The biggest question I pondered upon seeing Inception was: is Christopher Nolan the undisputed top direction in mainstream film? Perhaps I should have answered “yes” after his prior few pieces (The Dark Knight, The Presige, Batman Begins, Memento), but with his latest effort, I see few rivals to Nolan’s finished products. Some directors match his technical expertise; some equal his imagination; some are on par with his character direction. But none puts it all together like Nolan. His films are grand in scope, phenomenal in story, and sublime in execution. He has not made one mediocre movie. Inception more than continues that trend.
Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were predictably action vehicles, but they injected thematic intelligence to the maximum. Inception falls closer to Nolan’s other films, where the intricate plotlines are front and center. All the reviews you’ve heard are true: Inception demands you pay attention. It won’t take an IQ of 150 to understand the film, but it’s not simply fireworks in the sky. And that’s a good thing. The thinking man’s Hollywood movie is an increasing rarity.
Since the plotline is such an integral part of a viewer’s enjoyment of the film, I won’t delve into analysis or recap. The themes of dreams versus reality, memory, regret, catharsis, and reconciliation are abundant (a recurrence for Nolan) and excellent.
Fret not, action junkie, Inception is not all thought experiment. Nolan adds plenty of suspense and adrenaline to the film, including the first “zero gravity” fight scene. In some ways, the film is a traditional heist flick. Further, the cinematography is brilliant, as Nolan and team blend elaborate landscapes and special effects to splendid effect. On top of it all is a strong cast with strong performances, headlined, of course, by Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio.
Perhaps the greatest part of the whole thing, though, is the ending. Nolan unpins a grenade, tosses it toward a keg of explosives, and finalizes in a way that will leave you thinking. After the credits roll, the final aspect of the story causes the viewer to immediately reevaluate the finer points of the story they discerned in the process, a la Memento and The Prestige.
The only negativity I have encountered regarding the film are the need for a more resolute resolution and some noise from those who simply don’t like films to make you think. To me, the former criticism is understandable, but I like the ending just as presented. To the latter, I say, go see Toy Story 3.
Few big-budget films are worth the price of admission these days. Inception is definitely one of them.
mith rating: 9.5