Jul 19, 2010

[Movies] Inception (2010)

Inception (2010)Dreams tend to be depicted in movies in a particular way. When we talk of dream sequences, we can expect the edges of the screen to fudge out a bit or the camera does a soft focus on the central figure in the dream. Some dreams have clouds generated by fog machines. Others have the shimmer of stars around the actors as a clear signal that THIS IS A DREAM.

In Hollywood, dream sequences have become synonymous with fantastical elements. This means being able to fly under your own power or channeling M.C. Escher in how the shots are organized. It can mean people mutating into monsters or your deepest, darkest sexual desires being realized. It normally means the excessive use of color to make the world seem almost alien and of course the classic tropes like your inability to read given the use of a different side of the brain while dreaming.

So when Chris Nolan, a skilled writer-director decided to take on dreams, I'm sure Hollywood executives were expecting a lot of the aforementioned patterns and other predictable sequences. I doubt anyone could have truly predicted what he would finally come up with in the form of this magnificent movie.

Inception is the amazing science fiction action film that took writer-director Christopher Nolan about ten years to fully put together. And his time and effort certainly showed in how the movie came out, believe you me.

In a period of time in our near future, a new type of thief called an Extractor has come about. These Extractors used shared dreams to break into the subconscious mind of a Mark in order to acquire a key piece of information. It's a very lucrative craft that has naturally effective applications in terms of government intelligence operations and corporate espionage. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is one such Extractor together with his Point Man Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). A nearly botched job against energy mogul Saito (Ken Watanabe) turns out to be an audition of sorts for a more more complicated heist. Instead of trying to steal information from a subject, Saito needs Cobb to plant a completely new idea into the mind of a subject. The mission - convince the heir to a rival energy conglomerate Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy).

For this special and highly difficult task, Cobb assembles the best and the brightest. Similar to a classic bank heist story, the mind thieves have different roles that all come together. Beyond Cobb as the Extractor and Arthur as Point Man, they also tap the services of Eames (Tom
Hardy) as a Forger and Yusuf (Dileep Rao) as their Chemist. And completing the team is the young prodigy Ariadne (Ellen Page) as their architect, the one who will design the dream worlds themselves. Saito decides to personally join the team (as a Tourist, as the team refers to him) in order to ensure his investment in this endeavor does not go to waste.

The movie is stunning in terms of its concepts instead of relying on fantastic visuals alone. Nolan took an approach similar to The Prestige, such that the story quickly dictates the rules of the game and requires that you try to keep up as best as possible. The "rules" of shared dreaming are simple on their own, but are applied to the actual story quite masterfully. Sure, there are those moments of high fantasy with cities folding in on themselves and mirrors appearing out of nowhere, but in the end the movie avoids these kinds of sequences since such elements are against the rules, in a manner of speaking.

Considering my general distaste for Leonardo DiCaprio movies that always try to position him as a love interest, this was a nice change of pace. While I haven't seen his more recent dramatic efforts such as The Departed, I did appreciate his antics in The Aviator. This time around, he did a stellar job of carrying the emotional burdens of Cobb. So I suppose that I'll need to rethink my opinion of him and give him more of a chance.

The crew was pretty fun too. While not physically impressive, Tom Hardy was delightfully appropriate for his role and quite charming to boot. He gets extra eye candy points only because of the quirkiness of his character. Ellen Page was a nice addition to the cast as well and I'm glad that she's coming along in terms of her film career. However the precise nature of her role did feel like a blatant plot device element whose main purpose is to push the story along. The role of the nosy brilliant girl is a classic one but considering no one tried to shush her at any point in the movie seemed odd.

Special kudos need to go out to Joseph Gordon-Levitt for his portrayal as Arthur. As endearing as he was in 500 Days of Summer, the real purpose for his casting, I felt, was because of his physical prowess as a dancer. He had the most physically challenging scenes in simulated zero-gravity which truly blow the mind. And this wasn't some smooth, slick Matrix-style series of shots. They were clumsy, awkward fights that clearly demonstrate that they're still just people doing their best to fight in a difficult environment.

What really carries this whole movie through are the complex dream theories that have been discussed for years on end applied in a practical manner. They're done in a way that makes it very easier to comprehend as long as you stay focused. However I can see a majority of viewers scratching their heads about the technical side of things. That's a risky approach for any director to take but one that I respect. Creative integrity should never be compromised in the name of potential box office returns.

Even just writing a review for this movie is quite the challenge since I'm tempted to go into further detail about the story itself. It just goes to show how well-written the tale is - a nice weaving of various story concepts and ideas that we may have seen before but put together in an amazing new way.

Inception is the best science fiction movie for the year or perhaps the best film period. It wholly deserves 5 Projections staring at you creepily out of a possible 5.
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