"Inception" had equal chance of being either a disaster, or the best movie of the summer. â€¨â€¨
It clocks in at almost 2.5 hours, and it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, a talented actor with an unfortunate penchant for lumbering message movies. Nolan, the director behind "The Dark Knight", is a visionary in some respects, but tends towards the clumsy and overwrought when he’s not carefully edited. It had all the money in the world, and a Big Idea. It could be perfect. It could be ridiculous.
â€¨â€¨I wasn’t terribly surprised that "Inception" is somewhere in between a masterwork and a mess. Though buoyed with supreme action sequences and brilliant cinematography, it threatens to tumble under the weight of its own self-importance. â€¨â€¨
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
In an unexpectedly brave move, Nolan puts his Philip K. Dick-esque story in the present, or the near-future, instead of some sort of abstract dystopia. Cobb (DiCaprio) is an "extractor" a thief who specializes in stealing information from corporate heads by entering their dreams. Turns out we’ve unlocked a way to "share" dreams, and to knowingly interact within them. He’s found a man who wants "one last job" from him, and who will fix Cobb’s legal problems allowing him to return to his children in America.
DiCaprio falls into his usual trap of mistaking heaviness for gravitas. He’s wonderful in some scenes, particularly one fraught sequence involving his dead wife Moll (a thrilling, and perfect Marion Cotillard), but if he’s not careful he simply comes off as dour. Besides DiCaprio the movie has a slew of talented actors, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobb’s partner, and Ellen Page as an architecture student who literally builds dreams to use as staging areas. Nolan unfortunately doesn’t allow a lot of personality to filter through the big ideas his cast has; that talent is still visible but it’s muted.
And the cast, as star-powered as it is, pales in comparison to the real star: the beautiful camerawork. The dream sequences are too beautiful and haunting to describe. You should not expect accuracy-there’s no real connection to the dreams we usually see, in equal parts trivial, terrifying and drenched with meaning. These are action scenes- the fact that it’s all a dream is merely a backdrop. But just watching Gordon-Levitt float through a hotel bathed in golden light is like watching the culmination of a hundred years of filmmakers trying to simply create something beautiful.
Nolan’s story is an original- no adaptations here, in a Hollywood that satisfies itself picking the bones of the literary dead- and that’s an achievement of its own kind. The themes he presents, like the intersection of dream and memory and the way our minds betray us even if there aren’t men in black walking around in our subconscious, are thought-provoking and elegantly stated.
All gushing aside, there are serious problems with the movie as well. In these types of movies, there’s always rules governing the world you’ve created. Page plays Ariadne, the newcomer to the team, and the person that Cobb explains his world and its rules to. But the rules don’t mean anything when you break them, and near the end of the movie all the carefully constructed regulations begin to unravel.
Yes, at 2.5 hours it’s about 20 minutes too long. But it’s so damn gorgeous to look at, by the end you’re ready to let that, and all its other sins go. There’s something to be said for Nolan’s vision. It’s imperfect but it’s his and only his. And I’m more than happy to share his dream.