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"Inception" - {Movie Review} - (Wayne)
Wayne Klein
Studio: Warner Brothers
Genre: Drama Release: 7/15/10
Cast: Leonardo DeCaprio, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine
Chris Nolan

Chris Nolan tackles some dark and stormy themes as part of his exceptional science fiction thriller "Inception" reminding us why he's one of the most talented and challenging mainstream film directors. Cobb (DeCaprio) leads a team involved in corporate espionage invading the minds of others via their dreams taking their ideas for his employers. After one deal goes bad he gets an unusual offer from Saito (Watanabe); Saito wants Cobb and his team to plant an idea in the mind of Robert Fischer (Murphy) that will give Saito's company an advantage in the marketplace. Cobb knows the risks though as Inception can rarely be done and pulled off but he has his own motive pushing him to succeed; Cobb wants to be able to come home to America and see his children again after being on the run for years. ***

Anchored by a strong, complex performance by DeCaprio and his supporting cast, "Inception" would seem doomed to failure simply because of the mulitple plot strands that weave around each other in the film. Nolan has accomplished a rare and unique feat (that he's managed to pull off before but not with such a complex narrative); he has created a summer blockbuster film with a brain and a heart that also has all the muscles of an action thriller. He may occasionally almost miss catching one of the many balls that he is juggling but the deft exposition of the film in the first half (and using the clever plot device of having Page play a novice to the team allowing us to learn at the same time about how the team operates) and action packed second half more than make up for any slip in the storytelling illusion that Nolan pulls off here. ***

As a thriller "Inception" has more in common with "Insomnia", "Memento" and "The Prestige" than it does with "Batman Begins", "The Dark Knight" or even Nolan's first film "Following". He takes all the lessons he's learned from those films and puts them to excellent use here crafting a film that constantly keeps the audience on its toes even in the conclusion of the film which leaves the resolution open to interpretation. As mentioned the first half is heavy on exposition which is good and bad; it explains things really well while keeping the film interesting but will require the audience to follow along and be patient. As to how this will play with successive viewings of the film on home video, that will be open to question but, I suspect, the film will hold up remarkably well. ***

While the film does borrow ideas from other films (including "The Matrix" which, in turn, borrowed from the writings of science fiction author Philip K. Dick & Ursula K. Leguinn and lesser known films like "Dreamscape"), Nolan manages to make the themes and ideas his own by grafting them on to the themes that typically twist through his films--self deception and deception of others, secrets, illusion vs. reality and which, truly, is the better choice. His main character Cobb seeks redemption by the same method that he invited disaster into his own life coming to grips with his own sins and who he really is.

Image & Sound:

As with all of Nolan's films, "Inception" looks marvelous with a distinct look to each "layer" of the film. It's pretty amazing what Nolan creates visually in collaboration with his director of photography considering that he is color blind. Although this is playing in both regular and IMAX theaters I don't think you'll necessarily benefit from seeing it in the later as the film wasn't specifically shot with IMAX style cameras. Just make sure you're at a theater where the projectionist knows what he or she is doing or, if it is a digital presentation, hope that there aren't any glitches in the presentation. ---

Final Words:

Christopher Nolan has written and directed one of the most challenging thrillers of the summer. I hope that the film does well so that Hollywood doesn't continue to force feed us the mindless drivel that they've dumped on us during the previous months. While I don't begrudge anyone for wanting to see "Predators", I'd hate to see a film like "Inception" not reach the audience it deserves because of the difficulty in marketing the film to theatergoers. "Inception" requires you to think and feel and not just sit in your chair log a lump on a log. As always Nolan continues to blossom as a film director and writer creating a film that challenges our preconceptions of what a blockbuster summer movie SHOULD be while also playing to those very preconceptions. Nolan manages to plant a smart, stylish thriller in theaters just as it looked as if we would be facing a limbo of dry, empty thrillers without no heart and no soul. ***

Highly recommended.


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