Friday, 16 July 2010

Inception thoughts

Christopher Nolan's Inception
Readers of this blog are clearly discerning moviegoing types and, as such, will no doubt be heading to see Inception this weekend if they haven't already seen it. I've seen it twice, and plan on going again soon enough. However, you know what I thought — a dazzling tour de force of imagination and ingenuity. Now I'd like to know your take on Christopher Nolan's latest. Please don't be shy. The more the merrier...

27 comments:

DaVida Chanel said...

I LOVED IT! It was more than a movie - it was an experience. I've never been so glued to the screen, afraid if I turned away I'd miss some detail essential to the ending. I'm always trying to unlock the mystery in films but this one forced me to be in the moment-not thinking too far ahead. All I can say is wow and I can not wait until I see it again (I've got some blanks to fill in).

Mark Salisbury said...

Glad to hear it DaVida and thanks for stopping by. It definitely holds up on second viewing, and you can relax a little watching it second time around and savour the dream-within-dream-within-dream intricacies even more.

Hal Gracie said...

As a viewing experience I certainly enjoyed it, no question about that.

But as the heralding of the second coming (of Kubrick, apparently, if nothing else) it fell way short. It was as derivative as ever, a patchwork of The Matrix, Charlie Kaufman and his own Memento. When Nolan says in interviews that he suddenly found the 'emotional core' of the film, all he really means is that he re-used Memento's husband-wife story wholesale, right down to the tiniest details.

He's terrible with names too. If you were to grab members of the audience on the way out and ask them to name the characters, I reckon they'd score zero, including Leo (Neo?) as Dom, or was that Don, Cobb. God only knows what Marion Cottilard was supposed to be called. Maybe the incoherent naming system was there for a purpose, but I didn't like it. I also didn't care for the in-jokes - they have no place in a movie like this. Leave that stuff to Kevin Smith. Leo has to re-shoot a scene from Titanic, Cotillard is faced with her most famous on-screen song non stop. The least said about calling a character 'Robert Fischer' the better. And if you're ripping off The Matrix, maybe let's call The Architect something else?

I also felt the two longest sequences were about 90% too long. The floaty sequence in the hotel, and the snow sequence. The latter wasn't helped either by the fact that every single character looks identical. Who was shooting who? I had no idea and the longer it went on, the less I cared. The fact that the composer had clearly been instructed to do a John Barry impersonation during the whole sequence didn't help either.

If this movie blows a viewer's mind, I reckon watching the far superior Jacob's Ladder would probably put them in a rubber room.

Mark Salisbury said...

Ok, I think I get it now Hal, you're not a fan of Nolan's.

I love Jacob's Ladder, but if we're nitpicking, the ending's a cop out. Ok, maybe not a cop out exactly, but straight out of the Twilight Zone.

Hal Gracie said...

Sorry, based on your intro, I thought you might want / expect an alternate take on this one. I wanted to be more impressed than I was with it as a piece of great filmmaking (although I liked it just fine as entertainment). But you'll just have to take my word for it that I didn't go in with an 'I hate Chris Nolan' T-shirt on. It's not my bigest gripe, but there were too many references for my liking. The very first 5 seconds alone, which is just a single shot of Leo face down on the beach, seems to have at least two nods. The music was one repeated note - the exact same musical opening as Shutter Island which probably isn't co-incidental. And if you were to take a snap-shot of Leo at that moment and show it to someone, they'd tell you it was a pic of Christopher Nolan (again, surely intentional - not sure what the intention really was, although if I could take a pic making someone like DiCaprio look like me I probably would too).

I thought Leo was fabulous in it, incidentally. Rock solid. Been a great year for him so far.

As for Jacob's Ladder - I've never felt cheated by that ending, although I know it's not universally popular. It helps that I guessed it half way through, and I've never seen the TZ / Outer Limits episode it supposedly leans very heavily on. It's not a film I think Nolan was influenced by, although they both include a dream within a dream within a dream.

Mark Salisbury said...

It's good to have opposing views and my comment was meant to be me joshing with you, but clearly didn't come across as such.

Nolan insists the Piaff song was always in the script and he didn't want to remove it once he cast the role.

As for The Architect, I think he was thinking more Greek Mythology than Matrix, personally.

The thing with JL's ending isn't that it's a rip-off per se, rather than the fact it's all a dream/in his mind thing. Very Zone, in tone.

Hal Gracie said...

