Much is made of battles between directors. Spielberg vs. Lucas was made void because they were such good friends. I’m pretty sure James Cameron and Christopher Nolan are pretty indifferent to each other, but since the press has decided to draw the battlelines on their behalf: let’s choose a winner.
It seems the main criticism and praise comes on two fronts: visual feats and plot. Many stated that Avatar created a new age in cinema, an age where we no longer are limited by the real world. Firstly, ignoring the simple fact that this is no new achievement (see the entirety of sci-fi), Avatar‘s revolutionary new filming system resulted in things that look CGI behaving realistically. Congrats. And with this “revolution” you created a derivative action movie.
The Dark Knight was more than an action film, but we didn’t get a chance to fully appreciate what Nolan could create visually. In Inception we have a marvellous sequence with Joseph Gordon Levitt in a hotel corridor. Visually smooth, and really well choreographed. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s a damn sight better looking to me than blue people. Maybe it’s just my taste in cinema, or maybe it’s my taste in men, but Inception‘s visual hook was better than Avatar‘s. Having said that, I did not see Avatar in 3D. However, 3D is at the moment some kind of gimmick whoring itself out to any asshole with a camera and a computer. Either it will pass or become a boring part of our lives, like the remote control.
So my declaration is that: one, plot trumps visuals; and two, Christopher Nolan still wins.
Even though I did find the most boring plothole in Inception, that’s more a reflection on how well Nolan tied the complexities of sci-fi and psychology together, and on how mundane a film viewer I am. So here it is: why would a multi-millionaire, who’s bothered to get protection against extraction (theft from within dreams), fly on a public flight without a bodyguard or some kind of security contingent?
Okay, now that that bollocks is out of the way, let’s actually review the bloody film, shall we?
Well, Nolan’s premise is ostensibly far-fetched, but given how little we know about the nature of dreams, he never really interferes with scientific fact. Essentially, it’s about the notion that you can steal important information by sharing a dream with someone (extraction), and perhaps implant an idea (inception). I’ll admit now that at one point I did become conscious that I’d been sitting in the cinema for some time. It’s not that it dragged, and maybe it was more to do with uncomfortable seats, but I did start to feel aware that I’d been there for a while.
For me this isn’t Nolan’s best work, but it’s a very good film. And it deserves praise for its inventiveness and consistency of plot alone. But it’s a classily written film, playing (often unnecessarily) with the relationships of the characters — Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character especially. He made the whole theater laugh at one point by sneaking a kiss from Ellen Page’s character, and his relationship with Tom Hardy’s character is tense for some reason. Leonardo DiCaprio puts in a typically believable performance. He never seems to wow me, and maybe that’s the point. But after rare occasions I will leave a theater bemused at the fact that I’m re-entering reality, I didn’t feel that from Inception (no doubt because of its sci-fi element) but I never feel it from DiCaprio. But I don’t think any director asks for more from their actors than to be believable, and that was achieved here.
Levitt was typically endearing, his character was very analytical, but because of the weight of responsibility on his shoulders for the lives of his colleagues in the crux moment of the film, I found myself most concerned with how he was getting along. Michael Caine always makes you smile, and it was nice to see another cast member from Brick, Lukas Haas, (who I would have missed entirely had it not been for the poke from my friend) progress into bigger (if not undoubtedly better) films. Ken Watanabe, put in a great turn, though because of the realistic nature and obvious emotional attachment involved in Letters from Iwojima, he was not as impressive as he was in half of Clint Eastwood’s epic on Iwojima.
By far the greatest achievement of this film is that is succeeds in tying everything together. It would be very easy to hope that the audience wouldn’t notice any holes, but Nolan clearly took a lot of time and effort meticulously ensuring everything met the rules of his universe.
Inception might not be the greatest film this year, but it’s a damn sight better than most of the other offerings you’ll get, and it deserves the level of secrecy it received because any spoilers really would kill the movie going experience. So to you and to Christopher Nolan, I’m sorry you read this if you’ve not seen the movie already.