Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's the most resilient parasite? An Idea...

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

In Stephen King's 2009 sci-fi novel "Under the Dome" he starts one chapter by saying that the worst kind of virus is an idea. He explains that it grows in people's minds until it can no longer be contained and the idea either evaporates or explodes out of the person. The first lines out of Leonardo DiCaprio's mouth in the film Inception is about the virus known as an idea. An idea is truly a scary thing to have because you don't sometimes know the weight of the consequences it may have on somebody. That is both shown and explained in this film.

Ideas are a major driving force of Inception but the biggest force would have to be dreams. This entire film is based around dreams, stealing in dreams, planting ideas in dreams, waking up from dreams, establishing what is and isn't a dream and creating a dream. Christopher Nolan, who seems to now be the "OMG" director of the 21st century with films like The Prestige and the two recent Batman films, has had a lot of time to create his dreamsterpiece.

In 2000 Nolan had started writing a script about dream stealing. Nolan has always been fascinated with the mind and it's shown in his previous films, especially the now famous Memento. He had always thought about dreams and how we hold onto dreams and how we create dreams and the idea of sharing and exploiting dreams. 80 pages later he had a rough draft of a script. He presented it in 2001 to Warner Bros. but decided against making the film. Why?

Like James Cameron he needed time. Time to truly create a masterpiece, time for great actors and actresses to reveal themselves, time to let technology reach the levels he needed and time to gain experience and fame as a writer and director. And after directing the Batman films and The Prestige he finally decided it was time to make the film. He added and tweaked around the script a little, changing it from a horror film to a heist film and then into a thriller/surreal/sci-fi/heist film, and started putting together a team of actors and actresses to play in what he thought might be his masterpiece.

The first person he signed was Leonardo DiCaprio. An actor who I think personally desperately needs an Oscar and who has shown amazing growth and depth as an actor, it was no surprise Nolan wanted him. And with Shutter Island earlier this year, it only added more momentum to this film with his involvement. After that, and with Nolan being a big name in Hollywood now, he cast the rest of the film. They got Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Tom Berenger, Tileep Rao and Nolan regulars Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, and Ken Watanabe.

From there they started shooting, traveling all over the world. From Japan, to L.A, to Paris and even Tangier, this film got around. With the help of regular cinematographer Wally Pfister, editor Lee Smith and composer Hans Zimmer they were able to create a film that looked and sounded amazing.

With the film finished they started the ad campaigns. Starting off subtle, the anticipation and hype grew to a fever pitch. And with reviews from Rolling Stones calling it one of the best of the year and a lot of my blogging buddies saying exactly the same thing, it was a little hard not to have high hopes for this film. Nolan had set a standard for quality and I couldn't except anything less than awesome from him. Well is it awesome? Yes...yes it is.

I usually try to keep my plot summaries short unless I'm spoiling the plot of the film. Well I'm not going to spoil the film but instead give the short plot overview followed by an explanation of some of the ideas this film presents, trying to stay relatively spoiler free.

The film follows Dom Cobb (DiCaprio and little note Nolan's first film featured a character named Cobb) an extractor who specializes in security but also steals ideas and thoughts from other people, particularly his clients. A businessman named Saito offers them a job, a job which could prove to help Cobb get his life back of track, but like every good movie it's not easy. The job is an inception and Cobb can't do it alone. So with Saito, Cobb hires Point Man and partner Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), architect Ariadne (Page), forger Eames (Hardy) and chemist Yusuf (Rao). Their mark is the son of a prominent business man (Murphy) and they are planting the idea that he should dismantle his father's empire.

First I'll explain the jobs:
Extractor-takes the ideas
Point Man- researches targets
Architect- constructs the world of the dream
Forger- becomes another person within the dream world to get information out of the target
Chemist- formulates the sedative that helps them sleep and dream within dreams

Now an Inception-
An inception is when you plant an idea in somebodies head without them realizing it so that the idea will appear to be their own. This allows the idea to grow within the person and become the person's idea and his idea only...as if they were never there.

But how do they wake up?
To wake up from the dream they must experience a "kick." That means you feel something that causes your body to involuntarily react. This could be water to the face, tipping in a chair, or hitting something really hard.

