Inception

Half a year after its release, Inception is probably still the most talked about movie of 2010. Which in itself is a good thing. Of course, the longer a movie exists the more people pop up who want to criticise the film. Surely it wasn’t as good as they said it was.

Of course not. I’ve discussed this phenomenon for the first time ages ago, when Blair Witch Project popped up. In this dark age of pre-broadband internet, movies still travelled over the ocean by boat (often even to do the peddling themselves). Thus the anticipation had become so unbearably high that Europeans were universally disappointed. Apart from those people who had stayed away from newspapers, magazines and television (older readers may remember this medium – it used to be quite popular in its days)… some of those viewers even fell for the hoax the film was built around.

In Inception‘s case it’s even worse. it may have helped that the movie premiered all over the world in roughly the same month, but these days people will be glued to their computers the minute  they’ve come home to blog about the film or look up things they didn’t get. Well, that is those who don’t have internet on their mobile. Some didn’t even bother to wait for the end of the film before they started twittering. Maybe that’s the future of cinema: at the bottom of the screen there’ll be a ticker tape displaying the latest tweets. If Inception is a dream, everyone has been Jung and Freud, over-analysing the film to death.

And then there’s the director Christopher Nolan, whose debut picture went by sadly unnoticed (it’s called Following, why don’t you have a look?) before Memento torpedoed him to fame. As the IMDb’s top list proves, the man was the most influential director of the ’00s. Heath Ledger‘s death made his Batman movie a hype long before it was released (so much so that by the time Terry Gilliam‘s film was released everyone seemed to have forgotten Ledger was in it).
So surely Inception, a brainy blockbuster, would be Nolan’s demise? No? The naysayers damned Nolan and came to a consensus: “It’s not as good as they say it is, but it ain’t bad.”

Fans of semantics should love that sentence: it’s almost a reluctant praise of the film. They’re not saying: “It’s not bad but not as good as they say it is.” But they’re saying it the other way round. This roughly translates as: I can’t diss the film as much as I would’ve liked. Damn you, Christopher Nolan and your talent!

Having been confronted with a lot of negativity around the film, my reaction became oddly dual: I found myself defending the film while, at the same time, wondering whether I really liked the film.

Defending the film wasn’t too awful: you need to go along with the film to understand it fully (not sure if I do, not sure if I care) and this helps to dismiss some of the criticism. A comment I often heard was that it was odd the kidnapped heir travelled without many bodyguards in real life but had loads of them in his dream world. Yes, this makes sense: he’s only interesting to those who are counterspies and they need him alive. To the rest of humanity, he has about as much chance of being shot as the rest of us (offer not valid if you live in a ghetto).
But I couldn’t believe the plot twist they suddenly just bought an entire airline, just for the sake of the mission. If you can do that, you could’ve staged an easier kidnapping, not?

And if all this dream stuff is so top secret, how come Ellen Page‘s character is so quick to learn all of it? Well, she’s an eager and intelligent student. That’s how eager and intelligent students are when they’re triggered. And – while we’re at it – yes, her role is vital: Cobb (di Caprio) needs someone who can shape a layout as good as him, but you’ll never force him to do that himself. That’s a psychological given: he has mentally blocked himself so much he’ll never build a layout himself. And he needs someone, preferably not too close to him, who is able to work around his inner demons if those pop up. Which they definitely will.
However, who felt the need to call her Ariadne? Am I the only one who found this cheap? Or should I shut up and is it appropriate?

As for the amount of violence… some of it could have been deleted, in favour of more psychology. Maybe it would’ve been such a blockbuster, but in its worst moments Inception is not unlike a Steven Seagal movie, only better filmed. I do get the function of the snow (a remote and cold area a.k.a. “do not trespass”) but by the time it arrived I wondered if we really needed another layer, especially one that came with the plot twist you always find in blockbusters: we can only save his life if… Yeah yeah, whatever.

I’m still not sure whether Inception should’ve been shorter or longer, but I do understand that a lot of the length was needed to make the many layers of the film come alive. You feel Nolan is building dimensions and a lot of people who are eager to say bad things about the film seem to have misunderstood some of those dimensions.
For me, the biggest problems were the couple of times Nolan opened a box of blockbuster clichés. I don’t think I’ve misunderstood a keg of the story if I say this. There’s excellent cinematography and Zimmer‘s score, including the fact it’s built on the Piaf song, is fitting.

Had Inception been globally released on the same day and everyone being forced to watch it that day, I’m sure more people would’ve liked it. The only shame is that it isn’t brave enough to delete the clichés. Unlike Jaco van Dormael‘s Mr. Nobody. But then again, fewer people seemed to like that film because it didn’t want to give in… the world is just not perfect.

Sweet dreams!

8.5/10

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3 thoughts on “Inception

  1. deeopey January 4, 2011 / 12:24

    Mr Nobody never came my way after your recommendation. Might be time to try again. Wonder if it got a UK release in the end.

    Inception I have to say was a great film. It was everything I ask for from an intelligent blockbuster that most of Hollywood has forgotten to make.

    So lets be clear my ideal blockbuster should make you think, treat themes in an adult way, not fall apart when you think about it too hard, it should use the Hollywood machine’s money to show you something impossible on lower budgets, and at the same time appeal to a much broader audience than most of my kind of films.

    Inception succeeds on all of those points. In many ways it’s a classic Hitchcock thriller. Hitchcock’s always been my gold-standard for Hollywood films and Nolan has shown that all of the best traits of his films apply equally to audiences today.

    I just hope that the seed of creativity creates ripples in the industry. Transformers 3D is not what I’m looking for.

  2. deeopey January 4, 2011 / 12:26

    Oh, and on your criticisms. I agree with most of them. But I do think Nolan had to play a balancing act to get that aforementioned mass appeal. I think the end result is what I described above.

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