Saturday, July 17, 2010

Love: Inception

Christopher Nolan has created his magnum opus, a film that ties the ideas so beautifully articulated in each of his other films (the Batman's included), into one fascinating and mind-blowing examination of the mind, dreams, architecture, art, the soul, and the heart. Inception is a rarity, a film that reinvigorates the conversation, one that voices a true understanding of subjects ancient to human experience while remaining a enjoyable, quality thrill ride at each layer, both slick and sexy. In other words, just fucking awesome.
 Inception is a complicated philosophical tale with so many rich layers, there's not a lot I can tell you that will make sense if you haven't seen it (and for some even if they have) or that wouldn't ruin its many twists and turns. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the master of dream manipulation, a man hunted down by the world's most powerful people to extract information from the dreams of their enemies. It's not important how he and his team (comprised of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dileep Rao, Tom Hardy, and Lucas Haas in the beginning) accomplish this, they just do, with the help of a futuristic looking dream machine and some unknown cocktail of drugs. An "architect" will build the dream space, the buildings, objects etc. within the dreamer's mind, the dreamer's own subconscious filling in the gaps and people as the team infiltrates each nook, cranny, and dark recess. Saito (Ken Watanabe), the wealthiest of the wealthy business men approaches Cobb with an offer he can't refuse, promising that in return for his work, that he will insure that Cobb, previously barred from the United States, can return home to his children. The only catch is that Saito doesn't want to extract an idea; he wants to plant one, in the mind of his business competition, Robert Fisher (the surprisingly straight-laced Cillian Murphy). Like Superman and Hannibal of the A-Team, Cobb assembles the best group for the risky job, including a new architect to build the dream space named, of all things, Ariadne (Ellen Page). Thus the tricky work of inception begins, as everyone's minds get up close and personal and various demons (one embodied by Marion Cotillard) come to life.
 Let's get the usual stuff out of the way. The film is gorgeous, filled with the familiar warm wood tones and stark cities that can be found throughout Nolan's body of work, his love and understanding of architecture clear in every shot. Those critics of the dream world that Nolan creates don't really get it, as the dream is created by the architect to be stable and mostly "normal" (as explained by Cobb), not to be the extensive expanses created in What Dreams May Come or the childish cop-out in The Lovely Bones. Regardless, the images are still arresting and evocative. The pacing and editing are dead on, with not a shot wasted, and every single actor, Leonardo included, provides a flawless performance. Hans Zimmer provides the ominous mood music that sets the typical Nolan atmosphere with practiced perfection. This aesthetic, combined with the topics Nolan examines makes each of his films feel like a continuation and expansion of the previous ones without feeling like a one-note disappointment, an ongoing yet varied story that's a treat to be a part of.
 Excellent overall package aside, Inception is the best artistic and philosophical examination of dreams and the mind that has ever been exhibited in recent memory, let alone unleashed upon the masses. Nolan never pretentiously and shallowly investigates the many intertwined subjects in the film, but instead communicates the feeling and the experience in a relaxed way that instantly makes sense, even if you'll never be able to put it into simple words, an interesting balance that allows the dense topics in the film to become accessible to everyone. This is a near impossible feat for an artist, specifically a film maker attempting to inject these ideas into the shell of a mainstream thriller. But somehow, with his images, his actors, the right atmosphere, and some skillful editing, Nolan let's us examine our own dreams, and our own human experience in a familiar way that connects you with the characters on screen, blurring the line between the voyeuristic film experience and the self. For those critics unable to see the real creativity here, it's not that he's talking about something new. Instead Nolan takes the ideas and influences that have clearly been a large part of his artistic life, and like the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach weaves them into a perfection of understanding. It was an utterly magical experience for my little philosophy major heart that left me shivering in delight, unable to stop thinking about it the entire sleepless night.
While the film is an excellent thriller by its own merits, it's not something you can go veg out to. You have to concentrate and see it in a place that will turn the sound up (the dialog was hard to hear where I saw it) and if you don't, chances are you'll be lost. You have to open yourself up and be confused for awhile as the story slowly unravels itself and builds to the point where it all connects. Admittedly, this may be a film that grows its base over time with multiple viewings, a film that you might hate at first until you see it again and catch more of the intricacies or find yourself at a different moment in your life. It's not a movie at its heart, but rather a grand discourse about intense subjects that have plagued our understanding for years, and if you're not into that, chances are you're also not going be interested in the deeper meaning that Nolan's trying to convey. But if you want to have your mind expanded without brain altering drugs, if you want to experience true creativity and artistic examination in addition to some very solid film making, then go check out Nolan's new masterpiece, and see what all the fangirls (and guys) have been obsessed with all these years.

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