It sounds complicated and twisted but it really isn't. To some that's a negative but I actually see it as a positive. This movie could have taken a more complicated approach but I think that would have made the film really hard to follow and could have left the general audience scratching their heads. Inception makes you think, and you will think (and probably talk about this film for days on end) but not too much. Does that make it a fault also? Yes. Part of me wishes he would have gone further with the ideas and his creation of this world. But for what he has I love it. The writing is awesome, the dialogue is awesome and I just loved every word on that script.

As for the effects I really don't have a lot of words except that they are awesome. The three parts that really show that well are the diner scene, the hotel hallway scene and the kick segments. The diner scene has the world around DiCaprio and Page exploding and popping while everything else is still. This is early in the film and it grabbed me automatically. The hotel hallway scene is just brilliance of picture and will probably be in my top scenes of the year. It's not the longest scene in the world but the way the camera moves and works, as well as the suspense and action of the fight scene as well as the dramatic conclusion make it all amazing to watch. It plays with slow motion in a way I haven't seen since The Matrix. And The kick segments are brilliant, especially towards the end.

In those segments it was always shifted into slow motion. The first time it's just kind of "Oh that's neat" but as the movie progresses it becomes an amazing effect and even creates a lot of tension towards the end. I noted the film as having layers of slow motion I haven't seen before. "Slowest motion," "Really Slow Motion," "Slower Motion" and "Slow Motion." All of it is great and adds a lot to the film. A lot of work was put into those effects.

Now a film can be pretty and well written but without good acting it is nothing. So does the acting deliver? I think so. DiCaprio continues to prove he NEEDS an Oscar by giving a great performance as Dom. He is a tortured character and DiCaprio delivers on all cylinders. Gordon-Levitt is awesome as the "straight man" of the group although he does get a few laughs out of me. Cotillard is surprisingly good as Mal being both beautiful and haunting. Murphy is typical Murphy and Wantabe is typical Wantabe. Page delivers her typical straight faced, somewhat sarcastic but lovable performance but I actually thought she did quite well.

The big surprise for me was Tom Hardy. I've always liked Hardy but never really noticed him. He was just "that suave British actor with a pouty lip and a sharp wit." In this film he is electric and totally engaging to watch. His chemistry with all the characters (especially Gordon-Levitt) is great and his little quips are fun to listen to. He's also a total badass. Overall though the acting is extremely solid and well done.

As for faults this film has a few. There are some plot inconsistencies, the film could have been shorter, the idea could have been taken farther (as mentioned before), the film turns into a pure action film halfway through (not a big problem for me but still) and the ending is great but it pisses me off as well. I'm not going to spoil it but I certainly went "GAH!!" Overall though these faults are minimal since I had an awesome time watching this film.

So is Inception the best movie ever? No. Is it one of, if not the best film so far of 2010? Yes. Should you see it? Most definitely. Don't miss this summer blockbuster masterpiece.



  1. Let's not shortchange the scorching sexual chemistry between Tom Hardy and JGL.

    Seriously, this was kind of great. I mean, no masterpiece, but it is easily the best of the year so far.

  2. Great review. I do think it's a "forger" not a "forager" because he can forge anyone. He becomes Tom Berenger's character and can forge his appearance.

  3. Oh yeah...damn editable wikipedia. It WAS forger. Well I fixed that little problem lol

  4. It certainly is an entertaining and well-made movie and the best blockbuster movie of the year. However, I think a lot of people are confusing a convoluted story with emotional depth and meaningful complexity, things that Inception strangely lacks. I thought Leo did a good job but it really seemed like he just walked off the Shutter Island set, he played the exact same character, just a little less intensely.

  5. I have to agree with Castor even though I gave it a five star review. I think the problem is is that the idea makes the overall film too mechanical: it consumes everything. In the Dark Knight the characters represented ideas and therefore we got to know them and understand them but here the idea is front and center and the characters are left with little more to do than try to explain it over and over again.

    I just read a quote from I don't know where that said if Christopher Nolan is any indication movies can no longer be great, just awesome. I don't entirely disagree.

  6. Nice review (and description of the intricacies of the plot). I actually really liked the ending. I definitely agree that they could have taken the idea further but the film was a lot of fun - inventive and intelligent (two things you can't say about a lot of blockbusters this year).