Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Movie #280: Inception

Inception is a 2010 sci-fi drama, nominated for Best Picture, among others, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, and Cillian Murphy. So basically the cast of The Dark Knight Rises with a couple of substitutions.

Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) and his partner Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) work as extractors, going into people's dreams and stealing information. They get hired by a billionaire named Saito (Watanabe) to perform "inception," the act of planting an idea in someone's head so deeply that the subject figures it for true inspiration. The subject in question is the son of an energy magnate, Fischer (Murphy). At first declining the job, Cobb agrees when Saito promises to fix his criminal record and allow him to go home to his children.

See, Cobb's wife Mal (Cotillard) was doing dream-research, too, and they wound up trapped in "limbo," a subconscious null-space. Cobb eventually wound up planting an idea in her head: that this world wasn't real and that by killing herself, she could wake up. Trouble was, that idea didn't fade when they woke up, and Mal winds up not only killing herself, but framing Cobb in hopes that he'll join her in death.

The job doesn't go as planned; Cobb and his team wind up in a dream from which they can't just wake up. Because their bodies are sedated, they need to be woken up by their support in the waking world, or they wind up in limbo for decades of subjective time. They wind up going down through levels of dreams until Cobb finally hits limbo, reconciles with "Mal" (whose been running roughshod through his mind, fucking up his missions, the whole time), and returns to his children.

Maybe. The last shot is Cobb's totem, a top that never stops spinning in a dream. It seems to wobble, but doesn't fall, leaving the viewer to wonder if this has all been a dream or if Cobb has really come home. According to Nolan, it really doesn't matter; that ambiguity is deliberate.

This is a really well-made movie on a lot of levels. The dialog is tight and is sports a bunch of repeated lines, nailing home the story and the themes of uncertainty and unreality. The filming jumps around, making it hard to determine clean transitions from place to place (which is also dreamlike). And of course the cast is spot-on. Ellen Page plays Ariadne (oh, what a giveaway!) the student that Cobb hires to build the dream-mazes.

Inception suffers from some of the same problems that a lot of Nolan's movies do. The plot doesn't always hold up to scrutiny, and he makes use of that noxious "we only use 10% of our brains" BS, though thankfully it's a throwaway line, not the basis for the movie. Plus, gotta say, Nolan doesn't know what the hell to do with women a lot of the time. Ariadne is at least not damseled or fridged (which is more than you can say for Cotillard, though she also acts as a good antagonist), but her character isn't especially well fleshed out. Now, we don't learn much about anyone except Cobb and Mal, granted, but considering that Ariadne winds up being the secondary character with the most screen time, it would have been nice if she weren't just a foil for Cobb.

With that said, though, the movie nicely straddles action/sci-fi and drama, and provides some decent emotional impact in with all the mind-fuckery.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-high (good but long)

Next up: Incredible Hulk, The