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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Inception Movie Review

 So I decided to dust off my cinema degree and put it to use by writing the first of hopefully many movie reviews. I work in the mortgage industry...which last time I checked, didn't require a whole lot of input from a former film I need an outlet, and you "The Adventures of the Average People" readers, will reap the benefits.  So without further adieu...

Inception Movie Review

Yes, Inception came out July 16th...and I'm writing this August 11th...back off me, this blog just started, and it's the last movie I've seen in the theater.

Inception is without a doubt the best movie of an exceptionally lack-luster 2010. Ive seen this movie 3 times now in the theater (the last time I saw a movie more than once was The Dark Knight (also directed by Christopher Nolan) 3 that says he's doing something right).

The movie takes place in what is assumed to be the present day, where unspecified technology (a suitcase that makes a swishing sound) allows us to enter each others dreams. With this 'dangerous' and exciting black-market technology comes 'extractors', or individuals that enter into the dreams of wealthy, creative, or influential people and 'steal their secrets' or ideas. The plot focus on Leonardo DiCaprio's character 'Cobb' the self proclaimed best extractor in the world. After failing on a mission for a powerful architectural firm, Cobb is given the opportunity to get back to his family, by preforming 'inception', or the planting of an idea into the mind of a target (Cillian Murphy). The rest of the film focuses on Cobb, and his 'team' preparing for, and executing their plan to enter the dreams of the heir to a powerful empire, with the intent of guiding him (subconsciously) to disband the corporation which he will soon head (to the delight and benefit of his biggest rival).   

Cobb has some personal issues with guilt regarding the death of his wife, who show up constantly in the dreams he attempts to work in. He attempts to achieve the goals of the mission, and protect himself and his team from the subconscious invasion of his wife's memory.

 Inception gets everything right about the 'shared dreaming' technology, by not even attempting to explain it; "the military invented it" and  the characters use this suitcase thing, with a button, cords, and a fancy looking timer....accept it, and move on, its not important. The technology is irrelevant to what the film wanted to do, and would have been weakened by creating some lame exposition about how everything works.

Christopher Nolan is simply one of the best directors around right now. Memento (his first mainstream film) is one of, if not the movie, that made me start studying film. Nolan is a master of laying down ground rules for a film, and then allowing you to be thrown into them. Inception in the hands of many other directors may have been a freakin mess, but is executed so well by his direction. 

A good portion of the build up/exposition of the film is essentially a well made montage, that expertly throws at you what you need to know, and then moves on. The scenes consists of scattered lines of dialogue between the 'team' members explaining 'the rules' of the dream world. The explanation, and buildup of the film is very well executed, but does exemplify in many ways the films biggest weakness. 

Many parts of the dialogue essentially act as a 'dream-world encyclopedia'. Although I can almost guarantee that in earlier versions of the script these aspects were handled much more elegantly, it still feels at time's that there were lines thrown in essentially as 'plot band-aids' to try to cover up a few holes. I'm sure Nolan himself had to take to the script with a hatchet, and give us essentially the bare-bones on what we needed, and I think it is successful. Even the way these, albeit weak bits of dialogue are presented is superb.

Some of the supporting cast was not as developed as much as they could have, however all the characters worked for me. I think Tom Hardy, the guy who plays 'the forger' stole just about every scene he was in, and while Ellen page's character too may have been a little under-developed, she worked for me as the films moral and thematic guide. Her name, I believe, is a throw back to Greek mythology, the woman who helped guide the dude through the labyrinth in the minotaur story. (I'm pretty sure he's called 'the dude' in the myth too.) Joseph Gordon-Levitt is also excellent (I smell villain in the next Batman movie).

Inception is rich in ties to film theory...something which nerds may find interesting. 
An old dead guy name Hugo Munsterberg, wrote some pretty cool things about film. He believed that film is 'a medium of the mind, not of the world/reality', in other words that films speak the same language as our thoughts, and all aspects of internal psychology (memories/dreams/hallucinations) Inception viewed through the lens of film theory gives plenty of food for thought. Films themselves can be viewed in a sense as shared dreams, where we for a period of time we allow ourselves to become invested into an alternate reality.

