I’ve been looking forward to Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” for so long and with such absurdly heightened expectations that it seemed almost impossible the film could live up to my hopes. This seems to be a pattern with Nolan, as incidentally, I could have said the exact same thing when his “Memento” and “The Dark Knight” were released. But as with those two previous films, Nolan has somehow surpassed my unfair expectations and once again delivered a work that is both technically astounding and wildly entertaining.
Nolan is the rare breed of film artist whose vision always shines through vibrantly, regardless of how many twists the story has or how many millions of dollars worth of special effects are plastered up on the screen. Most filmmakers, however talented, would become overwhelmed by the sheer scope and complexity of these projects, but Nolan somehow makes it all look easy.
Anyway, the summer movie season is nearing its end, and I haven’t been shy in the past few months about voicing my disgust and utter heartbreak over the current state of big-picture filmmaking. But thanks to both “Toy Story 3” and now “Inception,” the season hasn’t been a total wash, and in fact has now produced what must be considered — hyperbole aside — two of the most purely entertaining movies I’ve ever seen. That doesn’t mean I’ll cease lamenting the hours I lost to the likes of “The A-Team,” “Knight and Day” and “Predators,” but it’s always nice to get such a welcome reprieve from the onslaught of stupidity and insanity that has come to define the summer movie season.
Next up: “Salt,” “Dinner for Schmucks,” “Middle Men” and “The Expendables” — although I’ve a sneaking suspicion that we’d all be better off simply seeing “Inception” five times.
**** (out of four)
2010, Christopher Nolan, U.S., PG-13
Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with this one. I went into “Inception” having seen the trailers several times, but I never read anything specific about the film until after I had experienced it, and I think perhaps that may be the only fair way to approach such an intricate puzzle-box of a movie. So, in a perfect world, you would put this paper down right this instant, go see “Inception” a couple times, then come back and finish the review. I know you won’t, though, so I’ll try to keep this critique as spoiler-free as possible. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Interestingly enough, I could describe to you the events that transpire over the course of the film, the nuts and bolts that make up the deceptively complicated story, and it wouldn’t matter much. I could “spoil” things with a one-sentence explanation that would clarify and justify every single plot development, and you would still have a great experience watching the movie. The danger here is not in revealing some massive narrative secret that lies at the heart of “Inception,” but rather in sullying the viewer’s overall sense of discovery.
There are things in this film that will force you to re-evaluate what you thought was possible in cinema. This rare quality has inspired comparisons to “The Matrix,” but consensus seems to be that “Inception” is exponentially more effective, mature and polished in the manner in which it goes about blowing your mind completely apart. And I’m not just referring to the cool visuals you’ve seen in the trailers (zero-gravity gun fights, cities that roll over onto themselves, etc.) — “Inception” is a veritable symphony for the senses, filled with countless images and sounds and ideas that will be immediately seared into your memory. It’s a trip, in every sense of the word.
As for the plot, the futuristic “Inception” is at its most fundamental level an old-fashioned heist flick. In the simplest terms, it involves a team of dream-invading “security specialists” (headed by Leonardo DiCaprio in yet another fierce and nuanced performance, along with the great Joseph Gordon-Levitt as his long-suffering right-hand man) that is hired by a company to implant an idea in the consciousness of a powerful rival CEO that would inspire him to dismantle his newly inherited empire. Thing is, it’s easy to extract data from a person’s mind by luring them into a pre-designed dreamscape and literally stealing their secrets — but it’s much more difficult to implant an idea, especially when it’s vital that the subject be convinced that they formed this idea on their own.
Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? That’s the problem with even attempting a traditional review of a film as atypical as “Inception” — no description, no plot rundown, no words could possibly do justice to a work this sprawlingly creative and intricate. And “intricate” is the right word — not confounding or confusing or incomprehensible, as has been claimed by some prolific critics who are apparently incapable of following a story unless it goes directly from Point A to Point B. The film makes perfect sense, using its own internal logic, and I think some of the more stymied viewers are simply putting up a block that prevents them from seeing the forest for the trees. My advice: Don’t try to “keep up” with the plot, because as master illusionist Nolan eventually establishes, there’s not really that much to “keep up” with. “Inception” is all about process and mechanisms — so sit back, relax and be transported, instead of bickering about “plot holes” that ultimately don’t even matter.
Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.