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Monday, July 26, 2010

Apparently An Architect Used 'Inception' to Wow Me

Inception: 5 out of 5 Stars
Cobb: What's the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules, which is why I have to steal it.
Here is a film about dreams, deception, and discovery. While on the subject of alliteration, this film is also fun, full of excitement, and fantastically well made; not to mention intelligent, intriguing, and immersing. Director Christopher Nolan has created an original action thriller, which functions as a heist film, layered with amazingly crafted elements of sci-fi and spectacle. All the aspects of this film are superbly handled, and all it asks of you is to pay attention and appreciate the experience of seeing one of the best and certainly the most original film of 2010.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb. He is an extractor; a man, through the use of technology, is capable of entering the dreams of others and finding out all of the secrets they hide within their mind. While the film is intricately layered, the basic premise can be boiled down and addressed with minimal spoilers. Cobb's skills have led to him becoming a con man of sorts. Working with a team, Cobb nets big paydays by pulling off jobs for other companies. Despite being the best at what he does, Cobb is also a fugitive, desperately wanting to get back into America legally.
 

The opportunity for this presents itself in the form of a powerful business man, Mr. Saito, played by Ken Watanabe, who presents Cobb with the "one last job" that will get him back home. Saito wants Cobb and his team to infiltrate the mind of a rich mark, played by Cillian Murphy, and perform a task known as inception. Opposed to stealing, this would involve the planting of an idea into the mind, and letting it take over - an exceedingly difficult task that only Cobb and his team may be able to perform. What follows is a very tricky plan that will hopefully be successful for Dom, as long as he can stay focused.
Arthur: With the slightest disturbance, dreams are gonna collapse.
Just as is the case with most heist films, this one supplies Cobb with a team consisting of different people with different talents. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Arthur, Cobb's go-to guy and "point man" of the group. Tom Hardy is Eames, "the forger" a copycat artist and savvy weapons expert. Dileep Rao is Yusuf, "the chemist". The newest addition to the team is Ellen Page as Ariadne (look up that name), "the architect" who will design the dream world for their mark. The film also manages to bring Michael Caine, Tom Berenger, and Pete Postlethwaite into the mix, along with Marion Cotillard as a new form of femme fatal.
 

This film is fantastic. I'm not sure if I have made that clear yet, but it is. The sheer fact that Nolan was able to make this film is impressive, but it is hardly an obscure work of art that can only be handled by so many.  This is a film that manages to blend elements of maze-like plotting, references to past literature studies and art, tragic characters, and awe-inspiring set pieces into a crowd pleasing action epic. Despite making The Dark Knight and having a free pass to do whatever he wanted, Nolan still managed to take a story he's developed for ten years and turn it into an exciting, mind-bending feature.

Working with his regular crew, Nolan manages to match his ambitions with the talents Wally Pfister's gorgeous cinematography, which captures stylized dreamscapes within mostly metropolitan worlds, along with the use of real, exotic locations, spanning many different countries. Then you have the editing by Lee Smith, who manages to capture the complexity of Nolan's setup, which builds and builds, as it reaches its finale, involving the mashing of multiple dream worlds at one time. Among the myriad of other talents, you also have the score by Hans Zimmer who maintains the tone with his choice of sound and pounding synths.

  
As far as the spectacle goes, this film delivers in spades. Where Nolan may have struggled with the action Batman Begins, he certainly upped his game big time for The Dark Knight, and certainly here, he is in complete control as the visual splendor manages to show the audience many unique moments, whether they be action related or tied to the concepts involving the alterations of a dream world. Among the great visual beats to behold, one gravity-defying set-piece will not soon be forgotten.
Eames: You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.
[Pulls out a grenade launcher]
The actors all certainly line up for the challenge. DiCaprio equips himself well in a role that requires both a leading man of action as well as someone capable of providing the emotional backbone for the film. The role played by Cotillard is equally compelling, as she must portray a tricky character that balances the concepts of this film with the reasoning behind Leo's turmoil. Gordon-Levitt has been on my cool list for a while, and he certainly does the job of being sure footed and solid throughout. Hardy is equally good, providing the film with the most humorous quips along with a good grasp of its action beats. Page works well at both being the student and a cipher for the audience. I also enjoyed the work from Murphy and Watanabe quite a bit.

 
Certainly benefiting this film is the notion of charm. I could see reading a plot synopsis as a turn off of sorts for some, but the way everything is spelled out, how exposition is handled, and how the rules manage to establish a complex world while still being understandable is a credit to its balance of high sci-fi concept and story. More importantly, the film is fun to watch. The cast has a strong chemistry, which makes for scenes that have a good sense of humor. This film could have easily been cold and lacking in emotion, but it instead opts for relieving its tension by mixing its thrills with cool and humor.

Finally, you have the concept of this world where people can enter dreams. Very little was explained by way of the technology that would allow people to do this, which I enjoyed, because it would just be needless pseudo science, instead rules are given to us as the plot progresses, and we get to see this reality unfold. The visions of dream universes are realized through some pretty fantastic special effects (with a good percentage being practically achieved) and really capture the ideas that Nolan wanted to play with in a strong enough fashion to leave it as complex and entertaining, plus bound to be explored further through continued thoughts afterward.
 

Are there flaws? Of course there are. No film is perfect, and choosing the subject of dreams as a basis for one's story can only lead to a large volume of matters up for debate or analysis and deconstruction of the film's logic. However, what I have responded to is the film's ambition, the very pleasing accomplishments on display in terms of its filmmaking, the matching up to my level of anticipation, and the sheer sense of entertainment on a variety of different levels that I had.

A wonderful and stunning accomplishment.

Cobb: Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.

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