Inception (SPOILER WARNING--this whole post might be teeming with them!) was a pleasure to watch. It was captivating, thought-provoking, and epic. It had a good storyline, good writing, and some pretty good acting, as well. In fact, some of those things were much better than good, they were great. Fabulous, even. The movie overall was a huge success, as thrilling as it was intriguing.
That being said, I don't think it was perfect. If anything, I think it stopped achingly short of the absolutely INCREDIBLE film it had the potential to be.
But, it was still an awesome film. Here's some reasons why:
- It wasn't an action film (per se), and this was a pleasant surprise (although considering the nature of The Dark Knight, I should have known better). It had action in it, of course, but this action felt needful, and appropriate to the film. (I'll admit I am an occasional fan of inappropriate and unnecessary action, but I don't think it generally contributes to well-crafted and inspiring films.) The main action scene I recall involves Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a crooked and gravity-less hotel hallways, and it was Matrix-esque in its quirkiness and innovation. Indeed, overall the action was a positive component of the movie, and its relative scarcity certainly helped, ironically, leaving room for the (far more important, in my opinion) intellectual and emotional aspects of the movie.
- The acting. First of all, Leo is turning into a very respectable actor. I was particularly impressed with his role in The Departed, and I've heard good things about what he did in Blood Diamond as well (which I have yet to see, although its on my Netflix queue . . .). I thought his acting was worthy in Shutter Island earlier this year, and his role in Inception as a gritty, mentally unstable widower was in the same tradition and equally profound. Ellen Page did a fantastic job in the film--her gigs in Juno and Whip It were cute and well-executed, but she shows herself capable of some real acting in Inception. But, surprisingly, I was most impressed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance. I think he really stole the thunder from Di Caprio, and I would go so far as to say his role was Oscar-worthy (he's come a long way since the days of 3rd Rock From the Sun). Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, and Dileep Rao deserve nods for their performances too, and--oh-- Marion Cotillard's performance as Leo's wife was simultaneously heart-wrenching and highly disturbing. In fact, my only qualm with the acting was that Michael Caine wasn't in more scenes (really, can anyone ever get enough Michael Caine?).
- The world-building in Inception was fantastic. Although I didn't find the film as mind-bending as it was advertised, and I anticipated most of the "twists" from early on in the movie (I have a dreadful knack for that), what did blow my mind was the depth of the dream-worlds Christopher Nolan created. Shiny golden props to him for creating such a fascinating world.
- Christopher Nolan himself. With such films as The Dark Knight, The Prestige, and Memento under his belt, I expected quite a bit from him with Inception. He delivered.
- Ambiguity. I'm a sucker for ambiguity, and Inception had loads of it. The final scene with the spinning top* quite literally tops the movie off (no pun intended, please). But everything from character motives to in-world rules to the meaning and interpretation of the film itself oozed obscurity, and thats my bag of tricks, baby. It was delightful.
Now, why do I think it fell short, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. First of all, it was supposed to be this mind-bending, surprising, innovational film that changed things. Well, it didn't do that for me. As I've already mentioned, the dream world(s) it(them)-self(ves) surprised me, and bent my mind in a few new directions. I appreciated that. But the plot itself, and therefor the film as a whole, did not. It was relatively predictable. The twists were anticipated, if you can call them twists at all. The movie does a lot of make-up work for these shortcomings with its deep and surprising characters and its ambiguity, but the holes are still there (at least for me).
And another reason: I think the movie didn't delve into the Limbo concept as much as it could have. I think it could have taken things a lot further down there, have made the movie even more epic than it was, and it just didn't quite make it there. It is still epic, of course, but it could have been that much deeper. I wish, in a way, the film would have taken its own advice (both in regards to creation and "going deeper").
But, those are minor issues when compared to the whole.
In the end, I thought the film was a blast--and not only a blast, but a quality film too, worthy in just about every respect. I'm already looking forward to Nolan's next venture, and Leo's next role, and Gordon-Levitt's future as an actor--and, of course, anything involving Michael Caine (seriously). I wouldn't even mind a sequel in the Inception world--I think it could be done in good taste, and I'm still itching for the deeper aspects to be plundered.
My Rating: ****** (6/7 stars)
* I'll mention briefly my opinion on the end of the film (and hence this footnote will be SPOILER-ridden). My heart tells me that the top toppled. It fell over, and Leo's character had finally come home in the end. My mind, on the other hand, insists that the top continued indefinitely, and that he was still in a dream, and that his wife had been right all along--in fact, the whole movie itself seemed to be an (failed) attempt at Inception in Leo's own mind. He rejected the inception, and chose to live his own reality. And I think there is actually a lot of evidence that supports this--the whole movie itself, even the supposedly non-dreaming sequences, seemed suspiciously dreamlike (Leo wedging himself through an increasingly narrow space to escape strange pursuers, reminiscent of the security-pursures in Murphy's subconscious, among others). But there is also something to be said on the fact that, in the end, Leo DIDN'T CARE--he set the top spinning, and instead of staring intently to see whether it would fall or continue, he leaves it alone. This signifies enough change in his character that the movie can end with a feeling of accomplishment and contentment, whatever ending one interprets as canonical. Its all about the ambiguities.