Being the reviews and ramblings of an incurable narcissist with too much time on his hands.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Review Backlog 5: Inception
Christopher Nolan is one of those directors I empathize with. For starters, we both have the same idol, a little director you might have heard of named Stanley Kubrick. For seconds, we both aspire to do action based movies with a purpose and intellect. For thirds, we're both REALLY pretentious.
Mr. Nolan is enjoying one of the fastest rises from obscurity I've ever seen, due primarily (ok entirely) to his fantastic reboot of the previously dead-in-the-water Batman franchise. As a result, he's taken time off in between Dark Knight and the Batman finale to do a pet project he's had in his head for pushing a decade. Alongside him is Leonardo Dicaprio, who is in the middle of a similar rise. After a fantastic early performance, alongside fellow Teen heart-throb turned real actor, Johnny Depp in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, his next 2 notable roles in the easily forgettable Romeo+Juliet and the HEAVILY overrated Titanic and he disappeared from notable roles for near on half a decade. He re-emerged in a fantastic performances in Gangs of New York, The Aviator and Blood Diamond, earning his place in the pantheon of extraordinarily handsome men who can also act, alongside Mr. Depp and Brad Pitt.
But enough about that, I'm here to talk about Inception. The basic premise, as it stands, is that there are a bunch of guys who, through a drug induced coma, can slip into other peoples dreams to steal information. One of them, a Mr. Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) is battling some personal demons and is on the run from the law. In exchange for clearing his name, an Asian businessman (Ken Watanabe) hires him and his team to do the Inception of the title, to plant an idea in someone's head rather than steal one. The thought is to convince the businessman's main competitor (Cillian Murphy) to dissolve his father's empire. It is, however, an exceptionally difficult and complex maneuver and as you can probably guess, something goes wrong...and that's all I'm going to say, I hate spoilers.
On to the technical details. The cinematography is, as it always is with Mr. Nolan, excellent. There's no Imax camera use, like in Dark Knight, nor any exceptional use of lighting and angles like in Batman Begins or The Prestige, but it's overall well done. The writing is solid, but I'm thinking of no longer awarding points for that and just taking points off for poor writing. I mean, how hard is it to not hire Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman?
The action scenes run the gambit from excellent to uninspiring. Some of the gun fights, especially near the end, are well shot cliches with occasional unique set pieces. The only real world action scene is a foot chase which, while fine, is vastly inferior to the one in Casino Royale. Despite the concept of allowing you to do whatever you want, due to all the action scenes but one taking place in a dream, they instantly create a rule that limits it. As a result there's only one or two action scenes that really take advantage of the concept.
The acting averages out to good. Ellen Page and Leonardo Dicaprio are the standouts and Tom Hardy does a good job with a background character. There are disappointments though. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is entirely underwhelming as a character, despite having most of the really good action scenes to himself, and Cillian Murphy is just a couple steps above a Macguffin to drive the plot. And Pete Posthlewaite wins the award for most unnecessary star casting.
The problems are minor, but noticeable. One of the odd things about making a good movie is that as it gets better, the more glaring the flaws become. For example, I don't know if it's a problem with Mr. Watanabe or with his language coach, but he is incomprehensible throughout most of the film. And maybe it's just because the film was built up to be really complex and convoluted, but the plot wasn't all that complex and the ending felt a tiny bit like a cop out.
But to be honest, all of that is irrelevant. What you need to know is whether or not it's worth seeing and the answer to that is a resounding yes. It's not the best film of the year, but it is probably one of the better films of the summer. Miles ahead of anything out right now and a surefire nominee for several academy awards (it'll probably take home Best Director or Best Original Screenplay, because the Academy STILL feels guilty about the Dark Knight fiasco). So you go see that, and I will resume looking for an accessible theater playing The Girl Who Played With Fire.
Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he is realllllly glad it didn't go for the Dallas twist. You know what I mean.