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The Movie Maven: INCEPTION

You know they really wanted to call this movie "Conception" but then just really couldn't.

In the spirit of our new content expansion, we wanted to start you off right with our new resident film critic… The Movie Maven. She’s the harshest, smartest and most analytical movie watcher we know and she jumped at the opportunity to start a column on the Fodder. She’ll review new, old and different movies… bringing a fresh and snarktastic viewpoint to all of them. What better movie to start with than Inception…

Greetings, homies! I’m sure this whole film-reviewing thing will take its own shape in time, but I can say with conviction that I will always include a part at the end (The Good, The Bad) and if I think the film at hand is worth the exorbitant amount that movies cost nowadays. This means my feelings won’t be shattered if you decide to skip to the end. Who are we are kidding? We all have the attention spans of toddlers. But on with the show…

Here is what I have to say about Inception: go see it before everyone talks it to death. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read this review. Seriously. Though there really aren’t any spoilers (And even if you heard them, they would not make the least bit of sense, thus rendering them spoiler-less. Unspoiled?), it is worth going into this movie with an unsullied mind. Everyone is allowed to have a unique opinion about Inception because the subject matter is, of course, relatable. Everyone dreams.

But not everyone dreams like this and no movie that I’ve ever seen has tackled the dream-state in quite this fashion. No one flies in this movie, and there are no ‘trippy’ elements to the cinematography. Don’t get me wrong, reality is defied at every turn, but just not in the way you would think. This dream world is not magical, but rather a world that very rigidly adheres to its own systems of logic. It is extremely dangerous, for both the subject and the – let’s call them ‘invaders’ – placing the moviegoer in a constant state of anxiety; although one that is not altogether unpleasant.

Inception could fall into the classic post-apocalyptic sci-fi film category (sigh, maybe my favorite sub-genre…) but it feels fresh. It is your standard: “In the not so distant future, the military/government/rebel scientists/people with too much money discover shared dreaming/artificial intelligence/artificial intelligence/artificial intelligence. Man cannot control the power he’s unleashed and all is nearly destroyed. But wait, there’s hope!–” but yet not really. Not really at all.

While I struggle to pinpoint what it is about Inception that makes it feel like new territory (when it really isn’t), I find the bottom line to be this: the movie is very, very good. To shout out KSchwed, (who I’ve seen this with twice, and who has, herself, seen it thrice), the best way to determine if you’d like this movie is to ask yourself the following: did you like The Matrix? Great, me too. Were you disturbed by and also blown away by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Samesies. Does the sound of those two titles in tandem make you see dollar signs? Then you agree with Warner Bros, because that was very likely the pitch for this movie.

Similarities methinks.

For those of you who don’t have the IMDB app at your fingertips – and care about other things besides the fact that the guy who plays Eames in this movie is also the guy from Layer CakeChris Nolan, the movie’s director, is the writer/director of Memento and The Prestige, but you probably know him best for the fact that he not only saved the Batman franchise from B-movie obscurity, but made it, well, ridiculously awesome. In a nutshell, Chris Nolan likes to entertain you and fuck with your head at the same time. He is a very skilled filmmaker. (I wish he’d gotten to Superman before Bryan Singer made that drivel, but I digress.)

Ah, reality. The reality Inception presents us with is, itself, ambiguous. After watching the movie, you’ll see that there are multiple (and solid) arguments for multiple interpretations. Like any well-crafted novel, different analytic readings will result in new thought-provoking possibilities. I have one that I prefer to put my stake in, but no argument is completely secure, because Chris Nolan wants the themes of the film (reality and our perception of it) to be reflected in the nature of the movie going experience itself. Isn’t reality just something we collectively agree upon? Try playing the game of “Is the blue you see the same as the blue I see?” It is this lack of any “answer” that makes this movie smart.

What makes this movie entertaining… aka The Good:

It is a wholly absorbing experience, for all types of movie-goers.

  • From the visuals to the sensory-depriving-yet-still-hauntingly-beautiful score by Hans Zimmer to the excellent action sequences and their prevalent but not obvious use of water (rain, lake, ocean, even bathtub). The plot is multi-layered but not, in my opinion, convoluted because the universal themes of love, guilt, redemption and duty run a current of simplicity through it all. You won’t be trying to figure out who has ulterior motives, or what isn’t as it seems. It’s all a dream, we already know that.

There are plenty of nice things to look at/ really solid acting

  • Leonardo DiCaprio, of course, is a great leading man, though Cobb reminds me far too much of his character in the awful mess that was Shutter Island and I have a theory that Leo has an accent in almost all his movies because his voice is, well, weird, but that’s another story for another day.
  • Marion Cotillard is just plain stunning and brings a lot of skill to a role that could have easily been a one-dimensional romantic figure. Cotillard’s Mal is perplexing, alluring and terrifying all wrapped up in one hot French package.
  • Michael Caine is Michael Caine, though we get him for maybe three minutes.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt channeling Neo with his stiff, jerky movement and stoic yet sexy visage is hysterical at times.
  • Cillian Murphy is just plain good in any character he plays. Also, I’m pretty sure Danny Boyle and Chris Nolan have joint custody.

The Bad

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt channeling Neo with his stiff, jerky movement and stoic yet sexy visage is hysterical at times.
  • Ellen Page. She plays Ariadne (REALLY? No, it’s ok, we’ll name a character after the woman from Greek Mythology who leads Theseus through the LABYRINTH to escape the minotaur), a character who exists SOLELY to ask questions so that the audience knows what’s going on, and doesn’t do it with any finesse. And guess what her totem is? Yup, a PAWN. Subtle, guys.
  • Certain moments of heavy-handedness. (See above) There are times when you may laugh at how strongly the movie believes in itself. One example comes within the first 10 minutes, Leo: “You’re asking me for Inception. I hope you do understand the gravity of that request.” DUN DUN DUN. We get, we get it. Inception, whatever it is, is a big deal. It’s the title of the movie.
  • Just watch the cuts of the van in free fall. We’ll talk after. (Thanks again KSchwed, for noticing this one.)

Is this movie worth it?

As I said, I’ve seen it twice. And I’m both a tough critic and very, very poor. You do the math.

If you want to read a hysterical thunderous verbal attack of the movie by someone who clearly missed the point, read Rex Reed’s New York Observer post.

  1. July 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    nail and head. Added this blog to my bookmarks? CHECK!

  2. July 24, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    trailer looks awesome.

    going to have to make a trip to the theater for this one I suppose.

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