Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Inception (2010) On Further Review

Christopher Nolan's mind and reality bending film is one of 2010's best reviewed films and one of the biggest money makers. Its a film that has wowed audiences and blown minds across the globe. One person I know saw the film five times in a week because it had amazed him so much.

I went into the film knowing little about it (intentionally) and with high hopes.

I left the film confounded and bewildered, why was this film getting so much praise and attention when it wasn't that great (and I mean it's not great, it is however good)

The plot of the film concerns a group of people using what was once military technology to jump into people's dreams. With the right combination of people you can control the dreams and ultimately steal well hidden secrets. The film follows a bunch of people as they use the device in question for what amounts to industrial espionage.

Because the film deals with realistic dreams it's a film where our reality shifts. What is real and what is not is never fully clear until the end. Its a head trip as we try to piece together what is happening.

The biggest selling point of the films are the visuals which are more than likely going to end up winning an Oscar. The visuals are pure screen magic as best represented by Ellen Paige's bending of a French city scape. It's amazing.

The trouble for me is that the story isn't all that remarkable. Its little more than a hyped up heist film just set in a persons mind. There isn't much to it, except for the needless complexity and levels that Christopher Nolan has created to fill it out to a wildly over long length. Personally I was done about an hour and a half into it, unfortunately there was still an hour to go.

Its a film set in its own world with its own mumbo jumbo which works wonderfully. I know several people who have seen the film several times hoping to grasp the logic and the meaning of the film. Unfortunately everything in the film was made up by Nolan and while it means something in the film, it is utterly meaningless in the real world. In an interview in Film Comment Nolan said he did no research for the film because he didn't want to find out he couldn't do what he wanted to do. He just did it knowing he was making it up. It all sounds good, but it isn't real, much like the ideas in any number of other films or novels.

To me Nolan is simply in love with his levels upon levels and complicates things needlessly simple because he can. If you want a perfect example, and this is the moment I kind of lost respect for the film, it's the point where Nolan changes the rules. There is a moment when the big mission gets underway when Nolan reveals that everything we've been told, or almost everything, isn't quite true. Nolan effectively changes the ground rules simply because he's made a bunch of heroes who can more or less over come anything if he didn't do so. Its as if he realized that what he was doing was going to be too easy so instead he effectively changes the rules. If you've seen the film then you'll know the point, if you haven't I'm not going to tell you what it is.

I was really enjoying myself up until that point, however there when the artificial danger is added I lost interest because that was the moment when I could feel Nolan messing with us. If Nolan was going to change the ground rules half way in who's to say he wasn't going to change them again later on? Its the same thing you find at the end of many horror movies when the monster is allowed to survive what should have killed it.

Again. This isn't to say the film is bad, it's not, it's just nowhere near the best of the year that many people seem to think it is.

Worth a look, but I'd wait for DVD (which should be in about two weeks).

1 comment:

  1. Putting aside Nolan's penchant for over-complication for the sake of over-complication, Inception was a weak film dramatically. Only Cobb really constitutes a character and even he can't really be said to develop over the course of the film. Cobb doesn't grow or change as a result of the plot, but rather, merely voices something he seems to know even at the beginning of the film. His inner conflict and the heist narrative never effectively sync up, and as a result, these parallel plots seem disconnected--their interaction is only incidental.

    That's why I'm not enamored of Inception. Nolan's script substitutes exposition and convolution for a good dramatic arc.

    Compare it with a similar (better) films like The Matrix or Total Recall, and we clearly see why the decisions made and actions taken by the protagonist at the end of the film are different than the actions the character might have taken at the beginning of the film. It's a journey, the experience of which informs the character's understanding of himself so that he can do the right thing when he has to. This crucial narrative element is completely lacking in Inception.

    I don't I read once in a user comment on the IMDb, it's Screenwriting 101, and Nolan failed. Even though I didn't necessarily hate the film, I found it to be really shallow and disappointing.