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maian
post Jul 19 2010, 12:13 PM
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So, I saw Inception. Here's the review I wrote for A Mighty Fine Blog:

QUOTE
Inception

During one of the many firefights that litter Christopher Nolan's Inception, Eames, played by Tom Hardy, says to Arthur, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, that he "shouldn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling", before using a grenade launcher to dispatch an enemy combatant that Arthur had been unable to kill with a machine gun. It seems that Nolan, who directed the film from his own script, took this advice to heart, because with this film he has definitely dreamed bigger.

Inception is a film of ideas, in that it is both driven by them and is set within them. It takes place within dreams, and dreams within dreams, as Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) the leader of a team of criminals who operate within the subconscious. Cobb's speciality is extraction - the theft of ideas by tricking targets into believing that the dream is real so that they will reveal their secrets. During one operation in which he and Arthur enter the mind of Saito (Ken Watanabe), Cobb and Arthur are undone by the presence of Cobb's ex-wife Mal. Upon waking, they discover that the operation was an audition, and that Saito wants Cobb to undertake a dream crime of his own; an inception - the implanting of an idea into a subject's mind.

Cobb begins to assemble his team. Along with Arthur, he enlists Eames, a 'forger' who is able to change his appearance in dreams in order to trick targets, Yusuf (Dileep Rao),a Chemist who will help them sedate the target long enough to allow the inception to take place, and Ariadne (Ellen Page), an architect who is in change of constructing the dreamscapes within which the team's deception will take place. Ariadne also acts as the audience surrogate to whom the rules of dreams are explained. Sometimes the rules make sense, sometimes they don't (or explained so breathlessly that they seem not to - I'm still not 100% sure why sometimes it's fine for people to die in dreams, but in others it isn't) but it rarely matters. Nolan and his cast give us just enough of a sense of the peril of entering dreams to give their actions weight. We know that things can go wrong, and that if they do it could be disastrous for them.

As Cobb, Leonardo DiCaprio continues a recent trend in his career of playing essentially good men with profound psychological damage. Much like his character in Shutter Island, he is haunted by a past and a family life that continues to haunt him, somewhat literally, as the spectre of his wife (played by the so-beautiful-she-makes-me-want-to-cry Marion Cotillard) keeps breaking out of his subconscious and manifesting herself in ones in which he is trying to commit crimes. The relationship between the two is hazy, which is only appropriate considering that it is shown only in flashbacks to half-remembered dreams, but is does develop a cumulative power as the film goes on, ultimately delivering a powerful kick when the depths of Cobb's sadness is revealed and we come to understand where his guilt and desire to go home stem from. Without this, the film could very well have ended up being merely an ice sculpture; exquisitely constructed, but cold.

At its heart, Inception is a marriage between the free-wheeling imagination of dreams and the precisely constructed world of puzzles. This would seem to be an impossible task, since dreams are by their very nature devoid of the kind of logical structure that a good puzzle needs. In dreams, a Rubik's Cube could become a Rubik's Tesseract, and you could solve it not by turning the sides, but by feeding it to a swan. The film reaches an elegant solution to this problem with its conceit of having dreamworlds that must be as realistic as possible in order to fool the targets into not realising that they are asleep. I had a problem with this conceit for much of the film since it seemed like a straitjacket that it was always straining against; it's set in dreams, so anything can happen, but the dreams have to be as real as possible, so it can't.

However, this conceit makes sense when you realise that it makes the moments when the film breaks loose all the more spectacular. An early scene in a cafe, during which Ariadne suddenly becomes aware that she is in a dream and which ends with the dream world exploding spectacularly around her, would be far less effective if that was such spectacle was the norm. It would also make the jaw-dropping scene in which Arthur battles goons in a corridor that is constantly spinning around (a scene which, in the best Irwin Allen tradition, was done using real revolving sets) would seem commonplace, rather than being possibly the most astounding piece of action cinema of the last ten years.

The real triumph of the film, though, is the ease with which it makes sense of its plot, which takes place not only within the architecture of the mind, but within the architecture of that architecture. As part of the inception, Cobb and his team not only have to build a dream world for the target to lose himself in, but dreams within that dream as well. The story then gets increasingly complex as different events occur on different levels of existence and thought, with each operating at a different speed to the others (for example, ten seconds at one level is equivalent to three minutes at another, an hour at the next, and ten years at another). Done badly, this would be an incomprehensible mess, but Nolan and his editors deliver the story in a way which makes sense and is viscerally exciting. We watch as three separate timelines converge for a simultaneous climax, as the characters battle time, physics and crumbling psychic architecture to complete their task and get out alive. It's a completely cinematic finale in that it could not be done in any other medium, so reliant is it on the ability of the edit to contract or expand time.

