Review: “Inception”

So this weekend we went to see “Inception”, the new trippy mind-bender from trippy-mind-bender-specializing director Christopher Nolan. If you think “Dark City” meets “Matrix” meets “What Dreams May Come” meets “The Spy Who Loved Me”, you won’t be far off. (But don’t think “Dreamscape”. Aside from involving dreams, the films are nothing alike.)

“Inception” concerns a sort of dream hacker who makes a living entering people’s dreams and stealing information from them. There’s nothing psychic involved — it’s a technological process explained in a throwaway scene as having been developed by the military to train soldiers to fight together. (Evidently the “Call of Duty” series wasn’t cutting it anymore.) The main character, Cobb, is a man without a country, unable to return to the United States for murky reasons; he’s sort of like Roman Polanski, only without friends in Hollywood to lobby for him. When a corporate bigshot offers him an opportunity for a clean slate, he is compelled to take it, despite the risks — some of which are known only to him, and not to the other members of his team.

“Inception” features a great cast, especially the members of Cobb’s team, including (of course) Leonardo DiCaprio, Dileep Rao (of “Avatar” and, more memorably IMO, “Drag Me To Hell”), Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, and my personal favorites of the group, Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Cillian Murphy is always fun to watch, as is Pete Postelthwaite in a small role, and Tom Berenger turns up as well, as Cillian’s uncle, just to make me feel old. Thanks Tom. As Cobb’s wife, Mal, Marion Cotillard manages to be adorable and scary at the same time.

The special effects in “Inception” are pretty amazing, especially in an early scene where a city explodes block by block and piece by piece, or when it folds over on itself to make a sort of city croissant where you can walk up to a vertical street, take another step, and find yourself on another plane perpendicular to the one you started on. If urban planners could figure out how to do this, they could achieve new levels of population density, but it might get a little dark. Despite all the CGI, though, the most impressive sequence is done with invisible wires, when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Arthur single-handedly battles an army of assassins in the weightless interior of a hotel.

Speaking of Gordon-Levitt, the main reason I was able to get my wife to go see this movie was because of him (she loved him in “500 Days of Summer“). But when he showed up on screen I had to remind her who he was — none of the look or mannerisms of his “500 Days” character appeared in this film. If he isn’t as big a star as DiCaprio someday, I will be very surprised. An unfortunate side effect of his disappearing into this character, though, was that my wife had to concentrate on the movie itself, which she seemed to find baffling and rather dull. She was asleep within 45 minutes or so, curled up across a couple of seats at the theater. She did wake up again toward the end to watch the finale though. Me? I liked it, a lot.

But then again I like almost everything.

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4 Comments

  1. Actually the hallway scene wasn’t done with wires, but with a spinning hallway(!). Although I suppose some of the other weightless scenes would be done with wires. I’d pay another $12 to see the movie again just for that hallway scene.

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    • Good point; some time after I wrote this, I was reading an article in Entertainment Weekly about the hallway scene. It said they actually constructed THREE sets, one with the spinning hallway you mention, one vertical hallway that they could drop people down, and one regular. Really amazing stuff, made even more so by the lack of CGI. This was a “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” quality scene in my opinion — I am right there with you on it being worth $12 just for that. (I would also pay $12 to see a sequel focused on Arthur and Ariadne.)

      One thing the article didn’t reveal is how they did the trick of binding all the other dreamers together with cable and hauling them away. Teasers!

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