**** (out of 5)
July 16, 2010
Leonardo DiCaprio as COBB
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as ARTHUR
Ellen Page as ARIADNE
Tom Hardy as EAMES
Ken Watanabe as SAITO
Dileep Rao as YUSUF
Cillian Murphy as ROBERT FISCHER
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Before I start… before I utter one word of criticism about “Inception,” Christopher Nolan’s latest film and follow up to the record-breaking “The Dark Knight,” I want say that this is a really entertaining film. From the production value to the powerful, booming soundtrack, “Inception” is one of those films that screams to be experienced in a theater with a screen 20-feet high and a blasting Dolby system.
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, a man who has the uncanny ability to insert himself into people’s dreams. Using this special talent, he is able to extract secretive information, but the more challenging thing is to implant an idea that the subject will think is his own. It is for this rare talent for “inception” that Cobb is hired by a businessman to help dismantle the economic competition from inside. Cobb gathers a team of other dreamers, “Mission Impossible” style, and they delve deeper and deeper into their target’s mind.
There’s a lot of great things about “Inception.” It looks great, sounds great and has some of the most intense action sequences you’ll see this year. On the same level, it’s acted very well. DiCaprio turns out another fantastic performance, as does Cillian Murphy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
And I liked it. I liked the movie a lot. It’s just when I heard people gushing about it – as early as after the screening and as late as dozens of major review outlets publishing their reviews – that I knew I had to be the voice of reason.
“Inception” has been called, smart, original and brilliant. But the reality is that it is none of these things. In fact, it’s quite rote and cliché (and it includes the granddaddy of all movie clichés, for which Nolan should feel at least a wee bit of shame). It also has elements of at least a half-dozen other films that I rattled off just moments after I saw it.
The concept of entering dreams is nothing new. My beloved classic sci-fi cheese-fest “Dreamscape” tackled that a long time ago, and mixed with a set-up reminiscent of “Brainstorm,” it’s hard to see “Inception” with any new concept. Similarly, the dream-within-a-dream story has been done many times before, from sketches in “The Kids in the Hall” to the “Matrix” rip-off “The Thirteenth Floor” and even David Cronenberg’s late-90s masterpiece “eXistenZ.”
These comparisons to “Inception” are not meant to take anything away from the movie, but rather to refute the collective orgasm that the now-common “Nolan effect” has on many critics. “Inception” is not smart; just deftly edited and constructed. And it’s not overly complex either.
There’s a line in the film when Cobb asks Ariadne (Ellen Page) to “take two minutes to draw a maze that I can solve in one minute.” This symbolizes the whole film for me because Nolan took two and a half hours to make a movie that I figured out in twenty minutes.
But those two and a half hours are a hell of a ride. And like James Cameron’s “Avatar,” the movie doesn’t feel like it runs that long, which is a testament to its construction.
Rather than “Inception” being a smart film, it has the appearance of being a smart film. People come out of the movie understanding all of its nuances, and they feel proud of that. So they declare that it’s so complex and smart that not everyone will understand, definitely not John Q. Mainstream. And if that makes the viewer feel better about themselves, then so be it. (After all, I have yet to hear anyone complain about not being able to understand it, and it’s selling tickets like crazy.)
It is in this brilliant use of his own fame that Christopher Nolan has affected inception on many of its viewers. He has stolen into their minds and planted the idea that his film is the most brilliant, original and smart film in years. And everyone thinks they realized this on their own.
Still, with all that said, go see “Inception” if you already haven’t. And enjoy the hell out of it. And if it makes you feel better, pat yourself on the back for keeping up with it. Just don’t be an ass and suggest that no one else will be able to.