I'm both exhausted and wound-up from my rather whirlwind Birthday at Coney Island and I wanted to make sure I talked about this movie while it was still relatively fresh in mind, having actually seen it last night.And you should know that I deliberately read only one review and won't read any others until after I have finished posting this. I will try my best to not be spoilery, as I know not all of you have seen it yet. And I will try not to gush too much, because I'm certainly aware that there's an awful lot of gushing about this film, already.
I suppose I should start by saying that I have never really been a Leonardo DiCaprio fan. I think I said before that he appears to finally be aging into his looks. Not that I find him attractive at all, but he is certainly less creepy-looking to me (Haters stop now, aesthetics are purely subjective). Still, no matter what I may think the film's star, I so very much like the film's director and the rest of the film's cast, that I was willing to forgo my DiCap-reversion and am happy to admit that I am not in the least bit sorry that I did.
In Inception, the latest film from Writer/Director Christoper Nolan (The Dark Knight; The Prestige), DiCaprio plays Cobb, an industrial spy who uses a "not strictly-speaking legal" technology to extract information from a person's subconscious by willfully invading their dreams. Cobb is also wanted for a crime which he keeps him from rejoining his children in the U.S. and agrees to one last job working for Japanese mogul Saito (Ken Wattanabe) in exchange for a phone call which will exonerate him, forever. But this time, the client wants an idea implanted in his rival, a process known as "Inception."
Nolan's layered (both literally and figuratively) film explores all sorts of concepts of time and perception, as well as their effects on the unswerving Human Condition. Heady stuff? Perhaps, but not nearly as dense (or "too smart") as I have heard complaints of. Yes, it's complicated, but if you pay attention (and Nolan gives his audience plenty of reason to, right off the bat), it follows its interior logic flawlessly. Like Nolan's previous best film, The Prestige, Inception is a cinematic puzzle whose journey is equally (if not more so) important as the payoff. Think of it as a visual maze, if you will. And Nolan's script, far from exposition-heavy as some critics have said, keeps the action moving forward at exactly the right pace, dispensing relevant information as and when necessary. Wisely starting the movie with the central conceit's technology already in place, Nolan forces the audience into accepting its validity, whether they want to, or not. The premise works because he says so, and we're okay with that.
Of course, dream invasion has been the subject of plenty of films in the past. 1984 saw both the Dennis Quaid vehicle Dreamscape and Wes Craven's original A Nightmare on Elm Street. And there are plenty of famous dream sequences (and even dream movies) throughout film history. So what sets Nolan's film apart? Well, for one thing, he has assembled a cast that is more than up to the demands of the film's intricacies. DiCaprio is fine here as a tortured professional with family (particularly wifely) issues. His determination to be with his children again is the driving factor in taking on this particularly difficult and dangerous assignment, all while he struggles with guilt and doubt of his own. In her best performance since Hard Candy, Ellen Page is the newly recruited "architect," responsible for creating the dreamscape. The always excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Drag Me to Hell's Dileep Rao and hot up-and-coming Brit bear Tom Hardy make up the rest of Cobb's team, each with his or her own specialty. Marion Cotillard is Cobb's disruptive wife Mol, while Tom Berenger (sadly looking every day of his age); Pete Postlethwiate; Lukas Haas and Nolan regulars Michael Caine and He-of-the-Exquisite-Cheekbones-and-Dreamy-Blue-Doe-Eyes, Cillian Murphy, round out the exceptional supporting cast.
As for the much-talked-about visual effects...? They were flawless and indeed, unlike anything you've ever seen before. And, I am delighted to report, NOT in GD 3D! The trailers are merely the tip of the iceberg. My companions and I saw it on a regular AMC large screen, and it was still astonishing. Nolan, Cinematographer Wally Pfister and Production Designer Guy Dyas have constructed a labyrinthine world worthy of anything M.C. Escher could have devised, yet strikingly original and just off-setting enough to keep you on your toes.
As with Memento and The Prestige, the audience must pay careful attention to Inception's plot as it unfolds. But also like those aforementioned movies, Nolan's direction grabs and holds your attention from the very first image, to the very last. Hans Zimmer's pounding, pulsating score helps ratchet up the tension most effectively.
Inception is a movie that demands to be seen on a gigantic screen in order to fully appreciate it. Smart; sublime; introspective; philosophical and just down right entertaining, Inception is the single best movie I have seen all summer, if not, all year. **** (Four Stars)