Movie Review: Inception
By Matthew Huntley
July 21, 2010
Like The Matrix, to which this film will no doubt be compared, Inception contains a lot of dialogue about heavy subjects like the mind, the sub-conscious, the rules and regulations of inception, and its limitations and consequences. All the while, we work hard to keep track of them and make sure the screenplay doesn’t cheat. From what I can tell, it doesn’t, and I’ve seen the movie twice, but I’m ready to be proven wrong. Inception is the type of movie that sparks a lot of theories, not only about what really happened but also why certain things happened. It’s a trip.
Even after a second viewing, I can’t say for sure why certain things happened. I can, however, tell you the movie is definitely worth seeing, but be prepared to be lost and frustrated as you try and remember how many dream levels the characters have entered and why the laws of physics are being broken. To Nolan’s credit, everything gets explained at one point or another, but the dialogue is so fast and sometimes delivered so casually, we forget to let our own mind register what each person is saying and forget that their words are extremely important to our understanding of this world. This is one movie where brains cannot be checked at the door.
As usual for a Christopher Nolan film, Inception is loaded with special effects, but they’re all top notch and seamless. There’s an incredible sequence where Arthur must find a way to get the other team members to fall down (this is the “kick” that would eventually wake them from the dream), but for reasons that I’ll let you discover, gravity is no longer working in his favor, and with the help of some astonishing practical effects, he improvises. I would really like to know if all the actors took part in this sequence simultaneously because it’s nothing short of breathtaking.
Another Nolan trademark is the expansive cityscape photography, which is put to full use here. The look and design of this film is vast and hypnotic, and although it’s a bit showy, it’s done at the service of the story, not as a substitute for it.
But as ambitious as this film is, and as highly anticipated by being Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight, it’s not perfect. I found some of the movie to be exhausting, and not because the plot was so intricate, but because it overshadowed the emotions of the characters. It has a hard time balancing intelligence with heart.
There is a tragic love story at the center and it’s meant to drive Cobb, but it’s strangely distant and we don’t feel or sympathize with his pain as much as the movie thinks we do. The performances are strong and enthusiastic, but they seem less driven by human passions than by the requirements of the plot. When characters cried or gave looks of deep understanding, I wasn’t with them. I was too busy trying to remember specific plot details. The movie packs a mind punch, but not an emotional one, which is really what we need to be fully involved.
Perhaps I’m due for a third viewing, but I’m not convinced my heart will ever be as exercised by this film as much as my mind. Don’t get me wrong - it’s great when your mind gets a work out, but when a story depends on such a strong emotional crux - Cobb wanting to return to his kids - we need more than Inception provides.
Nevertheless, this is a glorious film to behold. Nolan is an astute, serious filmmaker and it shows in all the technical aspects of his work, but we can’t deny he still has to work on his characters’ pathos. That limitation prevents Inception from fully enveloping us. With its plot and design, Inception is one of distinguishable films of the year, but because we feel too removed from the people, it’s not one of the best, even though many of us were convinced it would be.