My take on Inception

My take on Inception

I like an ambitious movie.  I give credit to someone trying to create a whole new world and a new mythology.  It’s more interesting to me to set up specific rules and work within those than to just do whatever looks good.

Inception is ambitious.

On the other hand, I judge movies by how successfully they achieve their goals.  You can set your sights quite low…set out to make a pure popcorn movie and do it really well.  I’m happy with that, too.

What are writer/director Christopher Nolan’s goals with Inception?

I think he was trying to make a thoughtful movie, but one in which there was action, special effects, and an emotional connection to the characters. 

That’s a cinematic nine-course meal.  That’s like wanting to be a gymnast, a sprinter, and a power weightlifter…at the Olympics.

Unfortunately, for me, Inception didn’t achieve everything it set out to do.

Intellectually, yes, the concepts were interesting.  It was clear that the intricacies of dream-invasion had been worked out.  I wouldn’t say it was all scientific, of course, but it seemed to stay consistent to its rules.

SPOILER ALERT: I’M GOING TO START TALKING SPECIFICS, ALTHOUGH NOT KEY PLOT POINTS

As to action, parts of it look like a James Bond movie.  There’s a snow-set fire fight that would make Cubby Broccoli proud.  That seems fine.

On the special effects: parts of it are pretty.  It was nice to see a lot of physical effects, but those are hard to pull off.  There’s a very famous dance sequence with Fred Astaire (in Royal Wedding) where he appears to be dancing up the walls and on the ceiling.  What actually happened was that the room was turned and so was the cameraperson.  Astaire’s legendary grace made the effect work.  Unfortunately, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page seem to thud a bit as the wall “comes up to meet them”.  Poor Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems stuck doing a lot of wire work…and it looks uncomfortable for him.

However, there is some beautiful CGI work with the landscape moving on a  massive scale.  No, some of it doesn’t look quite real, but it really isn’t supposed to look real…it’s a dream, after all.

Oh, and I’d expect the movie to be nominated for make-up…there is some brilliant work done with Ken Watanabe.

As to the emotional connection…well, that was a weaker area for me.  Nolan directed one of the great performances of all time with Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight.  How much of that was Ledger and how much was Nolan?  There has to be a collaboration…the director has to know how to stay out of the way of the art in a case like that (while reining it in and, yes, directing where it goes).  In this case, I’m not seeing universally great performances.  DiCaprio is intense…like he was in Shutter Island.  It’s nice to know he hasn’t had Botox done on his forehead😉 , but we have seen that knitted brow before.  You can’t be physically different, but it wasn’t that subtle.

Marion Cotillard was good, I thought.  She had to communicate a lot of shadings in what she was doing, and I was impressed.

Cillian Murphy still needs a movie role that connects with the US audience.  He has a lot of charisma, and clearly is a good actor…but there is something that keeps a separation from us.  That’s not bad in this case, by the way.

Ken Watanabe also is an intense actor, but touches the viewer in clear and accessible ways.

Ellen Page…well, I thought she was great in Juno.  This role doesn’t give her a lot of depth.  It’s extremely important to the plot, but I think it would have been better served with…a less revealed performance.  You seem to see everything on Ellen Page’s face, and there are some elements we shouldn’t feel like we understand.

Since I didn’t feel the movie, thinking it wasn’t enough.  My Significant Other had the same reaction…there was one particular thing that took forever to happen.  If we cared more about the characters, we would have found that suspenseful…but we didn’t.

That may be different for you.  Clearly, a lot of people like it. 

This one is tricky to say, but I think people for whom intellectual movies are more of a novelty may like it more.  If you like watching mind-bending, twisty movies, if you’ve read Philip K. Dick, you may be less impressed than some others.  There was a couple behind us who thought it was great…the same couple where one of them loudly stage-whispered, “That’s Michael Caine.”  Um, yes, it is. 

Similarly, there are not-so-subtle clues in character’s names.  If you know who Ariadne is in Greek mythology, that in and of itself is a bit of a spoiler.  There’s a character named Robert Fischer, and although he isn’t called “Bobby”, that might have occurred to you.  A character is named “Mal”…hm, where will that one fall on the good guy/bad guy scale?  You get the idea.

I certainly give the movie a lot of credit for ambition.  I just don’t think it got gold medals in all the events. 

I’m going to stick with my original guess as to its box office.  I can certainly see people seeing it twice (a virtual necessity for super high scores), but I don’t think that a lot of people will see it ten times.  I’m putting it at between two hundred and three hundred million domestically.

It is one of the best reviewed movies of the year at MRQE:

http://www.mrqe.com/movies/m100082614

You can watch the box office at Box Office Mojo:

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=inception.htm

and get credit details at IMDB:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1375666/

I totally expect that many of you are going to rate it much more highly than I did, and I think that’s legitimate.  Think it’s the best movie you’ve ever seen?  Think it’s going to top Toy Story 3 domestically?  Think Toy Story 3 does better because it’s an “easier” (not better) movie?  Feel free to let me know.

 This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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