Review: Inception

Today, I pose a simple question: “Can Chris Nolan deliver a bad film?”

With Inception, the answer is kept to an easy and ongoing “no.”  It’s not Nolan’s best film, but it’s certainly worthy of high praise, if for nothing more than it’s sheer level of creativity.  But more about that in a minute.

(Warning: This is a spoiler-free review, but some larger elements of the movie are discussed)

And you thought "Summer Blockbuster" and "Intelligent" were two mutually exclusive terms.

If you’ve been paying any attention lately, you know that Inception is a complicated film.  Dreams inside of dreams and twisted realities?  Yeah, it gets a little heavy.  But, after seeing it for the first time a few days ago, I was surprised at how easily I grasped it all.  Part of that is due to the insane level of exposition in the first hour or so of the movie.  This sounds monotonous and drawn out, but, in actuality, the exposition works well – we’re learning along with one of the main characters who’s just been introduced to this dream world.  The concept of Inception is so novel and fresh, seeing it explained in detail is actually fun.  Additionally, besides introducing use to the “rules” of this world, the exposition gives us quick, but tantalizing glimpses into the characters.

As far as character development in the movie goes, I was actually surprised to see how little the lesser characters were developed.  Really, the only characters you get to understand in the movie are Cobb (the main character, played by Leo DiCaprio), Ariadne (played by Ellen Page), and Rober Fischer (played by Cillian Murphy, who you may remember as the Scarecrow in Nolan’s previous film Batman Begins).  The rest of the cast mostly comes across as your standard character archetypes (the geek, the funny guy, the charmer, etc.).  With most movies, this would be a complaint, but with Inception, it works.  The story is primarily about Cobb, and (probably due to spending so much screen time explaining the “rules”), the story stays with Cobb.  That’s not to say there aren’t character moments for anyone else, but Cobb is clearly the focus.  Especially in light of the movie’s ending, this also makes more sense (but I won’t get into any theories here).

As far as Cobb goes, his character is remarkably similar to DiCaprio’s previous performance in Shutter Island.   Without getting into specifics, he’s a character with a guilt-ridden past that tends to influence his own dream reality – which is, oddly enough, extremely similar to Shutter Island.  Fortunately, the similarities stop there.  In Shutter Island, DiCaprio’s just crazy.  In Inception, it’s a lot more complicated (as everything is in this movie).  DiCaprio’s performance is believable and evokes a good amount of pathos, even if we’ve already seen something similar to it before.  The rest of cast all give great performances, even if they don’t get much character time.

The are two real beauties of Inception, however: the plot (and its concept) and the visuals – and both are very well done.  As I said previously, I was surprised that it wasn’t as complicated as I expected.  The concept is explained well enough – where the movie does get complex, however, is in the way it tells its story.  Not only is it very original, but there’s so much going on that at times it feels slightly overwhelming (at one point there’s five stories happening at the same time).  The concept is simple, the storytelling is not.  To Nolan’s credit, however, none of the intricacies are lost, and what results is an extremely imaginative bit of storytelling.

Finally, it’s a very pretty movie.  Some of the visuals are so astounding that it’s just a lot of fun to take it in (I’m sure you’ve seen the city folding onto itself in the previews by now).  Every set piece has some clever bit of fun with it, and the way the dream world works is very visually appealing.  Oh, and you can’t go wrong with slow-mo shots.  While slow-motion shots tend to get overused in a LOT of movies, Inception has something the other movies don’t – the kind of storytelling Inception has actually requires slow motion shots.  Seriously.  You literally can’t tell the story without slow-motion on a couple occasions.  How many movies can claim that?

Overall, Inception proves yet again that Chris Nolan is a masterful director.  He can give an action movie a great plot (with some great visuals), and pump it full of imagination.  It may have fallen a little short in the character development department, but Inception is by no means a shallow film.  It’s clever, fun, engaging, and (at times) quite heavy.  Considering the only other quality movie of this summer came from Pixar (and it was a phenomenal movie for both kids and adults), it’s nice to see a live-action movie that takes its audience seriously.  If you want to watch a movie this summer and not only find yourself thinking while having a good time, go see Inception.  Heck, go see it twice – You’ll probably need to.

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~ by digitallysmitten on July 28, 2010.

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