19 July 2010

In which I review "Inception", but do not summarize the plot

WARNING: Like with every movie review, I assume you've seen the movie, or don't care about spoilers. If these are not true, then go see it and come back to read.

I had an aversion to Leonardo DiCaprio when he was first famous, mostly from a misplaced sense of jealousy to how women reacted to him. No longer; I realized that he's become one of my favorite actors, because I believe him as the character, and don't spend entire movies distracted by who he is like I did when I would pay money to see Tom Cruise in a movie. The entire run of the film all I could think was 'that's Tom Cruise, that's Tom Cruise, that's Tom Cruise'. Thing is, "Inception" is not a great film because of Leo, not entirely. Yes, his performance is one important part, but "Inception" is a great film because it parlays each of its components so masterfully into a big-budget work of art that is rare in our contemporary film-culture of franchises. You know how "Avatar" is all visual with a transparent plot and 2 dimensional characters (how's that for irony)? "Inception" is like that, only with a good story and good acting; it makes you think, and I like movies that make me think. If you aren't paying attention it is easy to become lost in the multi-layered world that director Christopher Nolan creates for us with the driving soundtrack, afore-alluded stunning visuals, and amazing performances.

First I want to touch on the soundtrack, what I feel to be the only weakness in the film. Even then its weakness is not from quality, but from originality. It sounded a lot like my memory of the Nolan "Batman" soundtracks, both that I feel were perfect for the "Batman" movies. Much like Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, the reason for this sonic similarity is that it is the same composer who wrote the music for "Inception", the estimable Hans Zimmer. The point I ultimately want to make is that no matter how perfect the soundtrack was when it was called "Batman", it sounds like it was waiting to be re-written for "Inception". The driving beat, the blaring horn, the way the clock-ticking sound appears at certain intervals (to me this made me think that every time we heard that you were inside a dream), the film would not be the triumph it is without the soundtrack. Even if Batman had it first in an earlier incarnation. The music never distracts but enhances, especially the action scenes. In doing my research for this post (looking up Hans Zimmer on Wikipedia) I realized that he's written a LOT and some of my favorite films ("Lion King", "Crimson Tide", "Sherlock Holmes", the aforementioned Nolan "Batman" films) have been scored by him. Is it Nolan's influence that generates the similarity? It works, so maybe I shouldn't be so quick to complain or call it a weakness, but more of an observation.

There is a scene in the middle-level of the 3 explicit dream states our team are in where in dream level 1 they are in free-fall and therefore there is no gravity in the hotel. The zero-g fight scene felt inspired and fresh to me, in the same way that every fight scene after "The Matrix" and "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" felt derivative (I'm looking at you, " Charlie's Angels"). All the action sequences in our explicit dream worlds felt only partially contiguous, with characters moving from A to B faster than we would consider possible, and no clear tracking along a physical path. "Duh, Rob", you say, "it's a dream". 'I know', I reply, 'that's my point'. If you've seen the movie, you know of what I speak. The zero-g fight scene really stuck out for me, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance in particular. I wonder how much of that was him versus CG versus stunt doubles?

Gordon-Levitt's overall performance was outstanding, beyond the fight scene. I know he's been working, but I don't recall watching him in anything since "3rd Rock from the Sun", and that was a few years ago. I'm easily entertained, but bad acting ("Twilight", dear God in heaven, "Twilight") can ruin a movie for me. Everyone in "Inception" was fantastic. Ellen Page is legit, folks. I'm still not sure why Cisco chose her to be their spokesperson, but she was good in this movie, by which I mean believeable. I bought who she was and what she was doing. I've already commented on how good DiCaprio is, and I'd be remiss without name checking Ken Watanabe. The rest of the supporting cast are all spot on as well. Tom Hardy is finally redeemed in my eyes, the stink of "Star Trek: Nemesis" nowhere to be seen on him. And Michael Caine! Nolan likes him some Michael Caine, folks, and we are all the richer for it.

The use of the top as plot device was masterful, our attention drawn to it without feeling beat over the head with the toy, and the closing scene truly feels like something the entire film had been leading us to, all tied to that damned top. How many takes of that top spinning did it require to get the wavering motion without falling down? Is our man Cobb still dreaming? Is this world real? I don't know. What I do know is that "Inception" deserves to win awards, or maybe I am still dreaming?


Oh! I remember what I wanted to add! They'll just let ANYONE run the machine that actually puts them into the dream state, won't they? Random Asian kid, Flight attendant ... People integrated with the macguffin; Does Dom Cobb look like a bitch?
Then why you tryin' to...


UPDATE 17 August, 2010:

Looks likes there is more to the score than I had at first realized.  Nicely played, Hans & Christopher, Nicely played.


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