Monday, August 2, 2010


Without a doubt, one of the best films of the year.

I've seen it twice now, and I just have to say that this movie blows me away. In standard Christopher Nolan fashion, it's an intricate mental puzzle. However, unlike Momento or The Prestige, it's one that leaves you on somewhat unstable ground. Those previous films left you with an "Aha! That's what was going on!" Inception is content to leave you with questions, and a final shot that's incredibly audacious in it's torture of the audience.

Which, as I describe it, seems like it wouldn't be very entertaining. However, what Nolan does is not the cheap, open-ended climax that leaves you feeling cheated. He's not David Lynch, where you reach the end of Mulholland Drive and realize that even the maker has no idea what's going on either, and is simply stringing you along. I'm 100% convinced that Nolan could tell you exactly what's happening in Inception...he knows what it all means, and the exact nature of the reality that the multiple dream layers are concealing.

...He's just choosing not to tell us. He's leaving the ending in such a way that you can formulate your own ideas, and discuss what you've seen, while still feeling there IS a "right" answer. It's thrilling.

Which is not to say that Inception falls down as a summer-movie action fest. Nolan has grown more and more confident in staging larger and larger action set-pieces, and he really outdoes, well, everyone here. (Michael Bay may trump him on sheer chaos, but at least I could follow the geography of the events that Nolan was unleashing) The grand thing is that the huge action beats stay connected, intimately, to the intellectual thrust of the film, and therefore feel natural and not just tacked onto the narrative.

I really don't want to say too much, because the surprises and twisting narrative are part and parcel of the experience. It is a complicated movie, juggling several layers of reality and dreamscape. That said, I reject those who say that they can't follow it. It's a metaphysical heist movie, and, like all great heist movies, the deal is to explain your plan, execute your plan, and then wait for the monkey wrenches to get thrown in. I struggle with people who watch a movie where entire scenes are spent explaining EXACTLY HOW THIS WILL HAPPEN, and then be utterly confused when it does happen.

Are you not really watching the movie? Oh, yeah. You're texting...Jagbag.

One criticism I can level at Nolan is that his films tend to skew to the intellectual over the emotional. There's emotions all over the place, but the approach and exploration of them is always a bit clinical. Inception is built from a deeply emotional starting point (heh - inception), but you have to be open to Nolan's style for it to fully reach you. I find myself very moved by what Nolan does, The Dark Knight left me in tears, but I can see how some people find it cold.

The bottom line is, this is a summer thrill-ride built on a solid, well-thought-out story, and aimed, believe it or not, squarely at adults. It's a film that takes pulpy concepts and conceits, and uses them to tell an interesting and far more than surface-level story. It actually reminds me on Ang Lee's Hulk on that level. Nolan and Lee were able to take these sensationalist concepts and mine them for something adult and intriguing. That's what I'd like to see more of.

Completely Recommended - even if you think it sucks, you'll talk about it after.

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