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Inception – A Total Mind-Fuck Of A Good Time

July 28, 2010

I saw Inception for the second time tonight. Well, sort of… I went with a friend of mine a couple weeks ago and after 4-5 drinks we headed to the theater and I was disappointed to find the movie already in progress. Not a good look for a film I knew was going to have a pretty tough story. Anyways, after about thirty minutes and several shared looks of confusion, we decided it was time to walk out. Drunk or not, I couldn’t believe I actually stepped out on a Chris Nolan film. Without question, he’s been my favorite director over the past half decade.

Deep in my heart I knew something was amiss and with all the critical acclaim, word of mouth, and the filmmaker’s background, it was time to give Inception another shot. I thought we had been about 15-20 minutes late the first time I went to see it, but after it took 90 minutes for me to recognize a scene from the movie, I realized we had walked into the wrong theater altogether. I guess that’s what happens when you try to point two drunk people in the right direction. Give us five minutes in the concession line and we’re going into the first theater we see that says Inception above it.

With sober eyes and a fresh start from the beginning, I’m in awe of this movie. From a writing standpoint, my mind is completely blown. The complexity of Nolan’s story is immense; I’m not going to pretend I understood everything that was happening, but the general story line is understandable and the difficulty of the script is going to provide for multiple enjoyable viewings in order to comprehend everything that’s going on. Not a lot of filmmaker’s would be able to make this movie, let alone turn it into a summer blockbuster, but not many people have the clout that The Dark Knight director has. Maybe I underestimate the intelligence of the general public, but I’m genuinely surprised that this movie has made $142 million in ten days and currently sits at #3 on IMDB’s top 250 all-time list. That gives Nolan three films in the top 30 and 5 in the top 110 of all-time and this guy only has six major releases under his belt.

While the story in this movie is what really captivated me, the camera work and special effects are a work of art themselves. People walk on walls and upside down, huge landscapes collapse upon each other, and large pieces of scenery are moved with a touch or a simple thought. The cinematography is also stunning as we are given several long shots of beautiful scenery.

The acting in this movie is kind of an afterthought and I thought everyone was solid. Nolan always casts well and usually keeps a close circle of actors he trusts around him. When he does branch out, he has a tendency to invoke stellar performances (think Heath Ledger as The Joker). I’m not sure we have any award-worthy performances here, but the entire cast does a great job. Nothing really needs to be said about Leonardo DiCaprio. I honestly think he might be the best actor of my generation. I think Ellen Page gets an unfair amount of flak, but I recognize her as one of the best young actresses and this movie does nothing to disprove my theory. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is someone that has really shocked me over the past year. The first time he made me go “hmmm” was in last year’s campy G.I. Joe, where he was nearly unrecognizable and a ton of fun as Cobra Commander. I saw the vastly overlooked (500) Days Of Summer earlier this year and that was the performance that made me realize this kid was legit. His work in Inception is just another step in the right direction of what looks to be a somewhat surprisingly promising career as a serious actor.

Inception is INSANE. I recommend you buy all your concessions before the movie starts and that you clear your bladder repeatedly ahead of time because this is the type of film where you could get lost if you step out for five minutes. The story is crazy, the acting is solid, and the visuals are stunning. Easily the best movie I’ve seen this year and it’s a film that will leave you thinking about it for a long time after, eager to see it again so you can get the full concept.

Second Helping (spoilers): I figured Inception needed to be seen at least twice within a close time frame. Chris Nolan seems to have that affect. The first time I watched Memento, as soon as it finished, I started it over and watched it again. I’ve never done that with a movie, before or since. I might have if I had seen Inception on DVD for the first time. The story was a lot easier to follow the second time through and you are able to pick up on a lot of things you couldn’t the first time. It’s a bit frustrating seeing it for a second time with someone seeing it for the first time. I kept looking at my friend throughout the movie and I really didn’t feel like she was having the same experience I was. I kept asking questions and getting the wrong answers. During the climax, after another failed oral exam, I started announcing to her what level of dream they were in every time they cut scenes. Finally, she got it, but after the movie her overall vibe was “it was okay,” which is an unacceptable response.

I read somewhere speculation that Cobb’s totem wasn’t the spinner because that was his wife’s. That much was true, but after spending the entire second viewing looking for a possible totem for him, I found nothing. There’s also been speculation about the very end of the movie. Is he still dreaming? The scene closes with the top still spinning, which leaves open the option that he was indeed dreaming. I’m not buying it. If you can follow the different levels of dreaming, you can identify what appears to be the “conscious level” for all the characters… and during this “conscious level” we have seen Cobb spin the top and watch it fall. Unless we are being hoodwinked by fancy film-editing, and somewhere between Cobb getting off the plane and coming home to his children someone has put him back into a dream state, then that top at the end of the movie eventually falls… we just don’t get to see it because Chris Nolan can be a bastard like that.

A great movie a second time through and I think the director’s commentary on the DVD will be one of the most anticipated of all-time, which probably means Nolan won’t do one. Give us a great Batman 3 and we’ll forgive you anyway, Chris.

Grade: A
Viewings 2
Replay Value: A must-own DVD requiring repeated viewings
Oscar Watch: I can’t imagine anything edging this out for Best Original Screenplay. Nolan will also get a Best Director nod. Eight months into 2010 and this has to be the favorite to WIN Best Picture, but with most Oscar Bait movies coming out in the fall/winter, that is subject to change. Regardless, with ten nominees now for the Oscar, Inception will still be up for the award. I’m sure we’ll see noms for cinematography, art direction, sound mixing, editing, sound editing, score, and visual effects. This movie is that huge. I don’t think anyone is a cinch for any acting nominations, but DiCaprio is always a contender and Gordon-Levitt, Marion Colliard, and Ellen Page might all have long shots in the supporting categories.
Nudity Alert: None

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