INCEPTION – Jabcat Movie Review

Clever Is As Clever Does

Inception is in love with its own cleverness, a fascinating movie that aims high and often delivers, but could have been much more if greater quantities of surprise and emotion had been added to the mix.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team of mind bandits invade dreams and steal secrets. It’s a game of corporate espionage as presented by writer-director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) in this highly anticipated summer flick.

The Dream Team has two players who stand out. Tom Hardy is Eames, the forger. His distinctive voice, slightly disheveled appearance and odd way of carrying himself make you take note and watch his every move, listen to his every word.

As Cobb’s right hand man Arthur, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days Of Summer) is steady and calm, pulling off the film’s most impressive feat in a spectacular sequence, defying gravity and making a human sandwich of several compatriots, floating them into an elevator shaft so he can “kick” them awake from the dream (within a dream) that has them all unconscious.

As the crew goes about their business, Cobb’s dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) pops up in every dream he enters, interfering with their work. Cotillard and the remaining cast are solid, especially Ken Watanabe as Saito, the corporate chief who hires the crew and joins the team, and Cillian Murphy, the team’s unwitting target and son of Saito’s competitor.

Cobb’s struggle to leave Mal behind is the emotional center of the film, with DiCaprio playing a tortured soul, similar to his work in Shutter Island. But like Mal herself, the scenes of Cobb dealing with his dead wife often feel like an intruder, pulling us away from intrguing set-ups and pulse-pounding action as the Dream Team connives its way into their target’s subconscious, trying this time not to steal information, but to plant the seed of an idea within his mind (inception!).

Only Ellen Page (spectacular in Juno and solid in other roles) seems miscast as Ariadne, the Dream Team’s newest member, an architect who designs the dreamscapes in which the team does their work. It doesn’t help that her character is underwritten, providing little back story to explain her formidable talents, including her unusual insight into Cobb’s personal history. Woman’s intuition, I guess.

Despite its faults, Inception engages from start to finish with visual mastery, a powerful score and technical film-making of the highest level. An intricate film with many layers (dreams within dreams within dreams), it’s an amazing feat that the movie is relatively easy to follow. One moment we’re in the real world, the next inside a dream, the next inside a different dream, with a simple cut doing the trick, visual or verbal cues smoothing the transition.

The film tackles big topics – the subconscious and its interaction with our deepest secrets, the nature of reality in a world of manufactured dreams  – and comes across intelligent and thoughtful. It may not have all the answers but when most films, especially summer blockbusters, have the depth of a paper napkin, the fact that Inception tries for more is one of its greatest strengths.

But while the movie aims high, is fast paced and does a great job making a complex story understandable, there are precious few surprises along the way. It’s as if Nolan, recognizing how complex the story was, spent all his effort constructing the tale for audience accessibility, and forgot that sometimes we don’t need to know what’s going on, that twists and turns jolt as much as action and intrigue. A maze has been constructed for our enjoyment, a fascinating story with many layers, but we’ve been placed above the puzzle, a vantage point from which we witness the entire  creation, when half the fun is getting lost within its borders.

If I were dreaming a more perfect Inception, I’d be happily asleep, my subconscious supplying a movie that revealed less, jarred more with unexpected moves and offered deeper personal relationships among the team members.

A film like that would be . . . well . . . downright clever.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page
Directed by Christopher Nolan

2 thoughts on “INCEPTION – Jabcat Movie Review

  1. I strongly disagree; this film is perfect. The fact that you saw it the way you did is evidence, in my eyes, that the film is indeed as great as I perceive it to be. It works on many levels, one of which is intended to please the masses. That’s the level that you saw, yet you expected more so you were somewhat disappointed. The thing is, there’s much more going on than you give it credit for or are aware of.

    The scenes involving Mal are the most powerful moments of the film, if you considered them a distraction then you’ve got it all backwards. This is likely the densest, most structured, yet most ambiguous film ever created; every piece is important and leads you towards a conclusion, but the closer you look the less sure you become… like a dream. It’s a recursive, symbolism filled puzzle that reflects the nature of our subconscious – but that’s not what makes the film so amazing. For me, it’s the emotional story of Cobb trying to return home to his children that impresses and it’s analog in Fischer’s imagined reconciliation with his own father. If the scene of the inception proper when Fischer finds the pinwheel in the safe, or the ending when Cobb finally sees his children’s faces didn’t move you, then you’re either a cold human being or you weren’t realizing the universal truths on display in those moments. The point is, you saw it the same way the masses saw it: a clever, stylized, heist-film, but while they were easily impressed, you were hoping for more. However, there is more if you had tried to find it.

    You’re free to have your opinion of course, I just felt the need to point out that those of us who were blown away (other critics included) weren’t done so in some fake, temporary way. We truly consider Inception to be one of the best films ever made. If anything, because of the inevitable backlash against anything that becomes popular (and believe me, I typically don’t like most things that find mass appeal), Inception ended up being underrated, considered “smart for dumb people”. It’s now thought that if you really like the film, you must be easily impressed. I think that’s a cop-out by people who aren’t willing to look more closely and really figure the film out (not you necessarily). It’s more than just an action film that takes place within dreams and touches on some deep issues; it’s a unique piece of art and I believe it deserved to win Best Picture, and even earn a nomination for Cillian Murphy for Supporting Actor. I won’t even get into it not being nominated for Director and Editing. It seems that juvenile backlash against populist opinion made it’s way to the academy by the time they were voting for nominees.

    Ah well, those of us that know how fantastic the film is will always be able to feel good in knowing that we really get something that the vast majority does not, and I honestly don’t even care if that sounds pretentious, because it’s the truth.

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