17 July 2010

Dream Is But A Dream: Inception

***** (5 stars)

On immediately exiting the theatre, I sent the following text:

"Inception is one of the greatest films of all time"

Now, this may be an oversight, but in reality I think it is just another piece of evidence that Christopher Nolan is the new Hitchcock. A man well poised to become the face and name of this generation of film making. Even his lesser works (I'm looking at you "Insomnia") offer something more than the usual Hollywood blockbuster. That he was able to resurrect the Batman franchise with a nod most notably to Tim Burton's original vision as well as the direction the comic has taken under the Frank Miller titles, is nothing short of genius. Basically, if I ever met Mr. Nolan on the street, I would slap him in the face and yell, "Fuck you Christopher Nolan! You've mind fucked me for the last time!" However, unlike when I do the same thing to M. Night Shymalan, I won't actually mean it. Nolan can do anything he wants to my mind and I will happily pay for it.

It's hard to talk about "Inception" without giving anything away. I started hearing about this movie over a year ago, got super excite, watched the first teaser trailer, then instituted a media blackout in the hopes I would not spoil the movie. It worked, but I understand that may not be everyone's cup of tea. With that in mind, if you would like to go into this movie fresh faced and scrubbed clean of any incriminating information, please skip the next paragraph. If you are one of the many who was frustrated by the lack of information given on the plot, keep reading.
"Inception" refers to the act of planting a piece of information or an idea deep into a person's subconscious. The government has developed a formula that allows people to dream share and step into one another's subconscious. This technology has been misappropriated by thieves hoping to gain access to your inner most secrets and thoughts. Leonardo DiCaprio leads a team of misfits into the mind of Cillian Murphy, hoping not to steal company secrets, but instead to perform inception and plant the seed of knowledge that will eventually blossom into an idea the mark will assume he had all along. DiCaprio is blackmailed into the employ of Ken Watanabe (I love him. Where has he been?) along with his right-hand man, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (One of the most talented actors of this generation). He is my secret, well not so much anymore, movie crush). Rounding out the gang is: a forger who can mimic and impersonate the dreamers projections (Tom Hardy), a chemist who creates the cocktail they use to enter the mind (Dileep Rao), and an architect who designs the dreams (Ellen Page). The dream becomes the dream becomes the dream and we are left wondering, along with the characters, what is real and what is fantasy?
The film has a lot of things going for it. It is beautifully shot, the FX blend seamlessly (check out the scene in Paris with DiCaprio and Page), the scoring pulls you further into the film instead of trying to overtake your concentration, and it is wonderfully written. I laughed, I cringed, my hands were held up below my chin on more than one occasion. I must have whispered, "That is so cool" at least three times. Many have made Page's narration of events into a negative, but we must realize this always happens in a heist film. Sometimes it's at the end like a "who-done-it?" (see: Scooby Doo) or "how'd-he-do-it?" (see: any Bond Movie), but it happens in the middle, and sometimes it happens throughout (see: any Guy Richie film). Page is the audience; her inexperience lends itself beautifully to our own. I don't think he ever over explained things. There were certainly times when he chose to show you rather than tell you, and I think that is the beauty of the filmmaker- to vary his own style within the film.

There are a lot of dream truths in the film as well, as I call them. Have you ever tried to over take your dream and re-shape it? You wake up right? Have you ever had that sense you were falling only to wake up right before you hit bottom? Of course you have. The reality element to the dream is purposeful when you are trying to get the mark to not know he is dreaming. Otherwise, the dream collapses.

The acting in the film is really good, with DiCaprio, Gordon-Levitt, Watanabe, and Marion Cotillard (playing DiCaprio's wife Mal and saboteur) leading the pack. DiCaprio plays a similar character in "Shutter Island", not so much in the architecture as the tone. I cannot for the life of me understand why every guy I know hates him. I have my ideas (jealousy, inadequacy, latent homosexuality) but nothing concrete. For me, the actor before us shows the history of this life ("Growing Pains", "What's Eating Gilbert Grape") while forever reminding us that he is a grown man, an adult, and actor ("Aviator", "The Departed"). His portrait of the tortured artist is understated, raw only when it needs to be, and in control (the major departure from what he did in "Shutter Island"). I cannot say enough things about Gordon-Levitt except to say I hope he continues to make the same interesting, bold, and challenging choices that he has in the past 5 years. I heart him. Watanabe gives good face, as I like to say. Perhaps it is because he got his start in Japanese television, but the man can just stare and you think he's looking through the screen and at you. He is understated, calm, and perfect. I first saw Cotillard in 2003s "Love Me If You Dare/Jeux d'Enfants", a kind of cat and mouse game between two long time friends, though she has been very active in her native France. She then rose to international attention with her amazing turn as Edith Piaf in "Ma Vie en Rose" (seriously, Netflix it). Her Mal is one of the most well drawn characters in the film- at times manic, repressed, funny, scorned, bitter, loved. No one can cry as beautifully or as on queue as Cotillard.

[side note: What's up Pete Postlethwaite!!]

Leaving the theatre, I was quiet and pensive. "I liked it." "I liked it a lot" "It may be the best movie ever" "Say something!" (This last part to word of the day Jennie). I found myself wanting to talk about it but being unable; the ideas where too big or too close to my own personal truth. It's a movie that is staying with me and I cannot wait to see it again, maybe in a couple weeks, and really watch it again as if for the first time.