Stories Of Nerdy Adventures (Now With 100% More Cetaceans)
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Ok, today I definitely saw Inception in its entirety. This means the theatre showing it last week (GSC Midvalley, Malaysia) did cut it randomly, hence ruining the movie. I advise anyone to avoid that particular establishment, or else you'll be duped into spending 10 bucks on an incomplete movie.
Now that I've seen the whole film, it makes sense. Mostly. The parts that didn't make sense to me do bug me, but that doesn't diminish the movie by a whole lot. I would say this is not Nolan's best movie. However, it's still very remarkably put together and is the best film I've seen so far this year. The story while complex, is pretty straightforward (unlike Memento which required a ton of brain stack space). The following review is extremely spoilerific, so stop reading now and go see the film if you haven't yet (I highly recommend it).
Inception is a heist movie, but instead of money or things our dodgy protagonists steal ideas and thoughts from within dreams. The main character is Dominic Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio), an "extractor" who specialises in pulling secrets from the mind via a shared dream state. This state is achieved with a technology developed by the military in the near future, and is used by extractors to invade the dreams of corporate moguls and perform industrial espionage. Cobb is a man on the run from the law, for he is wanted for the apparent murder of his wife.
Cobb is aided by his team, which includes a point man named Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who researches a target, an architect who thinks up the worlds for the dreamer to inhabit, and other accomplices to help with arranging a covert shared dreaming session where the subject is caught unawares. Inside a dream, a dreamer populates it with people that are 'projections of his or her subconscious'. These 'projections' can attack an invader, if they're not careful. In the universe of Inception, important people are trained to defend their mind using their subconscious, making things tough for the extraction team. Also, Cobb is haunted by memories of his late wife (Marion Cottilard); she appears in his dreams and messes with his job, making things even harder for our idea thieves.
After a failed extraction attempt on a Japanese business tycoon named Saito (Ken Watanabe), the team is offered a job by Saito to do a job for him. Instead of stealing an idea, he wants Cobb to plant an idea into a man named Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) the son of a business rival. Fischer is heir to his ailing father's company, and he would soon inherit it. Saito needs to make him break the company apart, so he would no longer have a powerful competitor. In return, Saito offers to fix all of Cobb's legal problems (he is a powerful rich man after all).
Cobb accepts, and he assembles a team, which would have a few new members. He is introduced to a brilliant young student named Ariadne (Ellen Page) by his old mentor Miles (Michael Caine), who loves the idea of creating worlds in dreams. There is a breathtaking dream sequence where Ariadne folds the world on a whim. She literally folds it. CG is used sparingly in Nolan movies; but when he does use it, it's very spectacular.
Next, Cobb looks for a 'forger', a man who can shift appearances inside a dream. The forger he's looking for is named Eames (Tom Hardy), who leads him to a chemist named Yusuf (Dileep Rao). To plant an idea inside someone's head, the dream team has to create multiple nested layers of dreams (dreams inside dreams). The chemist would make a sedative that is strong enough to keep the target under deep sleep so this can work.
So the team finds out Fischer rides long distance flights regularly, and all they have to do is get onboard with him and drug him to get into a shared dream state uninterrupted. Saito arranges for the flight by buying the whole airline and setting up the cabin so the plan can proceed.
Once the dream begins, things get weird as the characters go down deeper into nested dreams. We get to see weird architecture, freight trains appearing out of nowhere in the city, strange weather, gravity going in all directions, and other stuff you can only find in dreams. This brings up comparisons to the Matrix, but Nolan doesn't copy the visual imagery (which is now cliche), but instead the dream physics has its own unique look and feel.
The movie wins solidly on visuals, which isn't just amazing but also incredibly stylish. The acting is top notch from a very strong cast, and the story is great. Nolan is a storyteller who likes playing with the narrative's structure, and it plays out well here. However there are plot devices that don't really make sense, even if they might be internally consistent. In the movie, there is a place called 'limbo' where the mind enters if a person is killed in a dream where he or she is heavily sedated. In the climax of the movie, Saito and Fischer are killed and end up there, so Cobb and Ariadne decide to go to limbo to look for them. This is achieved simply by using the dream machine again. Why can they do this? Is 'limbo' some global layer so it is shared by default? I'm sure I'm just nitpicking, but I find the presence of jarring fridge logic annoying in an otherwise consistent plot.
In summary, Inception is one fine movie. It wasn't really a huge intellectual puzzle like I expected, but still engaging enough to rise above the other movies that have been released this year. Go see it!