Saturday, July 31, 2010

INCEPTION - An Introspective Overview of The Movie

INCEPTION An Introspective Overview by Torrence King

Christopher Nolan attempts an epic task with his dream-based film but its accomplishment hinges on the world in which it inhabits.

Was it all a dream? Or just a reflection of a distorted reality…slightly bent?

Christopher Nolan’s Inception is the sum of humanity’s most shared in-between life-to-death experience. No one can remember being born; Very few has ever come back from the dead and live to tell about it. But everyone eventually sleep and, therefore, dream. Inception presents no exception to that rule. In this reality, dreams, may well be, the stuff of life.

Some viewers of the film have called Inception a “masterpiece”, while others, “visually stunning”. Critics and moviegoers alike have applauded the mere daring of such a creative undertaking.

I, for one, must say that it is, for lack of a better word, interesting.

So far, my favorite movies by Nolan, are Memento, Batman Begins and The Prestige. While, to me, his most popular movie to date, Batman: The Dark Knight was too quick in its edits and did not include the nonlinear Nolan-style from scene to scene which was completely obvious in comparison to its predecessor Batman Begins. Nolan was out of his usual element with doing such a straight, blockbuster of a movie. (What? No flashbacks? No out-of-sync time-lines?)

My opinion is that Heath Ledger’s untimely death changed the way that movie was edited and expectation demanded a “summer blockbuster” and Nolan complied. It was a huge hit but not a Nolan-styled movie. For this, I cannot say I hate Dark Knight but neither can I say I love it. I will say I’ve seen it several times to get at the heart of Nolan's vision and that itself speaks for his gift. His movies make the viewer think, try to understand it and/or dissect it. Thus is the way I felt about Inception; it’s not a “love it or hate it” movie, it’s a motion picture work of art, whether you care or do not.

Then again, there are several questions lingering within Inception from scene to scene.

Such as, was it all a dream? Maybe.

Another question I pose: How can you use machines to put a dreamer to sleep within a dream of a dream?

This brings up the fact that there are two forms of Science Fiction/Fantasy storytelling difficult to convey: Time-Travel and Dream-Worlds. Both are not easy to accomplish if one point of the story is not covered. For example: In Back To The Future when Marty McFly saw himself at different points in time and could not prevent the other from accomplishing their missions or in Nightmare on Elm Street when someone falls asleep and Freddy Kruegar is in complete control of their dream world. With Inception, the effort is hampered by the fact that there is no origin or simple base story to be your guide through the twists and turns of the movie.

Was this “entering” of one’s dream a gift? A power? A scientific experiment only a chosen few are allowed to master?

And, also, what era are we to assume the “outside” world takes place? Past, present or future? No one will ever know because Nolan never explains it.

I would have appreciated some foundation given the fact that this journey is new to audiences in general.

When you watch a James Bond or Mission: Impossible movie, you have a preconceived notion of spy movies, though they may be different in their styles and delivery, you eventually come into a Jason Bourne or any other spy movie with some sort of expectation and your mind is pretty much on auto-pilot not unless there is a unexpected twist along the way.

Inception feels not so much like a fresh start but more like starting in a story’s middle with no beginning and no ending. Just know that you’re here and really don’t know how you got here.

The lyrics to Once In A Lifetime by the Talking Heads come to mind:

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself: “Well...How did I get here?

Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Dominic Cobb addresses that in the movie to explain to student Ariadne (Ellen Page) what it feels like when you fall asleep and dream. No point of origin. You’re just there.

Did Nolan want audiences to feel that way too? You’re here. Enjoy the ride. Destination unknown.

To take us on this journey are a top-notch ensemble of actors: DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao, Pete Postlethwaite, Lukas Haas and Michael Caine. Their performances are all played well with Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt’s characters being the great action heroes of the story.

Pivotal scenes and camera angles are also excellent and reminiscent to another great director, Stanley Kubrick. I noticed this even in the first set of trailers. Most recently, I learned that the Christopher Nolan was influenced greatly by Kubrick, so I approach this film with that in mind. By my estimation, I do believe Kubrick would have been proud of Inception with its style and cinematography as a reminder to his approach to film making.

There are very few directors like Nolan and Kubrick that want the movie audience to be a participant of their films no matter how uncomfortable visually or mentally it can be. (A Clockwork Orange, anyone?)

Finally, for our viewing pleasure there were some noteworthy points of reference Nolan may or may not have intended to present:

1) Édith Piaf's song "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" plays in various scenes. Actress Marion Cotillard who plays Mallorie "Mal" Cobb, Dominic Cobb's deceased wife, also starred as Piaf in 2007 film about her life, La Vie en rose.

2) On a somewhat lighter note, there is a scene with DiCaprio where his character Cobb is trying to talk someone down from leaping to their death. I could only be reminded of him doing the same thing
in Titanic over 10 years ago as the doomed character, Jack Dawson calming down Rose (Kate Winslet) from jumping off the edge of the ship. That effort doesn’t bode so well this time.

Besides the loops and turns of this film, moviegoers are definitely in for a treat. Nolan has done it again visually but making it all work as a story only distracts slightly.

Then again, not unless it was all a dream. At which point, the story doesn’t matter and the scope of Inception can be taken in for all its daring.

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