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Inception teaser poster

A 2010 movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan.

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A treat for the mind and the eye...not so much for the heart

  • Aug 20, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+4
One of the most lauded films of the summer of 2010, INCEPTION is a big, bold, fascinating, gorgeous film that puts the brains of the audience to work. Unfortunately, it doesn't really stir the heart very much. But you'll be hard-pressed to find a more technically assured movie. Or a movie with such an attractively diverse cast. It's a film that isn't afraid to be rich, even dense, with plot. It has creativity coming out of its pores. It is pretty engrossing throughout (though I'd say it is about 10-15 minutes too long due to a few moments of slack pace). It just didn't grab me emotionally...and it's amazing how important that is, because even though it had all the things going for it that I mention above...it didn't truly EXCITE me.

In case you haven't heard, INCEPTION envisions a world in which the idea of entering the dreams of others is a reality, and in fact, is a small, lucrative industry. In this industry, trained extractors and their teams are able to enter the dreams of their subjects to extract secrets. It's industrial espionage to the highest degree. It's tricky work, because it's easy to alert the dreamer to ones presence. But for master extractor Leonardo DiCaprio, it's all in a day's work. Along with his partner Joseph Gordon Levitt, he's the best at what he does. Which is why he is hired by Japanese industrialist Ken Watanabe to enter the dreams of the son of a rival industrialist (Cillian Murphy) in order to plant an idea into his mind. This is the theoretically possible, but certainly highly dangerous, concept of Inception. Planting an idea is difficult, and the results are not always predictable...as DiCaprio knows all too well. He had a bad outcome involving inception and his wife (Marion Cotillard)...a mistake that continues literally to haunt him and which is increasingly affecting his dream-roaming abilities. His team knows he's the best...but they also see that he is liable to put them into great jeopardy.

Because the idea of inception is so complex and involves delving into a dream within a dream within a dream; writer/director Christopher Nolan is obliged to provide us with a lot of back-story & exposition about the conundrums of wandering into and influencing the dreams of others. To ease his efforts, he introduces a new member to DiCaprio's team, an architect who must construct the dreamworlds they will implant in Murphy. This architect (Ellen Page) is new to all this, and so much of the early portions of the film involve DiCaprio explaining "how this all works" to Page. It's all needed in order for the viewer to follow what comes later...but these scenes have artificiality about them.

Once the inception begins, INCEPTION becomes a tightly wound thriller. It's sci-fi, true...but the science-fiction is really just trappings for a good, old-fashioned cat-and-mouse movie. To be honest, I can imagine Alfred Hitchcock tackling this subject matter. Thrillers wrapped around psychological drama. Just as James Stewart becomes undone by the memories of his wife and the appearance of her lookalike...so DiCaprio unravels at the memories and dream-appearances of his wife.

Nolan likes to construct movies that are puzzles. MEMENTO was somewhat like putting together a Rubik's cube...nearly impossible. It was pure puzzle, with real efforts at character and emotional heft pushed way into the background. THE PRESTIGE was like the biggest budgeted episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE ever...with the tricks of stage magicians melding with true magic in a story full of twists. Neither of these films really pretended to have any deeper meaning...they were meant as entertainment for audiences who didn't mind being very attentive to detail and having their minds stretched. This made them exciting. INCEPTION has many of the same flavors, but wants very much to be about something more. It wants to be about the power of dreams and entering dreams. It explores the damage the process can cause. However, we all know that we can't really jump into the dreams of others...so all the deep psychological territory Nolan explores has no bearing on what we experience in the real world. It only illuminates the psychological condition of man in a world in which entering dreams is possible.

DiCaprio is clearly the main character and the nominal hero of the film...and he's an actor I have often admired, even as others have criticized him. And he has excellent chemistry with the volatile Cotillard. But much of his mental state feels like a concept and not fully integrated into a believable character. His anguish often feels generic. His anger feels generic. His intensity, for the first time, feels like "oh, here is DiCaprio doing his thing again." Fortunately, the film is packed full of other truly exceptional performances. Cotillard is truly emerging as a force to be reckoned with. Ellen Page, even in a thankless role, is never less than compelling: she's clearly a fiercely intelligent person and it's so nice to see this intelligence allowed to flourish on screen. The delightful Tom Hardy, as a team member, steals most scenes he's in through simple charisma. Dileep Rao makes an excellent scientist. Murphy, though sometimes a bit wooden, does a good job overall. Gordon Levitt provides a convincing stolidity as DiCaprio's long-time extraction partner. He's a dream-walking professional who isn't tormented by personal demons. It's the first role I've seen him in that totally discards the "kid actor growing into a young man actor" vibe he's had for awhile now. He is now an adult actor, who simply once was also a child star. Tom Berenger & Pete Postlewaite are welcome in small roles...and Nolan favorite Michael Caine shows up in a two-scene role that makes us wish he was in 10 times as many scenes. It's hardly a new observation for me to make, but Caine is truly a giant of the screen. Does the man even know how to be anything less than the most interesting person on screen when he's in a scene?

Technically, the film is a wonder. The dreamscapes that are envisioned are marvelous, and even though they are certainly heavily reliant on CGI...the CGI is top-notch and convincing. Watching Paris fold in on itself is something worth seeing in the theaters. The musical score is often intrusive...but it is meant to be. The score truly helps build the sense of dread that Nolan is going for. And best of all is a series of scenes involving Gordon Levitt fighting some "bad guys" while the hotel hallway he is in keeps spinning around. It feels a little like something we might have seen in a MATRIX movie...only executed about 10 times more convincingly. Later, Gordon Levitt has to move all his companions (who are busy dreaming) into an elevator. The method he uses to complete this, while gravity has lost its grip on HIS world, is quietly fascinating. Simply put, the film is endlessly inventive when it comes to visuals.