Hugo Munsterberg also wrote about the power of film to work with the dilation of time, when compared to other mediums. In other words, you have power with film that you don't with other art-forms. In a play, for example, if a character drops a falls to the ground in real-time. With film, a vase can fall to the ground in slow-motion. The editing, can allow us to see everybody's reaction....or in the case of Inception a van can fall off a bridge for 45 minutes, while hours pass in other 'dream-realms'...if you have not seen the movie, this is very hard to describe, but is incredibly brilliant.

The visual aspect of Inception is where it shines the brightest. The movie implements ideas of film theory literally into the plot. The characters enter different levels of their targets dream, by entering dreams within dreams. At each level, time runs at a different speed, and the actions physics in one dream effect the corresponding level.

In one of the more brilliant action scenes in recent memory, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character fights the targets 'projections' (human inhabitants in the dream, that work as a self defense mechanism) in a dream, within a dream where the laws of physics have been thrown on their head, due to the actions in the higher level dream.... A testament to how well Nolan directs this movie, is that, this actually makes sense and is easier to follow, than it is to explain.

People criticized the movie for having an emotional plot very familiar to Shutter Island a Martin Scorcese film starring DiCaprio. I have not seen that movie, but did predict the end from the trailer...which is really weak. I don't think it's fair to judge a movie based on an actor being in another movie, with a similar role. That being said, I know we all do it. I know I won't be able to see James Gandolfini in a role, and at least for a little bit think of Tony Soprano. Martin Scorcese, as a facebook comment read; "can't make a good movie that doesn't involve white gangsters" which I have to more or less agree with. 

Ultimately the genius of the film is it's execution. It takes a truly imaginative concept and fleshes it out superbly. There are a few holes, covered up with some one liner dialogue, but was not anywhere near enough to distract me from the shear fun and brilliance of the movie. When you realize that Nolan had been working on this script and it was a personal dream project (no pun intended) it should really make you enjoy it further. To be able to gain the respect and power to pull of creating an idea you've held dear for so long, in today's Hollywood, is almost unheard of, and should be commended...which is why I fully admit to having a 'man-crush' on Christopher Nolan.

If you have not seen Inception go see it!

-Robert Dopf

(For Christy)


  1. I just saw Inception a few days ago and loved it. My grandfather is a sleep psychologist and also very much enjoyed it. Apparently, there is current research on shared dreaming and that made this film all the more interesting for the science nerds as well. :)

    Great review, I agree with the majority of it and am hoping that Joseph Gordon Levitt is in the new Batman, he'd be amazing. Also, I think Ariadne is one of the most unique character names in recent films and I didn't even realize the allusion until you mentioned it.


  2. What an incredible review - I have yet to see it but I'm definitely going now.

  3. The comment box is sorely lacking full HTML functionality so bear with me here.

    1. Lackluster 2010? Please Bob, let's rethink that statement.

    2. Shutter Island was predictable but very solid and paced perfectly.

    3. It's obnoxious how much street cred JGL now has with Batman fanboys. But I feel he's earned it.

    4. Loved Inception, but why did such a high-profile director film in broad daylight in downtown Los Angeles with fake rain and just use a lens filter to depict cloud cover?

    5. Hamball

    6. I make these all day at work

  4. Memento still confuses me to this day LOL! Chikezie loves that movie. He keeps pushing me to go see Inception (he's seen it twice) but I need to be in the right state of mind to see intense movies like this!

    I'm going to see Eat Pray Love this weekend LOL!

  5. Really solid review, Bob. I agree it's not been a very great year, though there have been a few standouts for me. Obviously, Inception is currently at the top of my list for 2010. Others I really enjoyed were Shutter Island, Kick Ass, Get Him to the Greek, and The Other Guys. I enjoyed Iron Man 2 but was not "blown away" by any means. And that statement sums up most of the summer movies this year -- Robin Hood; A-Team; Prince of Persia, etc.

    However, you need to watch the trailer for Black Swan -- the new film by Darren Aronofsky. It looks fantastic.