Day 71: 'Inception'


O.K., I've got 30 minutes to provide my opinion of Inception before I have to be out the's what I thought. Any movie that can keep me up for two and a half hours after a 12:30 post midnight start time, where I'm still debating the ending a day later, and trying to decide what I think about, is some kind of amazing cinematic experience.

Is it the best movie in the history of movies? No. Is it the smartest wide release movie you're likely to see in all of 2010, and during most years post-millenium? Yes. Let's start with what's awesome about this meticulously crafted piece of filmmaking. The story is ingenious, original and well thought out. Director Christopher Nolan has spent a good chunk of the last decade plotting the elements together, and his attention to detail shows in every frame.

The film is about a group of thieves who rob their targets of ideas within their subconscious. They raid their subjects' dreams to glean secrets for their wealthy corporate clients. This time, they have a new type of assignment. Instead of extraction, they're hired to implant an idea - inception. It's a tougher task, but this ace group of specialists - led by veteran Leonardo DiCaprio - know what they're doing...they think.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot, because peeling away the layers of details is half the fun in this movie. Inception is stuffed with ideas, but Nolan must be credited with having it all make sense. The logic of the dreams, and the dreams within the dreams, and the dreams within those dreams, all fit together by the final outcome. And the filmmaking credits on every level are superlative (especially the editing, production design and Hans Zimmer's magnificent score).

Each actor and member of the team - Leonardo DiCaprio as the ringleader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as his second-in-command, Ellen Page as the architect and Tom Hardy as the forger - are perfectly suited to their roles. Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Ken Watanabe and especially Marion Cotillard as DiCaprio's wife, also offer able support.

If anything, the movie is possibly overstuffed with ambition, and one too many setpieces. While the zero gravity action sequence in a hotel corridor is something that must be seen on the biggest screen possible, the scenes at a snowy summit - lifted straight from a Bond movie, and filled to the brim with stunts and explosions - are almost overkill. There is so much ground to cover that one wishes Nolan had focused a tad more on the emotional arc of his characters than every cool shot a modern day Stanley Kubrick could ever concieve of...

There are things that this movie is trying to say about dreams, memory and reality that are intriguing and weighty and not usually found in summer popcorn movie hits. But the sci-fi, The Matrix-y elements eventually, for me, somewhat blunted the film's emotional impact. I admired Inception more than I was enveloped in its spell. It also made me think about other entertainments that I loved more that deal in endlessly fascinating, similar themes - films like Solaris and Jacob's Ladder and the underrated Lovely Bones, or recent TV fare like the last episode of "Lost." Do audiences require kinetic thrills, or have-it-both-ways outcomes in order to take in weightier ideas? I'm not sure. I do know I want to see Inception again to understand it better. And I'm still thinking about its ending...that, perhaps, is the highest compliment I can pay it. One thing is certain. There is nothing else like it currently playing in theaters.

If you've seen Inception, I'm extremely curious - what did you think? If you haven't seen it, be careful what you read. This is a movie that is best seen with as little advance knowledge as possible.

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