BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JULY 19, 2010
Let me begin with a novel analogy: “Avatar” is to the mass majority of theater-goers, what “Inception” was for me. Though “Avatar” had its pretty colors and “stacked” cast, Inception shows up with originality and heart (both of which are lacking from almost every film created lately). Director Christopher Nolan took tons of heat for not jumping straight into the third Batman film, to work on his version of “Avatar,” a film he started writing while working on “Memento” (2000). Though it only took 10 years to prepare, instead of 20, Nolan proves he is by far one of the best directors of his time.
From the first seconds of the film, you know you are in for a unique experience. No frame of the film is wasted. Otherwise unexciting locations are filled with interest, whether there are lights covering the entire ceiling or water surrounding homes like the canals of Wales. The closer Nolan gets to the actors with the camera, the more I feel Nolan knows something other directors do not. Nolan, an artist at grounding a film, has a way of making even the most impossible scenarios feel possible.
Leonardo DiCaprio washes right off the shore of “Shutter Island” and right into his newest role. He plays Cobb, a dream extractor, hired to infiltrate targeted minds to extract certain knowledge needed by the corporations that hire him. Cobb’s latest venture, the “last big job” involves doing the impossible: planting an idea in the dreamer’s mind, aka Inception. Almost as if his performance in “Shutter Island” was preparing him for this film, DiCaprio proves why he is namesake in the business. From furious to devastated, the man’s emotions are well-honed and extremely convincing. Aim a candid camera on DiCaprio sleeping for, say, five minutes and you would still be reading his emotions and trying to figure out what is going on in his mind.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a favorite actor of mine, comes through with an astonishing performance as DiCaprio’s right hand man, Arthur. With his hair slicked back and garnished in a suit and tie, Gordon-Levitt plays the role of bad ass with confidence. Throw Gordon-Levitt into a real-life “Matrix” hallway (no CGI folks, Nolan does not roll that way) and you extract one of the most memorable sequences in a film in recent memory.
Much to my surprise, Marion Cotillard sneaks into the film as DiCaprio’s wife. The range she displays is unmatched by any of her performances in the past. The role of psychotic wife fits her all too, yet the polar opposite, the loving wife, is also delivered fantastically in the same role.
Normally-awkward Ellen Page was the wild card going into the film. Having noticed her in the trailer, I was unsure what she could add to the highly anticipated blockbuster film. Page actually pulls off the part, however, playing Ariadne (named after the Greek goddess that helped Theseus escape from the Cretan labyrinth), an architect student brought to DiCaprio’s attention as he looks to form a new team. Page becomes the only chance the viewer has to understand the science fiction of the film as DiCaprio’s character explains to her (and to the viewer) the inner workings of extraction.
Tom Hardy adds much needed comedic relief to the highly suspenseful film. His accent mixed with his charm makes him almost a centerpiece of the film.
The smaller parts are as such: Michael Caine plays DiCaprio’s all-knowing in-law. Of course, in the little time he spends in the film he radiates charisma. Cillian Murphy wows with yet another diverse role going from psychotic Scarecrow in the Batman franchise, to OCD John Skillpa in “Peacock,” and now quiet Robert Fischer Jr, heir to his father’s company and target for inception. Ken Watanabe (Ra’s Al Ghul from “Batman Begins”) plays the powerful business man that hires Cobb for the inception.
Needless to say, the cast is stacked and it definitely shows.
The tension of “Inception” will literally effect your entire body. With the idea of dreams within dreams, the plot allows for three simultaneous countdowns, placing anticipation at an all time high. Think the rawness of “The Dark Knight” meets the concepts of “The Matrix” meets the feel of a heist from “The Italian Job.” Fight sequence after fight sequence, chase sequence after chase sequence, the film will literally send smoke-free viewers out for a cigarette following the film.
The psychology of the film is unmatched. Dreamscapes that are built by an architect allowing for completely awe-inspiring special effects. Trains bursting from Cobb’s subconscious down the middle of busy intersection, Ariadne folding the city in on itself, and water exploding from the seams of a Japanese seaside fortress. The layers of “Inception” are infinite, what with DiCaprio’s character carrying secrets that cannot be withheld (“As we go deeper into Fischer, we’re also going deeper into you. And I’m not sure we’re going to like what we find“), the ever-changing and growing world of dream extracting and, of course, the ambiguous ending that allows for much discussion days removed from the film.
Having absolutely no idea what “Inception” was before stepping foot into the theater (thank you awesome marketing campaign) and losing myself for two-and-a half hours (feels more like one hour), “Inception” takes you for a ride you cannot experience elsewhere. While other directors could have seriously damaged the film, when asked what I would change about the film, all I can say is Nolan delivers a pitch-perfect film. “Inception” lives up to the hype that is spreading and the only place for Nolan to go is up with the third and final Batman film (July 2012?) just on the horizon.
July 16, 2010
Warner Bros. Pictures
(for sequences of violence and action throughout)