It's just that I promised earlier no more ragging on Nolan. And then I saw this article. The negative reviews I've read, whilst in the vast minority, have been scathing - I've seen the word 'drivel' twice, and I certainly wouldn't say anything like that about Inception.

My reaction is more to the reaction, than the film itself. And yes, maybe a continuation of my feelings towards Nolan's track record since arriving in Hollywood. I worry that he might be on the slippery slope of 'films about films' that Brian DePalma ended up on and never really came back (despite the odd gem like Carlito's Way). Like Nolan, there's no denying DePalma had buckets of talent when you watch his made-for-pocket-money early efforts. But he's channelled it badly (in my humble opinion). DePalma's biggest fan Mr Tarantino has also done much the same thing.

What is definitely Kubrickian is the fact that Warner Bros are giving Nolan carte blanche and almost $200 to make a film about a dream within a dream... isn't there a Billy Wilder quote (to a French director) about such a concept being a guaranteed box office disaster?

I've also developed a perhaps unfair response to films depending on how much money they've spent. I was blown away with Where The Wild Things Are. It just looked magnificent. How did Jonze do it? Then I found out it looked like a hundred million bucks because that's exactly what it cost. I still love the movie though.

I might go see Inception again before the end of its run. The scene that held the most mystery is Marion Cotillard jumping off the ledge. Reality? A dream? Leo is asking her to go inside, but is simultaneously motioning to her to come to him, which would mean she'd fall to her death. Not sure how significant that seemingly contradictory gesture was.

Gerard said...

Wednesday. Haven't read any of this talkback, so I still know zippity zilch. Won't find time to write about it, sadly, with my MIFF season kicking off the following night. But I'll certainly post a verdict, then head right back here to read your coverage.

Mark Salisbury said...

@ Hal

Love early DePalma — from Carrie, Blow Out, The Fury, Dressed To Kill, right up to Carlito's Way — but agree, despite the odd moment of greatness, his later output — Mission To Mars, Snakes Eyes, Femme Fatale — has been v.v. poor. Didn't even like his Iraq movie Redacted. Don't see Nolan going that way, though. He's too smart for that, methinks.

I think, too, there will be more than a few books/college papers written about the deeper meaning/significance of Inception. Was it all a dream? At which point does it become a dream? Etc. One thing's for sure, Nolan probably won't tell us...

@ Gerard

Firstly, bummer. Secondly, please do.

Hal Gracie said...

An in-depth interview with the composer could be revealing too. Maybe he'd fess up more than Nolan. I haven't listened to the score in detail, but I reckon that's choc full of references, probably all at Nolan's request. The James Bond stuff is fairly obvious (although I didn't care for its use), but the Shutter Island nod in the opening seconds... I've listened to a sample of the opening track from the Inception CD and not only is it a single repeating note like Shutter Island, it's the exact same note! Whilst it could be just a bit of lazy plagiarism on Zimmer's part, I suspect it was deliberate.

Perhaps the film will spawn an annotations book like the ones for Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Adam said...

Well, I saw it on Saturday, and while I was expecting/hoping for a stone cold 5 star classic, I'd rate it as a solid 4 stars. It's a magimix. A very accomplished, beautiful film, but a magimix nonetheless.

That Cotillard death scene though: she's opposite him, outside a different window. How did she get there? Which room was that? Why was the room Leo was in trashed?

Mark Salisbury said...

Well, there's the theory that the whole film is a dream, right from the off, and so everything we see, even the "real" stuff, is a dream. Which would explain the hotel room you mention which, I have to say, bothered me from the first time I saw it.

Adam said...

SPOILER....

Yup. I guess the other 'it's all a dream!' nod is when Michael Caine (in one of the few lines he has) pleads Leo to 'come back to reality', even when at this point we are in 'reality'. Do you know what though, I don't think Nolan himself would be definitive if you pressed him about whether or not it was 'all a dream'. The ambiguity is the whole point in and of itself.

Mark Salisbury said...

I'm certain you'd never get Nolan to come out and state what's what but I think the "clues" are there if you want them.

As well as the "come back to reality line", there's also the walls appearing to close in on Cobb in Mombassa as he flees the goons after him.

And one could even go back further still, right to the very start where we see Cobb wash up on the shores of a dream with the aged Saito and then we cut to another dream...

Adam said...

OK, my head hurts now. Total Recall did it all 20 years ago...

tim-whitehead said...

