upper room daily devotions

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inception - A Review

I went and saw Inception, Christopher Nolan's new movie about dreams, reality, and guilt. Ostensibly about industrial espionage, the movie quickly moves from the basic heist/fantasy/espionage format and gives the audience and experience like no other. The movie is fantastic.

Okay, it felt a little long at times and don't spend too much time trying to make sense out of everything, and other than Leo DiCaprio's character (Dom Cobb), the other characters receive scant attention. Was this oversight due to time, focus, or, was it intentional? I didn't care. Inception is the most gorgeous movie I've seen in a long while - and by gorgeous I refer to something more inclusive than the movie's look. This is a gorgeous and rich film that plumbs the depths of human anguish and scratches its way through human hope. "Take a leap of faith" is said by more than one character (or is it?) throughout the movie.

On to the main "plot." It has become typical for corporations to hire highly trained teams to "extract" information from people while they dream; it's a new form of espionage. The challenge for this team, and for its team leader, Dom Cobb, aka the Extractor, is whether it is possible to "plant" new ideas inside of people while they dream. Is it possible for a team to delve inside of a person's dreams so that upon awakening this foreign idea feels native, real, as though it were their own thought? The general understanding is that such a procedure has never been done successfully, even though Cobb says that it has. So, with Cobb's leadership, the team undertakes a mission to plant an idea in the heir to an energy conglomerate. However, the real plot is about Cobb himself - his demons, his fantasies, his realities, his regrets, his pain, his love, his hope, his disappointment, his sorrow - his need for redemption. Through the movie, he is working those things out. He is on a quest to "go home." So, really, the rest is just an environment for his story (although the movie's insistent continuity in following its own internal rules is a fascinating thing to watch).

Critics reviewing Inception make the obvious comparison to Memento, another of Nolan's movies, during which he began the screenplay for Inception. And, it isn't far off the mark to see a little of The Matrix here, too. In the sense that this movie plays with reality and unreality, and dream versus reality, this is true, but Inception picks up on Momento's use of dream and unreality and creates something quite new. Momento pales in comparison to what Inception accomplishes. Nolan gives us a maze and we never know where we are or exactly where we are going, but I didn't feel "conned" (as some critics have felt). I trusted him to lead me on an adventure, and he did. It could be that the perfect reviews written early on skewed the experience for later reviewers. Perhaps the hype overshadowed the actual viewing experience. I think the movie lives up to the hype, but it does so in a sneaky way. While it will visually dazzle, in many ways this is an intimate movie. It wasn't made to be big. It does not rely upon FX for the sake of utilizing FX. Every movment, every visual, every scene goes to support the story.

During the last scene, you could hear a pin drop in the completely full theater where I saw it. The tension was palpable. And when the movie was over you heard audible gasps throughout the whole room and some shouts and applause. Simply put, that doesn't happen very often. It is visually rich and subtly acted. The screenplay, while very good, is a bit verbose and pedantic in the first third of the movie. The music, well, it will transport you. It's obvious that composer Zimmer and writer/director Nolan understand each other well. Zimmer composed the music for Batman Begins and The Dark Night, and you will hear influences from those scores, but this music was composed for this movie, and it is perfect. As an aside, the musical choice to use "Non, je ne regrette rien" was evidently made prior to Marion Cotillard joining the project, so, evidently the "La Vie en Rose" connection is coincidental. Weird, huh.

That's my review. If a narrative experience is more important than understanding, you may love this movie. I sum it up this way - a story about forgiveness, grief, and self-discovery wrapped inside of a sci-fi, fantasy, espionage, heist package.

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