Wednesday, September 1, 2010


This review may be coming a little bit late, as, going by its box office business, somewhere around 27 million people have already seen this in the United States alone. Admittedly, that’s not quite on the level of Christopher Nolan’s previous film The Dark Knight, but that does make it currently the fifth highest grossing movie of the year, and still doing well enough that it might yet rise up to fourth. All of this doesn’t matter, of course, nearly as much as whether the movie is actually good. To discover that, one must delve past the break. Or, you know, look at the star rating I gave it in the tags.
So yes, anyway, I quite enjoyed the film, to the point where I’d argue that this was the second great movie that I had seen in 2010. That’s not honestly as impressive as it sounds, as Shutter Island and Get Him to the Greek were the only other worthwhile films I had seen up to that point (I’ll leave it to you to determine which of them I thought was outright great). The film feels like a blending of old and new Nolan films, by which I mean that it’s got the complexly-layered, tightly wound story you’d expect to find in something like Memento, where everything builds up to the very final shot, and the heavy special effects of his Batman movies, where the film cost a fortune and every penny of it is right there on the screen. This is of course as opposed to something like Last House on Dead End Street, where over three quarters of the budget allegedly went into buying drugs, though I suppose you could see the results of that on the screen too.

The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, the leader of a group that drugs people and manufactures dreams for them in the hopes of getting them to divulge their business secrets while asleep, and then selling those secrets to their competitors. This system breaks down surprisingly early, as the very first time we see them attempting it they screw it up horribly, and the businessman (Ken Watanabe) they were trying to rob then forces them to help him plant the idea in the son of his chief competitor (to commit “inception”, as it were) to break up his father’s company, by means of a ridiculously complicated, three (or four, or five) layered dream world.

Nolan, being the deeply logical filmmaker that he is, never really tries to delve into an kind of actual dream logic (aside from casually stating that we accept what we see in dreams as normal), giving us instead a dream world of car chases and gunfights, and then a second dream world of gravity-free fights in a hotel, and then more James Bond-style gunfights in yet a third dream world. It goes on a little long, but it’s almost certainly going to end up as the best action movie of the year.

After the movie first came out, I read one amusing review complaining that the film played out like a badly flawed video game that spent far too much time on the tutorial explaining how to do everything, and then not giving you enough time to actually play with everything you were shown. While this isn’t really an unfair criticism (they shouldn’t have shown the cutesy-named Ariadne, played by Ellen Page, learning how to do things like folding the city in on itself, if we’re just going to be immediately told ‘don’t ever do that’), I do feel that what we end up getting is pretty damn impressive all the same. Yes, Nolan could have made it into some Fellini-style surrealist nightmare (well, Nolan couldn’t have, but another director might) and would have run into the issue of it costing the same fortune ($160,000,000 according to IMDB) and then playing only to the art crowd, leaving us lucky if it didn’t drive Warner Bros. into bankruptcy. While this isn’t my absolute favorite movie of the year so far (that‘ll come later this week, I promise), I won’t be surprised when it gets its well-earned Best Picture nomination.

Rating: ****

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