So there’s this part of my Movie Oriented Brain that I like to call the Over Hype Mechanism. The Over Hype Mechanism (OHM) takes in everything I learn about a movie from the time I first become aware of it until the time that I actually see said movie: The multiple trailer viewings, the pre through post-production news and gossip, the IMDB nerdouts that routinely take up my Wednesday evenings when I should be in bed, and finally the experience I have when I actually take in the movie. This all goes into the OHM which processes the stimuli and issues forth a ruling within my brain that is usually something like, “HOLY CRAP, THIS IS GOING TO BE INCREDIBLLLLLLLLLE!” Needless to say, I do not consider the OHM to be my friend. In fact, I often rage war against the OHM the way John Connor takes on Skynet. This is why I try to talk myself into half expecting a movie to be bad and almost always wait four to seven days to write a review. If I don’t temper my expectations going in and my enthusiasm coming out, I’m prone to proclaiming a movie the best I’ve seen all year before properly evaluating what I’ve just witnessed (case in point: “Avatar.”) With that in mind, let’s discuss “Inception.”
I’m struggling with what exactly to say concerning the summary of “Inception.” Truthfully, (as Roger Ebert said in his review) this is a spoiler-proof movie. I could tell you exactly how the movie ends and you’d have no idea what the deuce I’m talking about. To accurately describe this film would be to devote 1,000 words to the plot alone. Basically, “Inception” brings us the concept of dream thievery. Dom Cob (Leonardo DiCaprio) joins his mind with the target, brings him into his dream, makes him feel safe, and then unlocks the deepest, darkest secrets of the hidden recesses within the mind. When presented with an opportunity to get back home his children, Cob takes on a case that involves inception. Inception is the art of planting an idea within the mind of a subject and doing so in such as way as to make the subject believe the idea is his own. Cob and his team (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, and Tom Hardy) work to plant an idea in the subconscious of business tycoon Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy) while Cob’s own fragile mind attempts to sabotage them. To go any further with this explanation would be an injustice to you, the movie goer, who should be on his or her way out the door to see this right now.
The OHM was in full battle mode going into “Inception.” All of the tell-tale signs of OHM involvement were present. An insane trailer that asks three dozen questions and answers none. Actors that I deeply respect. A director that I’ve openly proclaimed as the best in the game. An oppressive, miserable, worthless movie calendar that makes anything remotely original look a Chicago deep dish surrounded by Totino’s frozen pizzas. (Worst analogy ever.) Call it a perfect storm if you will but the fact remains, the OHM won this battle in a decisive manner. I was left defenseless against its seductive ovations of promised awesomeness. There was no way this movie could live up to the ridiculous standards the OHM had set me up with.
And yet it did. I’m going to try to keep this simple. If not for “Toy Story 3”, you could make the case that “Inception” is the best movie of the last two or three years. I’m not going to say it is because this is one of those movies that you are just going to have to judge for yourself. Some people aren’t going to get it and if you don’t get it, you’re not going to appreciate this the way I did. Also I’m working on step 7 in Overrating Movies Anonymous. But if you wanted to make the case that this belongs in the upper echelon of modern films, I wouldn’t argue with you.
What you will see on screen during “Inception” are visuals that I don’t think you’ve ever seen before and may never see again. There are a few special movies, like “Star Wars”, “Jurassic Park”, and the aforementioned “Avatar” that are game changers. “Inception” joins that list. It’s just stupid how eye popping the landscape of this movie is. Because of the nature of the film, the world “Inception” has to work with is virtually unlimited. If the mind can imagine it, it can be done. Add to this some outstanding work by a group of highly talented actors and the combination alone should make for a solid movie. I’m not sure exactly when it happened but somewhere between here and “Titanic” DiCaprio went from this baby faced, annoying little punk to one of the best performers Hollywood has to offer. His now patented intensity is on full display here and it works magnificently for Cob. In turn, Levitt and Murphy are perfect for their roles, Watanabe reminds us of why he was nominated for an Oscar, and Hardy plays the witty, debonair enforcer with exquisite precision. And while at times Page feels out of place and perhaps even a bit underused, on other occasions she goes toe-to-toe with DiCaprio and carries her weight beautifully.
The real brilliance for “Inception”, however, is in the genius of writer/director Christopher Nolan. Nolan should teach a class to every aspiring movie maker on how to write and illustrate a story. No one does it better. The plot behind “Inception” is one of the more in-depth, complex stories you could possibly imagine. One scene opens up a level of elaborate content that leads directly to another level of ever increasing complication. No scene is wasted (the mark of a truly great writer/director) and while the story gets more involved and more complex, it doesn’t seem so complex when you’re in the middle of it all. Nolan paints such a detailed picture that you can’t help but follow along and grasp the content he puts before you. As weird as it may sound, this is a bit revolutionary in the mind-bending action movie genre. The average director takes a story and adds elements into it to convolute and confuse the audience, then calls it complex. Nolan, on the other hand, seems to have this entire story laid out in absurd detail and because of that, following the concepts he presents you with allows you to think for yourself and explore the vision he’s sharing. He blows your mind while still leaving it intact to enjoy and contemplate what’s happening. And yet, at its very base, “Inception” is just the story of a dad going to literally the very edge of sanity to get home to his kids. “Dark Knight” may end up being his biggest cash cow but “Inception” is Nolan’s masterpiece, a monumental achievement in filmmaking.
“Inception” is incredibly tense throughout and absolutely mesmerizing to behold. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a theater that was as quiet and still as this one was. That’s an incredible compliment to Mr. Nolan and the rest of the parties involved here. For an audience of 175 people to sit wordlessly, almost breathlessly, through a 148 minute film (in a non-air conditioned theater no less), riveted to the screen is about as good as you could ever hope for as a filmmaker. Well done, Over Hype Mechanism.
HOLY CRAP THIS MOVIE IS INCREDIBLLLLLLLLLLLLLE,