July 25, 2010

Inception: The Thinking Man's Action Film

Starring Leonardo de Caprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Directed and written by Christopher Nolan

Hot on the heels of a multi-million dollar Batman movie, Nolan follows it up with an all-new original story that takes place in a land where dreams can be intercepted and corporate information could be extracted by a group of experts operating under a company. Unfortunately, due to the death of his wife, Dominic Cobb (Leo de Caprio) fails to pull off a job but finds out that rich businessman Saido (Ken Watanabe) is willing to give anything to Cobb under one condition: Cobb needs to do the opposite of his day job and actually implant an idea to a rival company's heir instead of extract it (thus the title) so that Saido's company will win in the end.

What follows is a series of events set into motion that, if you don't follow closely, will continue on regardless of whether you like it or not, whether you can understand or not. But that doesn't exactly mean that the story is extremely convoluted; in fact, the story and its several threads are handled so well that each of them is a uniquely worthy point of discussion.

Nolan doesn't feel the need to pander to his audience and treats them with the respect they deserve, but I think the thing that's getting a lot of positive feedback is the entire second half of the movie, which for all intents and purposes, is awesome. You will care for all its characters and you will know the gravity of the situation, and this is the part where Inception appeals to a lot of people. It's where the thrills come, where all the subplots of the subplots of the subplots in the subplot of the main plot get tied together, resulting in a handsome pay-off.

The key thing in watching Inception is that it isn't necessarily a thriller that discusses the concept of "dreams" in as much detail as you'd think a pretentious movie would, but it's more of a heist movie that involves a cast of endearing characters doing "one last job" so that Cobb's character won't be a wanted man in America anymore. You can screw up a lot of these kinds of films, but the cast Nolan's assembled here is just excellent and pitch-perfect.

Of note is Ellen Page's character Ariadne is basically in almost the same position as us- the unknowing audience, except for the part where she is a gifted architect- and she does an exemplary job at being hesitant, curious and oblivious at first, even though she becomes the voice of reason in later events. Props also go to Joseph Gordon Levitt for being such a badass and Marion Cotillard for turning in what I think is her best performance since La Vie En Rose.

Oh and Leonardo... is a given. He's pretty much the glue that makes us care for everyone in the first place.

At this point it would be hard to talk about the movie without spoiling it and its intricacies. If anything else is of note, then it may well be the cinematography, the sensationally realistic special effects, the emotional depth, the simultaneous visceral and cerebral satisfaction (which has become atypical of Nolan movies), or the bombastic but less than memorable score. Whatever the case, Inception is a movie you must see to believe, with its trailers barely even justifying the amount of epic contained within its package.

Still, don't go in expecting an overly exhaustive breakdown of dreams and excessive philosophical whimsy, just expect a highly intelligent action film that requires you to be glued to its details at all times. Either way, it's a great movie to watch and talk about for days afterwards.

True, Nolan doesn't achieve levels of "masterpiece", but what he does in Inception, he does very well. And we're all the better for it. In fact, its box office performance may well be an inception all its own. The simple idea that an original and highly cerebral film can be profitable is an appealing proposition, and we must expect no less from the studios and the filmmakers.

Rating: 9/10

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