July 18, 2010

The Last Mind-Bender

Inception comes on the heels of The Dark Knight so I wasn't sure what to expect from Movie Boy Genius Christopher Nolan. (To differentiate him from my TV Boy Genius Joss Whedon. I actually even found a plot point common to Inception and the dear departed Dollhouse.) I was prepared to dislike it because his Batman films are hard to top. Plus I am not particularly a Leonardo DiCaprio fan. Or maybe I was afraid it'll just be a special effects-laden summer blockbuster. Oh me of little faith! Mr. Nolan is such a cerebral writer-director, how could I have doubted him? The movie's intriguing premise and its--ehem---dream cast (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy) was enough to draw me in. It is as innovative and original as Memento. I need repeat viewings of this one to get a full grasp of it. The exasperatingly intricate and baffling plot is perfect for geeky theorizing, metaphysical puzzling, and Lost-worthy nitpicking. The enigmatic ending poses many questions. Which is probably what the filmmaker wanted.

I'd be hard-pressed to summarize the story. All you need to know is that Nolan's fertile mind gives us a world where "extractors" like Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) use the dream state to thieve corporate secrets. He is on the lam, pulling off international heists until he gets an offer he can't refuse from Watanabe's character Saito: a chance to be reunited with his family. (Side note: I love my Ken, but I had a hard time understanding some of his lines.) Mr. Cobb must pull off a herculean task: inception. Instead of taking/stealing, he must PLANT an idea in the mind of Saito's business rival Robert Fischer, Jr. (Murphy).

Dom puts together a crack team of specialists, a "dream team" if you will. Dashing Gordon-Levitt is Arthur, who "kicks" them awake. He is joined by forger Eames (Tom Hardy), chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao), and new recruit Ariadne (Ellen Page), who is the architect of the dream worlds. Marion Cotillard plays the pivotal role of Cobb's wife Mal. (Side note: Using Edith Piaf's Non, je ne regrette rien as a wake up song was a nice tribute to Ms. Cotillard's Academy Award-winning performance in the film La Vie en Rose.) Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Caine put in appearances as the elder Fischer and Cobb's father (or was it father-in-law?), respectively.

The dream scapes are fantastical, natch. How often does one see a Paris neighborhood folded on top of itself? I see an Oscar nod for special effects. But Arthur's attempts to create gravity to kick his teammates, and his gravity-less fight scene takes the cake, for ultimate coolness.

There was a curious response from some of my fellow audience members. One guy walked out. Some laughed at the end. I can't figure out if it was derision or nervous confusion from the mind f#^$ we just collectively experienced. I say hats off to the incredibly inventive Mr. Nolan. Thanks for an awesome "can't- wrap-my-brain-around-it-yet" adventure! Being Christopher Nolan would make a great movie. Anybody think John Malkovich will want to play him?

(photo from Screen Rant)


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