Inception. Allow me to begin with my rant on how this film pisses me off to no end as to how Hollywood is a town full of fucking morons. Here is a film that opened to $62 million on its opening weekend. For a 2 ½ hour complicated mindfuck of a movie, that’s saying a lot about American moviegoers. This tells me that audiences are CRAVING good stories. They don’t want to see an endless parade of sequels, remakes, and films based on popular properties. Sure, a few of these films have made a lot of money for the studios (i.e. The Karate Kid, Shrek Forever After, Twilight: Eclipse, and Toy Story 3). However, for the most part, audiences are sick of the pile of shit that’s being heaped upon them week after week. The source of this problem is twofold. First, many of our directors and screenwriters are, put simply, talentless hacks who may be passionate about filmmaking and may even be capable of recognizing a good film, but they’re unable to make one for lack of talent. Second, studio executives and their marketing people steer clear of anything that may remotely pose a risk for their studio’s bottom line and the safety of their jobs. Their jobs completely depend on them churning out profitable products. The safest way for them to do this is to give audiences tried and true properties that are packaged with other multimedia. These two evil forces put together have formed a Cabal of Shit that I fear may succeed in making us all permanently fucking stupid.

Inception is the work of a visionary who is playing at the top of his game. If you nailed every filmmaker to a totem pole, you would have Christopher Nolan at the very top of the heap (along with a select few who I wish would make movies more often than they currently do). Inception is a carefully crafted piece of work that goes well beyond just telling a good story. Nolan has taken a step further and manufactured an entire world much like George Lucas did with Star Wars, Ridley Scott did with Blade Runner, and James Cameron most recently did with Avatar. Nolan went through the trouble of imagining a world with precise rules of operation that connect logically. Although the end result is a film full of suspense and excitement, Nolan is careful to fit his story within the logical framework he has created rather than try and bend his world for the sake of creating drama and thrills. In terms of pure escapism, there is nothing more satisfying when a filmmaker has gone through such lengthy trouble to manufacture a complete reality for his audience and whats more, to tell a great story within it.

There is a LOT going on in Inception and it will take more than one viewing to get it all in. Don’t see this film if you’re tired because it will only end up frustrating you to no end and you’ll feel totally retarded for not getting it. The basic premise of the film is about Cobb (Leonard DiCaprio), an extractor, and his team of con artists/corporate thieves (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, and Dileep Rao). Their job is to create a false reality and manipulate it in order to confuse a mark (who in this story is the son of an industrialist played by Nolan mainstay, Cillian Murphy) by implanting an idea in his subconscious that will result in his company to be overtaken by Cobb’s client’s company (Ken Watanabe). If you boil it down to its essence, Inception is basically a con/heist movie, albeit a fucking great one.

There is a lot of philosophical and mathematical mumbo jumbo that you don’t really have to concern yourself with. All you really need to know about the whole dream within a dream process in this movie is that the deeper state you go in dreaming, the further away your mind is from reality. If you go deep enough, the danger you put yourself in is that nothing will be able to wake you out of your sleep in the real world. You will then go into whats described as a Limbo state where your dream can feel so real that your mind stops trying to wake up at all. It simply accepts the dream as its reality. Its like slipping into a coma.

I’ll stop describing the mechanics of the film because the satisfaction is figuring this stuff out on your own. Although a film of this type doesn’t typically stand out for its performances, all the actors deliver top notch work. I was particularly impressed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is an up-and-coming actor who has made quite a splash in Hollywood over the past few years (Brick, 500 Days of Summer, and currently being rumored to star as The Riddler in Nolan’s forthcoming Batman sequel). Levitt plays one of Cobb’s main associates. He’s basically the Point Man in Cobb’s heist. He’s always cool and collected and he serves as a counterpoint to Cobb’s frenzied state of mind and fugitive-on-the-run lifestyle. Its amazing to see how much Levitt has matured professionally and how the hell did he become so talented?? Who would have thought the kid from Third Rock From the Sun would have turned out to be such a formidable actor? DiCaprio is, as usual, intense and captivating. Between this film and this year’s Shutter Island, DiCaprio is quickly proving to be Hollywood’s best working actor. There are few actors these days that I can reliably depend on to consistently give quality work. DiCaprio is one of those actors. The rest of the cast is all very good (despite the fact that I had trouble understanding Ken Watanabe’s horrible English…subtitles would have been nice).

Inception has a very cool look to it that reminds me of a German car commercial. The film has a cold, impersonal, and minimalist slickness to it that fits the corporate heist premise of the movie. Even in his lower budget movies (i.e. Memento), Nolan has infused his films with a distinct look and style that complements the film’s themes. As for the film score, Hans Zimmer once again provides the honors and its easily one of the best scores I have heard this year. The music is not as prominent as it was in Dark Knight, which I thought was appropriate for Inception. The heroic symbolism of the Dark Knight required the sort of bombastic, inspirational score, which Inception doesn’t require.

I had very few issues with this movie, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have any. One gripe about the film is something that Nolan may not have been able to avoid. As nice as it is to give audiences a completely unique experience and a world they’ve never seen before, the more unconventional it is from mainstream fare, the more explanation the audience may require. Inception contains a lot of exposition where the characters stop and explain the rules of the dream process. It’s a cardinal rule of screenwriting that showing the audience your story rather than having a character explain it to them is much preferable and it maintains the pace of the movie. I’m not sure if the rules of Inception’s world could have been explained only by showing the audience how everything works. The complexity of the story may have required a certain amount of straight-up explanation. In spite of this, the film does suffer in pacing because of it.

Although I’m sure Nolan had everything figured out before he sat to write the actual story, the execution of the film’s narrative felt a little improvised at times. I have heard this complaint from a few others in which they felt that with each scene it felt like we were being introduced to a new rule. This makes the movie feel like its pulling the rules out of its ass and introducing them when it felt convenient to the story. I don’t completely agree with this assessment, but I do agree that the presentation or timing of the rules did at times seem cobbled together at the last minute to propel the story forward. Minor issue.

[SPOILERS AHEAD] Finally, one other gripe I had with Inception was the placement of DiCaprio’s scene where he finally decides to let go of his wife within the snow action climax. The contrasting tones of these two scenes was too jarring and they draw different emotions from the audience simultaneously. In one, you’re feeling sad watching Cobb letting go of his wife, but then you’re back to feeling excitement and tension during the action sequence. I think Nolan should have placed Cobb’s scene with his wife elsewhere, which would have provided a much better paced 3rd act.

To sum things up, Inception is a masterful work of art that further cements Christopher Nolan as one of Hollywood’s preeminent filmmakers. Its intelligent and original and it doesn’t dumb anything down for its audience. Nolan recognizes that audiences want good stories to be told and he provides this in spades. Inception is the kind of movie that every filmmaker who is serious about his craft should aspire to achieve in terms of quality. Unfortunately, I don’t see most filmmakers artistically push themselves to the degree Nolan has done. I don’t know if this comes from laziness, complacency, lack of talent, or a combination of all of these. I can only hope that this movie will inspire future filmmakers to raise the bar for good storytelling so we don’t have to continually watch remakes and sequels.

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