Monday, July 19, 2010

Life Could Be a Dream

We're not in Kansas anymore, kids. Again. Picking up where The Matrix left off, Christopher Nolan's new film, Inception, presents a reality that's not quite what it seems. And then Nolan layers it with twists and turns that only generate more questions and more questions. The film's like a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. Or is it? Just how much of the action in Inception is real, and how much is a dream? That all depends on whether you want to swallow the red pill or the blue one.

How to explain the plot in simple terms ... Let's see: In Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a thief who can enter into the dreams of others and affect the subconscious of his targets. He works with a team that includes Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Ariadne (Ellen Page), and tries to enter the mind of a man (Cillian Murphy) so Cobb can plant the idea for him to dismantle his father's company, which will allow another man, Saito (Ken Watanabe), to maintain global energy domination. If Cobb is successful, then Saito will pull strings with the government, allowing Cobb to finally go home to his children, who he has been separated from for many years.

But it's not that simple. In each dream, all objects and characters are projections of the dreamers' minds, and may be lacking in details. It's also possible for one person's subconscious to affect another's, which is why Cobb keeps seeing visions of his late wife (Marion Cotillard). In addition, it's possible to go down many levels, and enter a dream within a dream, switching from one person's subconscious to another's. When you do so, time moves even slower, meaning that three minutes in one dream might be 20 minutes in another dream one level down. And to get out of the dream state, you either have to be killed or you have to fall backward. Oh, and how do you know if you're in reality or a dream? Each person has a "totem," or a handmade symbol. For Cobb, it's a top. In reality, the top eventually stops spinning, but in dreams it spins indefinitely.

Confused yet? Good.

Written and directed with confidence, and portrayed with high visual style, Inception is the kind of movie you need to pay full attention to for its full two and a half hour length; don't take your eyes off the screen for even a second, lest you'll miss a detail that might be important later. Nolan, writer/director of Memento and The Dark Knight, proves himself once again to be a master of intelligent big-budget entertainment, here concocting a film so twisty and carefully plotted, but yet still accessible and engaging. You might get tripped up trying to figure out whose mind you're in at various times (at one point, Ariadne actually asks, "Whose subconscious are we going into, exactly?" — likely a wink to the audience), but you'll never be less than engrossed in the action. And you'll leave the theater talking and questioning what you've seen, and wondering how much of it you can trust. Credit not just the direction, the screenplay, the cinematography, and the special effects for making the film engaging, but also composer Hans Zimmer, whose dark, ominous, and always-on score is reminiscent of his work on The Dark Knight (which is to say it's awesome).

That Inception lives up to the hype is merely stating the obvious. That it's so entertaining and one of the best movies of the summer (and the year thus far) is almost predictable. But all is true. More intelligent minds than mine can dissect the film more, and point out things I won't understand or appreciate till I see the film a second or third time, and talk about with others. But till then, Inception is getting an A– from me, and a hearty endorsement to see once, twice, or as many times as it takes till you figure the whole thing out.



Blogger Cpt. Robespierre said...

I don't think there are any spoilers in my comment.
Good review. I had similar reactions. I'm not a big movie buff, so it's very rare that I walk out of a movie raving about it (usually I complain about some minor detail). This is one of the few movies I've seen that blew me away.

I also went afterward to read some negative reviews, and while some of them expressed valid opinions, I think many of the people who didn't like it were expecting it to be something it wasn't. (One reviewer complained that the dream worlds were too logical and linear, which sort of misses the point, since the tech premise of the whole movie -- the shared dream suitcase thing -- is non-existent anyway in the current world. Plus, the dream is supposed to feel real, which is hard to convey to the audience when it's as ridiculous as an actual dream). Then there are the people who don't like it because it was too complicated. Oh well, can't do anything about them I guess.

But *I* really enjoyed it.

July 19, 2010 5:35 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Glad to hear! Thanks for the comment.

July 19, 2010 7:22 PM  

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