unlike, let’s say, a steaming pile of crap like Next. (If you don’t recognize that Nicolas Cage-Jessica Biel train wreck, consider yourself incredibly fortunate.)