I highly recommend INCEPTION. It is intellectually stimulating and is frequently quite exciting. Most of the performances are top-notch. (And frankly, I don't think the puzzle is all that difficult to keep up with...don't believe critics who say you have to see it twice to figure out what's going on.) It just doesn't quite grab you in the heart. I was always interested, always engaged, but never swept away.

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More Inception reviews
review by . July 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ Stars: Christopher Nolan Creates a Dream Worth Watching...
   After the highly-successful “The Dark Knight” which defined the way comic book movies should be made, one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to expect nothing but the best from Christopher Nolan. “INCEPTION” has generated a strong buzz ever since the trailer debuted in previews and the worldwide web; after all, this film is written and directed by Nolan himself and with his “Batman” team assisting in the film’s production, it seems like the …
review by . August 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Let me start by saying i don't watch many movies, I'm not a big sci fi buff, and as I'm getting older, maybe I'm just getting a little crotchety.  I'm very aware that by coming out and being the ONLY one Lunch who is giving Inception a negative rating, I'm opening myself up to a lot of questioning and judgment... but that's okay because I know the community will respect my differing opinion and not ridicule me for expressing it.  So here goes:      …
review by . January 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
There's nothing quite like it! A Paradox!
I like to watch a movie that keeps me guessing what is happening, why it is progressing the way it is, where it is going & what is going to happen next. Inception is one such movie. It keeps the audience in suspense and guessing, anxious to KNOW what is ahead.       Dreaming is something that I had always been enchanted with all my life. It is through dreams that I see God the first time in my life! Yes, I’ve been fascinated by the reality of my dreams and the …
review by . December 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Stephanie's Favourite Movies: Inception      What's wrong with this movie? Nothing, that's what. This is a perfect movie, there's nothing wrong with it. I appreciated that it wasn't pandering to the lowest common denominator like most summer blockbusters do. It actually took a few brain cells to keep up with it. Of course, you don't have to be a genius to watch it and enjoy it, but you have to be kind of smart to understand it. It's that rare summer …
review by . July 08, 2011
this movie rules and is better than i can rate it!
review by . January 22, 2011
Inception is a rare breed of movie. Firstly, it came out in July and thus can classify as a summer blockbuster, and secondly, it does not insult the intelligence of the audience and actually takes a few brain cells to keep up with it. It's incredibly well-acted, it has an original story in a time when they are becoming harder and harder to come by, and it's a movie that will definitely be apperciated come awards time. It will probably win more awards for its technical accomplishments, and …
review by . July 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
After the wild success of  The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan reached the ranks of movie making freedom that so few directors reach.  So what did Christopher Nolan do with his golden key?  Made a movie he'd been wanting to make for ten years.  Inception.  A movie where your mind is the scene of the crime.  It's big, it's complex, it's beautiful... and it's absolutely amazing.  For those who are sick of adaptations, sequels and remakes, Inception …
review by . July 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Before you see Inception, grab your Gingko-Biloba or whichever new age vitamin/drug will quicken your synaptic connections. You're going to need it. You SHOULDN'T see Inception if you aren't prepared to push your brain into overdrive. You're going to be thinking and trying to sort things out from the opening sequence to the twist-ish ending.       This film is, in essence, a quintessential action flick. The special effects are mind-blowing. The constraints …
review by . July 18, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Dreaming Without Meaning
INCEPTION Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine      Eames: If we’re going to perform inception, then we’re going to need imagination.    I knew there was a good reason I fought so hard every night to hold on to my conscious mind and not let my unconscious mind take over.  I’ve got to make sure no pesky extractors get in there to steal my highly …
review by . December 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Stylized, Ambitious, Powerful
   Going into Inception was kind of a gamble for me as my friends and colleagues apparently know me better than I thought.  I’ve been hearing this is the “one to check out” since the day it arrived in theaters this past summer and while my friends have once again proven spot-on with their understanding of the kind of fiction I enjoy, it is always worrisome when so much hype comes my way.  I have to make a very conscious effort not to get swept up in it, as …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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Wiki

Inception is a 2010 American science fiction film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a thief  who extracts information from the subconscious mind of his victims while they dream. Unable to visit his children, Cobb is offered a chance to regain his old life in exchange for one last job: performing inception, the planting of an idea into the mind of his client's competitor.
 
Development began roughly nine years before Inception was released. In 2001, Nolan wrote an 80-page treatment about dream-stealers, presenting the idea to Warner Bros. The story was originally written as a heist film, inspired by concepts of lucid dreaming and dream incubation. Feeling he needed to have more experience with large-scale films, Nolan opted to work on Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. He spent six months polishing up the script for Inception before Warner Bros. purchased it in February 2009. Filming spanned six countries and four continents, beginning in Tokyo on June 19, 2009 and finishing in Canada in late November of the same year. Composer Hans Zimmer scored the film, using parts of Edith Piaf's song "Non, je ne regrette rien".
 
Inception was officially budgeted at $160 million, a cost that was split between Warner Bros. and Legendary ...
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Details

Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: July 16, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Christopher Nolan
Runtime: 148 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures, Syncopy Films, Legendary Pictures
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