Monday, April 11, 2011

Ten Statements About....INCEPTION (2010)

And this behavior is business as usual in this film
1) Christopher Nolan's entire catalog is about perception--even the Batman films. And this one doesn't break that streak.

2) Some people may be dissatisfied that there isn't a tremendous about of the wacky 'bending space' sort of special effects the film's trailer was full of. But that's because the bending space stuff is not the focus of the film. At its core, it's a caper film that literally never leaves a single room...which oddly makes it part of that trend this year for caper films that also includes The Losers, The A-Team, and The Expendables. Hell, given the situation diCaprio's Cobb is in at the beginning of the film, this movie is a lot closer to those three than you would think.

3) Ellen Page (le sigh)'s Ariadne turns out to be the single most important character in the film--and her name makes it very clear. Just as the mythological Ariadne guided Theseus through a labyrinth, so does this Ariadne serve to guide DiCaprio's Cobb through his character arc.

Know the rules if you want to stay awake...
4) Nolan understands a simple precept far too many directors do not--namely, lay out the ground rules early on for your entropic elements, and stick to them. He spends so much time laying down the rules for the Extraction Method in the first act that when new paramutations are introduced, we can extrapolate the reasons why these things happen very easily.

5) Also, Nolan is able to make his action sequences work without all that caffiene-cam nonsense--even when dealing with actions that occur on several different planes of consciousness (each plane distinctive precisely so we, the viewer, never lose sight of where they are), we comprehend exactly what happens.

6) Nolan confines the bulk of the big special effects sequences to the first act, where Cobb introduces and trains Ariadne in the art of being an 'Architect.' And it's the kind of imagery CGI should be used for--the sort of weird 'what am I seeing?' sort of mind fuck that makes Dark City one of my favorite films. Plus, by hitting us full on with a series of big shouty effects, it makes us much more accepting of later, smaller effects when the caper is actually underway.

 7) The team--because what would a caper film be without a team to pull it off--is well-cast, and does create a certain level of chemistry between them. The real break-out is Tom Hardy's Eames, who has a very subtle sense of humor and whose brogue definitely acts as an aural contrast to the others.

8) I absolutely adore the way the film has absolute mastery of its interior logic--to the point where, when Cobb returns to a place he tells Ariadne he spent time in and abandoned many years ago, it's suffering from disuse and entropy.

9) I like how every level of the setting in which the bulk of this plot occurs gives the person on it a different puzzle to solve. While Joseph Gordon-Leavitt's Arthur is the most compelling, all of the controllers of the levels have something to work out.

10) And best of all--Nolan doesn't feel the need to wrap everything up in a nice little bow. The ending is consciously ambivalent, inviting you to decide whether Cobb was successful or not in his own quest.

In short...I love a movie like this that assumes we're smart, we're willing to follow the story through several literal and metaphorical levels and that we'd be willing to do some of the work ourselves. This is, I suspect, one of those films that will give up new treasures with every viewing.

The trailers were an odd sorting, including The Last Exorcism (Eli Roth wants in on all that Paranormal Activity money, and shows once again that he and subtlety has never met), The Social Network(I like the slightly unconventional approach to the trailer, although I wonder if its montage of people clicking on stuff to a female cover of Radiohead's "Creep" is just covering up that it's got nothing good to show me), the hideous looking Due Date, and the absolutely dire-looking Dinner For Schmucks. But the real question for me is what will I end up seeing first on August 13th--The Expendables or Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World? Which part of me do I feed--the testosterone-laden action fan or the hipster doofus who loves candy-colored storytelling?

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