Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Speaking of movies I didn't get to review, is it too late to put in a good word for Inception?
Walking out of the theater after seeing this movie is like waking from a profound dream state. Slightly disoriented, you're not quite sure what you've seen, the logic of the narrative is starting to feel a little fuzzy around the edges, and the thread of memory is already starting to loop and swirl around like the Giant Dipper. But you know beyond a doubt you've had one hell of a ride.
That this feeling of such seductive, free-fall, psychological probing is catalyzed by a mere movie—not an actual dream state—is one of the many rich pleasures of Christopher Nolan's singular and audacious film. Nolan doesn't do simple. In films like the brilliant Memento (his rookie feature), The Prestige, even the best parts of The Dark Knight, Nolan fools around with the idea of perception, exploring the fine lines between waking and dreaming, sanity and madness. Inception plunges us into the mire of the human subconscious, combining a kinetic dreams-vs-reality thriller plot and amazingly complex dreamlike visual structures in an elaborate story of memory, guilt, love, and redemption.
It's better not to pay too much attention to all the sc-fi exposition and just let yourself be swept up in the various dream-within-dream scenarios. The visuals are outstanding: I especially loved the shot of an entire Paris neighborhood folding up like a piece of origami, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt maneuvering across the walls and ceiling of a rotating dreamstate apartment (a clever shout-out, by the way, to a classic Fred Astaire dance number in Royal Wedding, 1951). And the idea that dreams can be as addictive as any other anti-reality drug is played to poignant effect in the person of Leonardo DiCaprio's classic film noir hero, a hard-boiled professional thief (he steals—and implements—corporate dreams) with a tragic past.
As in The Dark Knight, there are too many chaotic shootouts in speeding vehicles that actually interrupt the action because they go on far too long after the point has been made. (Okay, our heroes are in jeopardy: got it, let's move on…). If I wanted to sit through bullet-ridden car chases, I'd go see The Expendables. From Nolan, I want ideas and audacity, and there's plenty of both in Inception. Don't just sit there: see it now while it's still on the big screen.