Synopsis: Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan directs an international cast in this sci-fi actioner that travels around the globe and into the world of dreams. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the best there is at extraction: stealing valuable secrets inside the subconscious during the mind’s vulnerable dream state. His skill has made him a coveted player in industrial espionage but also has made him a fugitive and cost him dearly. Now he may get a second chance if he can do the impossible: inception, planting an idea rather than stealing one. If they succeed, Cobb and his team could pull off the perfect crime. But no planning or expertise can prepare them for a dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy only Cobb could have seen coming.
I don’t go to the cinema often, so when I do it has to be worth the trip. One Saturday, suffering from an unmanageable case of cabin fever, I was convinced to go to the big screen. Thankfully, the timing was right: Christopher Nolan’s latest film had just come out. And, being a fan of most of his oeuvre (Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, …etc), I felt that I could do worse – at least I wasn’t being dragged out to see a Michael Bay film!
True to form, Nolan delivered a film that is worth talking about: it had a cool concept, and it was packaged in the form of a challenging, pseudo-existentialist actioneer – refreshing for a summer blockbuster, quite frankly. To me, the notion that people could dive into each other’s subconscious and, thus, alter the course of their decision-making, is exciting and eerie at once. AND it opens up the screenwriting process to boundless imagination.
However, I ended up finding it a little unwieldy in its structure, as though Nolan was trying too hard to impress or challenge us and, in the process, ended up bogging down the proceedings with too many layers, and too many contrivances. The final result is a film that doesn’t stop to take a breather or even to think – it’s so busy moving, moving, moving unrelentlessly, that all the viewer can do is hold on and try to keep up. Basically, it’s an exercise in mental agility.
Having said that, if the viewer CAN indeed hold on… does the movie hold up? Personally, I think that it’s a mixed bag.
On the downside, the characters are mostly flavourless; there isn’t enough room for development and we only get insight into three of them – the rest are mostly Mission Impossible-type pieces of a team that are somewhat interchangeable and expendable. The cast is tremendous, but they aren’t given that much to work with, sadly enough.
As well, I think that the movie is too action-packed. While it was technically justified with the notion that an infiltrated subconscious would naturally defend itself, I wished that trips into the subconscious had been more about puzzles than violence (i.e. The 13th Floor vs. The Matrix).
To make matters worse, the action scenes were derivative and pretty standard: guns, guns, guns… and car chases. In dreams, it’s pretty obvious that conflict could manifest in myriad ways – so, why gunfights and car chases, then, when there could have been fantasy elements mixed in with period piece with science-fiction with cartoons with…?
While the script was so busy putting all the pieces to together, being all intellectual, it failed to tap into a more creative spirit and emotional depth. Writing this film was obviously a process – making the final product more akin to Rubik’s Cube than Pictionnary. Sadly, despite all his efforts, Nolan’s twist was nonetheless predictable.
Mind you, and that’s part of the “up” side of this experience, it was a pretty good twist. I mean, I can’t recall the last time that I heard a cinema-going crowd gasp collectively and clap spontaneously when the screen went dark at the end. Hearing the tense silence exploding with such glee was truly a pleasurable experience; that alone was worth my trip to the silver screen.
In conclusion, while there is no doubt that Nolan is one of his generation’s great filmmakers, I believe that maybe he tried a bit too hard with his latest opus. As far as I’m concerned, ‘Inception’ is all head, and very little heart.