At the time of writing, Inception has already shot up to the number 3 spot on IMDb’s top 250 list, having only been out for a few days. After the creation of his new Batman universe (and particularly The Dark Knight), Christopher Nolan has been touted as a filmmaking genius, and Inception has already been called his “best film yet” by many. So is it deserving of the hype?
To be quite frank, no. I went into the movie without having read any reviews, but having seen a couple of scores: mostly 10/10s and 5/5s. And after watching it for myself…unfortunately I don’t really understand these scores.
I’d kept “clean” with regards to Inception; I only watched that first teaser that came out last year, and I loved it. It was enough to create an enormous level of excitement, while still keeping a huge shroud of mystery. The surreal use of physics and mysterious sci-fi plot were really intriguing, coupled with the fact that Christopher Nolan has already directed some great films with twisty plots. Despite the fact that I was disappointed by The Dark Knight, this was all enough to get me really, really, really excited.
I was let down. The film’s opening quarter (or thereabouts) is cool. The first sequence in particular is pretty exciting and contains its own fascinating little twists, that help to get you into the movie’s main ideas. The introductions to these dream-related concepts like “architects” and “forgers,” and of course “inception” itself, are all really great. The ideas behind the film are brilliant, and could have led to a mind-bending sci-fi thriller. But unfortunately the rest of the film comes up short.
Some reviewers seem to think that Inception is full of many philosophical and intellectual matters, and that it could resultantly be studied for hours on end. But this wasn’t the case – to me it just seemed like an action-thriller with a few more layers thrown in. The plot isn’t very twisty or confusing, being just a little more complex than the average sci-fi or action movie. It’s not hard to follow at all.
If you don’t want to know the plot of the movie (like I didn’t), don’t read the following paragraph. If you don’t mind, then go ahead, I won’t tell you too much:
DiCaprio & co. can go into people’s minds and appear in their dreams. In order to get to see his family again, DiCaprio strikes a deal with a rich guy (Ken Watanabe) in which he will try to commit “inception,” the near-impossible act of planting an idea in to someone’s mind, as opposed to taking it out. He then assembles a gang of cohorts with different dream-manipulating abilities, in order to carry out the act. It’s a heist-type thing, and that’s about it. The plot means that the movie’s second half devolves into shallow action; a lot of shooting and a lot of loud music. It finishes as a reasonably simple action movie. At this point I was just wishing things would hurry up and something would actually happen.
And regarding the end (but not really spoiling it…I’ll hide it anyway):
There is a little “twist” left in the very final shot of the movie, which seems to be causing some debate among viewers. But the film had dragged on so much that by this time, I wasn’t too bothered what it meant.
The cast contains some great actors, but none of them really get to flex their theatrical muscles. Well-known stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe play their roles just fine. They do the job (Joseph Gordon-Levitt maybe stood out a little more than the rest). But nobody brings anything special to the table, and I didn’t particularly sympathise with anyone, or care about them. The characters just weren’t very interesting (even with the “personal troubles” present in DiCaprio’s character). It was all rather neutral. I’m surprised Michael Caine was even listed on the posters, as he only appears for a few seconds, and it almost seems like he took the role just to get out of the house for a bit. And to be honest, the best thing about the cast was Ellen Page being hot. Don’t worry though, I’m not usually that shallow – there just wasn’t much else that caught my attention.
As a final thought that I noticed while watching: the idea of having a movie mostly take place inside people’s dreams gives way to a vast array of surreal environments and such. Inception doesn’t fully engage with this potential, and the CGI work isn’t as stunning as it could have been. It ends up disappointing on both visual and storytelling fronts; the imagination could have been stretched further. The concepts seem complicated and deep in theory, but they are not executed in a way that makes for a thrilling movie. I’m worried that many will over-appreciate / overhype this movie simply due to the fact that they are attached to the director and his 2008 splash.
In my humble opinion, Inception doesn’t come close to being Nolan’s “best film.” The Prestige is at the top of my Nolan list, and is one of my favourite films of all time. Batman Begins is one of the best comic book movies that have been made (despite being a set-up for a sequel). And while I didn’t think The Dark Knight was great, I actually liked it more than Inception. So in summary, I was pretty much disappointed by this movie, which is a great shame, because it was my most anticipated film of the year. I wanted it to come along and blast all the other crappy movies out of the water, but it’s not a masterpiece, and it isn’t really genius. It’s some awesome ideas that are hidden behind mostly-uninteresting characters, and a plot that isn’t very exciting.
P.S. Tron: Legacy looks fricking amazing. The trailer that was screened before Inception was the best part of the experience. Just felt I had to add that.
[Editor’s note: Personally i’d give it an 8 or 9 and thought it was great]