I loved it! An audacious, exciting, mind-boggling experience. Great casting too, there wasn't a weak link in the ensemble. If that's not great cinema then I don't know what is. Although I do need to see it a second time to really appreciate all the nuances. My only criticism would be that it's slightly too long, I did find myself beginning to feel a little numb to the sensory overload, still that's a minor criticism of a stunning film.

Hal Gracie said...

If it's all a dream, then is there a possibility that many of the characters don't exist? Are some of the speaking parts 'projections' too? Is Cillian Murphy's character (and his predicament) all made up? His naming seems a touch lazy (and there is another chess reference, Ellen Page having a chess piece as a 'totem'). Is this 'Cobb' cutting corners then, not Nolan? Is it Cobb who is influenced by 007 shootouts in the snow (in terms of building the situations of his heist dreams), not Nolan? Is it Cobb's subconcious that tells him in the opening seconds that he might as well have just woken up on the beach of Shutter Island? (Bit of a stretch, that)

Every character Cobb meets then for the first time is either a) not real (inc Ellen Page), or b) have jacked themselves into his dream without his knowledge.

I think I'll have to go and see this again.

Mark Salisbury said...

Layers upon layers upon layers...

This one's set to run and run. And have a wonderful afterlife on DVD and Blu-ray.

I'm hoping to check it out on IMAX at some point.

Hal Gracie said...

I thought about Imax, but only poor seats were left. You could still buy seats on the day (ok, only single seats, but that’s good enough for me), which I thought was ominous with regards to Inception’s box office. But it did very well. And might have legs.

I'm glad I didn't see it first in Imax though. I found the sequences with Leo’s house in the middle of the water (and all those massive buildings around it) quite trippy as I ended up watching it at West India Quay’s Cineworld. The landscape outside (looking towards Canary Wharf) was almost identical! I had a similar experience with Nil By Mouth when the characters walked past the entrance of the cinema I was watching it in.

Mark Salisbury said...

I think you might have started a new thread Hal. Films that have merged with reality in various ways...

Can't think of one now, though.

J.D. said...

Great film! I really loved it and felt that it was the culmination of Nolan's work so far, mixing the blurring of reality and artifice of MEMENTO but on the big budget scale of THE DARK KNIGHT. At times, I felt (in a good way) that INCEPTION was DREAMSCAPE meets THE MATRIX as if directed by Michael Mann.

Yet, I think that for all the obvious influences this film wears on its sleeve, there is enough of Nolan's own thematic preoccupations that make the film distinctively his own. DiCaprio's character fits in line with all of Nolan's previous protags, haunted by a checkered past that motivates him to do what he does in the film.

I also thought that this was DiCaprio's finest performance to date. He really did a great job of conveying the heartbreaking tragedy of his character and the guilt that he is wracked with. There were a lot of layers to his character and I thought that DiCaprio nailed it.

Also loved the rest of the cast, esp. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy - based on their work in this film, someone ought to hook them up again in another film playing antagonists that have to work together or something. There give-and-take in INCEPTION was well-played.

I for one thougth that the climactic showdown at the end where Nolan juggled three action sequences in three different dream states to be pretty damn impressive. That must've been hell to edit together! It didn't feel too long to me at all and was quite ambitious in scope and complexity!

I really need to see this film again.

Mark Salisbury said...

I agree it's the culmination of all of Nolan's his work so far. You really feel he's been working his way to this movie. I'm almost disappointed he's doing Batman 3 next...

J.D. said...

Well, we shall see where he takes BATMAN next. Look at how he outdid BATMAN BEGINS with THE DARK KNIGHT. To me, I think that Nolan wants to wrap it all up with this third film so we could be in for a real treat, I think.

Michael Smith said...

Film of the year. This is a wonderful piece of work: exciting, moving, and intelligent. It's the kind of film that restores your faith in movies (and washes out the bad taste from the very dull Avatar).

BTW for those considering seeing it in imax I have a new suggestion: go to the "xtreme" screen at vue cinema at the westfield centre (if you're in London). It's almost as big as imax and is a wonderful way to see this film in pristine digital projection with that fantastic score booming all around you.

Mark Salisbury said...

Hi Michael

Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for the xtreme tip. May well have to check that out. Been meaning to visit the new Westfield Vue.

"It's the kind of film that restores your faith in movies"

Amen to that!

Mitch said...

I'm sorry Hal but if you're digging that hard for faults in this movie, watch something else. The moive is fantastic.

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