Best Picture Nominee Two

Inception

I have to admit that since we watched this film on my MacBook Pro and not in the theatre, I probably didn’t see it in the best conditions. First of all, I was tired and may have closed my eyes for just a moment and second of all, the visual and sound effects while incredible on a smaller screen were probably  even better in a theatre setting. Despite those caveats I truly enjoyed this movie.

Inception is one of those movies that can be confusing while you watch but then it makes you think after it’s over. Not surprising coming from director Christopher Nolan. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers so I’ll focus on the high points and the low points of the film (in my humble opinion).

What Works

Christopher Nolan has come a long way since making one of my favorite films of all time: Memento. Now, with a bigger budget and higher profile cast he is able to realize a film that purportedly took eight years to write and again explores the dark reaches of the human subconscious. It is clear that the filmmakers focus on two central themes: dreams and architecture, two subjects I am also fascinated by.

I appreciate the sly reference to the architect couple Charles and Bernice Eames by naming a character after this dynamic duo and the reference to MC Escher’s drawings of impossible architectural feats. The entire story concept centers around the idea that dreams instead of just being born organically in the mind of the sleeper can be created purposefully, staged like a theatrical production, and shared with others. Since these dreams are constructed it follows that they can be deconstructed and hacked into by the film’s lead, Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) a dream architect and thief.

Cobb acts as the director of staged dreams and is supported by a creative team like the one surrounding a filmmaker including: the producer Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the production designer Ariadne (Ellen Page), and the actor Eames (Tom Hardy). While Cobb is usually hired to steal information or ideas through dreams from one corporation to benefit another, his final challenge and chance at redemption is to actually implant an idea, which we are told is next to impossible to do. Again, I won’t go into particulars, but Cobb has one fatal flaw: he has lost control of his own subconscious mind as a result of losing the love of his life.

The best parts of this film for me are the dream sequences in which the architects, designers, and actors create parallel worlds. As is often the case in dreams, the scenes are recognizable but not quite right. The laws of nature, such as gravity, don’t usually apply in our dreams and Mr. Nolan plays beautifully with this concept.

The film switches between what we are told is present day, flashbacks, flashforwards, and various shared dream states. The strength of this piece is that the audience is always left guessing where in time or in reality the action is taking place. While there are some clues we are never shown enough to trust what we are seeing. The viewer is therefore brought into their own dream world while watching the slick visual effects and dreamy cityscapes. Which leads me to my next point…

What Doesn’t Work

Though I’m all about putting the viewer into the mindset of the characters, this film is at times needlessly confusing. Granted I was half asleep for a minute there but sometimes I believe the movie suffered under the weight of all of the complicated action sequences and layers of allusions and illusions. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good twist and to second guess my own assumptions while watching but in the end I’d like to have an idea of what I’ve just seen.

I appreciate that the ending was left open to interpretation but for as glossy a movie as this was (read: commercial) I wanted a more satisfying feeling after it was over. I found myself recalling inconsistencies in the plot and questioning specific choices once I got a grasp of what I believe happened during the movie and that’s why I can’t totally throw myself behind this one. Loved the idea but wished the execution was more spot-on more like Memento and less Hollywood like The Dark Knight (sorry all you DK fans out there).

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