Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god. Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god. Oh my god oh my god. Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god. Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god. Oh my god, Christopher Nolan’s latest, Inception, is a preposterously successful film that does about a million different things totally right. And it may well come to be known as the film that established Nolan as a truly remarkable filmmaker.
It’s not like he’s ever been thought of as untalented. His second film, 2000’s Memento, is frequently acknowledged to be a modern classic. Effortlessly reworking what a narrative can be, it’s worst effect is that it overshadowed the rest of his work, which has been unquestionably, unusually strong, including The Prestige and something about a Dark Night. But despite the strength of those films, nothing came along that twisted the potential of what a film could be into something totally new like Memento had.
But with Inception, methinks he may have finally matched Memento. With a story that could be classified as magical realism, Inception follows Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio, always a good sign in a movie,) an architect that uses military-developed technology to invade the dreams of whoever he’s hired to violate the headspace of. His life is in his shambles, his family taken from him, until his profession gives him one last shot to go home for good, but it will be supremely dangerous, and even illegal.
Reread that last sentence. I probably just described hundreds of movies (nay, thousands.) The idea of the “one last job” is a story that’s been used over and over again, and yet to compare Inception to any of them would be a disservice to Nolan’s film. The filmmaker is working on an absurdly high playing field here – the stakes aren’t just high for his characters, they ascend to dizzyingly and frighteningly, even infinitely dire potential consequences. By allowing the mind to function as the film’s setting for more than half of the running time, the impossible is suddenly very real; and the characters understand what’s in store for them if they fail.
it should also be added that, as pure spectacle, Inception is a total knock out. Within the dreamword, where literally anything could happen, the story is able to take you places totally ridiculous action tentpoles like Transformers could never dream (pun!) of going. One second you’re driving down a street, the next you’re being hit by a train, and after that you are literally being attacked by everybody within sight. It could have come off as over-the-top, but Nolan visually and tonally brings it all down to feel as natural as these things could possibly feel. It’s like a dream – nothing ever feels unreal until after the fact.
The use of this universe also allows Cobb’s inner demons to come right out into the open, personified, and destroying the goals and people of Inception. It’s a genius move that allows for character motivation, backstory and emotion to come to the forefront of the story and explain itself without ever having to launch into poor exposition or overblown speeches.
And Nolan pulls this fucker taught, using parallel editing and slow motion in legitimately new ways that delicately stacks one on top of the other for a completely unique, exciting effect. The set-up allows him to engineer what is effectively just one long action sequence at the end of the film that easily extends itself over an hour. The tension never lets down, as it cuts to and fro in different realities, without ever flying over the head of the viewer. It’s a potentially complicated, confusing movie that stays surprisingly clear.
Oh my god, I’m not even going to try. The film does so many things right, too many for any self-respecting critic to feel easy about explaining adequately.
Did I talk about how great the cast was? Because it was totally phenomenal.
But I can’t go on forever. And to some degree, a review of Inception feels sort of redundant. All I can really do is go over everything about this hugely effective psychological thriller and attempt to detail how it does everything so well. But I can’t come close to recreating what worked so perfectly in the film, so I might as well just stop now.
All I can really do is tell you that you owe it to yourself to see it. And when I think about it, all I can say is just “oh my god” over and over again.