23 July 2010

Review: "Inception"

We are six and a half months into 2010 and the film industry has offered us very little. I have only seen four great films at the theatre, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Toy Story 3, The Kids Are All Right and I Am Love. Since two of those titles are foreign and one is a sequel that means Hollywood has offered me only one great original idea. Since Avatar was released film studios seem content to slap on some 3D effects and hope people will waste their money (hello Alice in Wonderland). For months Inception has been the film that people have been talking about. Many critics and fans think Christopher Nolan is a genius. The Dark Knight was a huge success and some think it should have been nominated for Best Picture. I did not care for Batman Begins (2005) at all or The Prestige (2006), but The Dark Knight did show that Christopher Nolan is a gifted filmmaker with a great eye for detail. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, and actor who is sometimes overused and ill-suited for certain films roles. If he was the only star of the film I probably would not have seen Inception, but the film offers great supporting performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Ken Watanabe and a scene-stealing Marion Cotillard. Inception is a wonderfully conceived film. The story is lures you in and forces you to use your mind and follow along. The cinematography is so spellbinding that I found the film more visually stunning than Avatar. It is unfortunate that Inception can be so easily compared to Shutter Island, at least on the surface, because Inception is such a cohesive film that the entire team (actors, director, editors, etc.) should be applauded for their efforts.

Roger Ebert claims that Inception is immune to spoilers and that even knowing how the film ends will reveal nothing if you did not know how it got there. I will do my best to give a brief overview of the film.

Dominic Cobb (DiCaprio) is able to extract dreams from people by entering their subconscious. He works alongside Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), who is responsible for researching the clients. They are approached by Saito (Watanabe), a wealthy businessman. Saito wants the two men to perform inception (planting a dream inside a target) on Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), the son of Saito's corporate rival. Arthur thinks that inception is impossible but Cobb disagrees. Cobb seeks out his father-in-law (Michael Caine) in order to find a highly skilled architect who can create the worlds inside the dreams. Cobb is unwilling to act as architect because his subconscious projection of his wife Mal (Cotillard) is dangerous. He is introduced to Aridane (Page), a young but highly skilled architecture student. The other members of the team include Eames (Hardy), who is able to shift identities, and Yusuf (Rao), a chemist who concocts a sedative that is strong enough to keep Fischer asleep through the layers of the dream.

Inception is brilliant and confusing. There are times where you might think you have the film understood but then something new will derail you. Leonardo DiCaprio is able to anchor the film but the performances of Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are inspired. I read, and am now unable to find, a review that compared Marion Cotillard's breathtaking performance to that of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Her presence on screen is that powerful. This is a film that inspires and provokes. It is hard to leave the theatre without wanting to talk for hours and days about the reality on screen. I saw Inception in IMAX which made so many of the film's most inventive scenes seem that much more ingenious. Many accolades must be given to the cinematographer, Wally Pfister, whose work will assuredly garner much acclaim. The last time I remember being so impressed with a film's cinematography was Fargo. Inception is a great film and one that begs to be seen multiple times (though this does not seem as much a cash grab as James Cameron re-releasing Avatar with eight more minutes!!). It may not end up being the best film of 2010 but it is one of the most inventive and imaginative stories I have seen in a very long time.

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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