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Sunday, January 23, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW - Inception

By now the world has been exposed to the word, “inception.” I won’t place bets on everyone, but chances are most will remember it as a movie and not the word they memorized for their vocabulary test. Oh, but those who were exposed to the “big word” during their 5th grade spring semester probably have a better chance at understanding it than others. But that’s one reason why Inception is praiseworthy. It doesn’t treat its audience like idiots. It respects us enough to trust we will follow every line of dialogue and understand the mammoth that is Christopher Nolan’s mind at work. We should beat down the door for more movies like these.

I won’t bother with a synopsis. If you haven’t seen the movie by now, get the hell out and start feeding it to your eyes. Meanwhile, I’ll struggle to provide new insight to a movie that’s been reviewed in to the ground. Praising the script, effects and acting only goes so far. But loving it-- ah, well, it seems appropriate for a movie that respects its audience so well. Christopher Nolan loves his job. He loves it so well that it pours on to the hearts and minds of filmgoers much in the same way that Spielberg, Lucas and Scorsese had. The best example of this, in actuality, is pointing out the film’s “shortcomings.” I use the word shortcomings, because Inception’s lesser moments have been dubbed flaws.

I won’t say the film is flawless, but I won’t call a lack of “emotional connection” or “underused” supporting cast members a flaw by definition. I fully admit Inception had an amazing cast of decidedly underdeveloped characters. And I didn’t feel as stricken by Dom Cobb’s predicament as I did Harvey Dent or Bruce Wayne. But when did this movie call on an overwhelming amount of emotion or supporting character development to be key to its success? At the core, the movie is a heist flick with stakes higher than money or power. It’s about a man who wants to see his children. Like all heist movies the exposition is high, but clever. The supporting characters become outlets for the audience. They aren’t on screen to grow; they’re here to humanize a bizarre plan so we believe people can actually enter the mind of a person. Mission accomplished. The rest is on Leonardo DiCaprio and Nolan.

Never once does DiCaprio waver as a man in desperation, yet fully embracing his talent in the world of corporate espionage. The character tiptoes through Nolan’s flowchart of ideas that, miraculously, ends with no holes. Roger Ebert cracked that writing Inception must’ve been like, “playing blindfold chess while walking a tight-wire.” Such an exercise actually seems easier in hindsight. In the ten years it took Nolan to finish this script, I wonder if there was ever a doubt such an elaborate idea would work. And even when the bible of dream navigating was finished, would it have enough of a human element for audiences to relate to? Whether it did on paper or not, Nolan was wise to choose DiCaprio for the job.

Whelp, lets tread on the ending. Some believe they saw the top waver! “It was about to fall!” Others think he was still trapped in the dream. Me? I have my theory, but broadcasting it doesn't interest me. I believe Nolan meant more than an ambiguous ending. Today filmmakers, producers and hacks are forcing audiences to feel a part of a movie with this 3D fad-o-crap. Nolan probably wants to invite audiences in as well, but he goes about it more subtly. Leaving us with the dreaded spinning top does more than what 3D accomplishes. It puts us in the same shoes as Dom Cobb. Throughout the film our hero obsesses over reality and figments of the mind. He must know the truth! And so must we. Bummer.

The genius of Inception doesn’t stem from it being a perfect movie. A great movie is rarely perfect and believing otherwise invites words like “masterpiece” to be overused. Its brilliance lies in its careful crafting and loving trust that the movie will work and we will understand it. It's not simply that I will praise a movie with, ahem, “shortcomings.” Rather, I enjoy awarding (and loving) oceans of talent pushed against all odds. Inception should’ve failed. Mr. Nolan continues to be venerated.

**** out of ****