Characters existing at different levels of reality, unsure of what is real or not, reminded me of Philip K. Dick's novel Ubik, a book which also deals with reality, identity and multiple plains of existence and has famously resisted adaptation for being completely insane. Inception is a much simpler proposition than Ubik, even with its byzantine construction, because it is an action film first and philosophical treatise second, but it's no less impressive an achievement for it. It's the sort of film that you could only make if your last film was one of the most successful of all time. It's a bold, ambitious film that refuses to hold your hand as it takes you further down the rabbit hole, then makes you wonder if rabbit holes even exist. It's a dream that does not disappear on waking, but lingers and clouds your vision, making you wonder, "What if?" It's dazzling. Simply dazzling.


So, yeah. I liked it.
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Sean of the Dead
post Jul 19 2010, 01:22 PM
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Conscience gets expensive, doesn't it?
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QUOTE (maian @ Jul 19 2010, 01:13 PM) *
I'm still not 100% sure why sometimes it's fine for people to die in dreams, but in others it isn't

It's fine to die in a dream provided you aren't on sedatives, as there is nothing forcing you to stay asleep. If you die when sedated, it is not possible for you to wake up and so you fall deeper into the layers of the subconscious. I think that's why.

I thought it was really, really brilliant, but my opinion doesn't really count for anything as I am eighteen years old and am easily excited by loud noises and shapes and colours - all of which were featured.

This post has been edited by Sean of the Dead: Jul 19 2010, 01:23 PM
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maian
post Jul 19 2010, 01:57 PM
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QUOTE (Sean of the Dead @ Jul 19 2010, 02:22 PM) *
It's fine to die in a dream provided you aren't on sedatives, as there is nothing forcing you to stay asleep. If you die when sedated, it is not possible for you to wake up and so you fall deeper into the layers of the subconscious. I think that's why.


I thought it was something like that, but I couldn't remember the exact rationale. I'm seeing it again tonight (I had originally planned to watch it only tonight with my friend Michaela, but my sister was visiting and we decided to go and watch it yesterday) so I'll hopefully be able to pick up on some of the stuff I missed the first time around.
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monkeyman
post Jul 19 2010, 02:42 PM
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Nice review maian, that's made me want to see Inception even more.
I noticed a little typo you might want you correct if this is a direct copy of the review posted on your blog smile.gif

QUOTE
As Cobb, Leonardo DiCaprio continues a recent trend in his career of playing essentially good men with profound psychological damage. Much like his character in Shutter Island, he is haunted by a past and a family life that continues to haunt him, somewhat literally, as the spectre of his wife (played by the so-beautiful-she-makes-me-want-to-cry Marion Cotillard) keeps breaking out of his subconscious and manifesting herself in ones in which he is trying to commit crimes. The relationship between the two is hazy, which is only appropriate considering that it is shown only in flashbacks to half-remembered dreams, but is does develop a cumulative power as the film goes on, ultimately delivering a powerful kick when the depths of Cobb's sadness is revealed and we come to understand where his guilt and desire to go home stem from. Without this, the film could very well have ended up being merely an ice sculpture; exquisitely constructed, but cold.
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maian
post Jul 19 2010, 02:44 PM
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Bah, one (or several) always sneaks through!

Thanks for the kind words, Chris.
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Everlong
post Jul 19 2010, 03:04 PM
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QUOTE (monkeyman @ Jul 19 2010, 03:42 PM) *
that's made me want to see Inception even more.


Ditto. Must see it.
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sweetbutinsane
post Jul 19 2010, 03:52 PM
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QUOTE (monkeyman @ Jul 19 2010, 03:42 PM) *
Nice review maian, that's made me want to see Inception even more.
QUOTE (Everlong @ Jul 19 2010, 04:04 PM) *
Ditto. Must see it.


I was looking forward to seeing it tomorrow, but I'm being forced to go away in the caravan instead and now have to wait until next Tuesday. *grumble*

This post has been edited by sweetbutinsane: Jul 19 2010, 03:53 PM
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maian
post Jul 19 2010, 09:39 PM
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Inception was just as good the second time around. It was both colder, since I was better able to see which parts were pieces of the puzzle and how they had fit together, and warmer, since I had a greater sense of who Cobb was and what was driving him.
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sweetbutinsane
post Jul 20 2010, 08:05 PM
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QUOTE (sweetbutinsane @ Jul 19 2010, 04:52 PM) *
I was looking forward to seeing it tomorrow, but I'm being forced to go away in the caravan instead and now have to wait until next Tuesday. *grumble*


Long story short, we are now going away tomorrow instead. So...

Inception

Simply loved it.
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Sean of the Dead
post Jul 23 2010, 05:27 PM
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QUOTE (Hobbes @ Jul 23 2010, 06:06 PM) *
Inception is really good, mind, but it's got a few problems with it (namely, they never addressed how/why they were all James Bond-ian in their invulnerability/aptitude with assorted weaponry).

Because they were professional thieves and presumably went through training in both the real world and within dreams? Certainly, Jack from Titanic showed himself to be adept in both worlds when he escaped from Cobol in Mombasa. Conversely, Juno didn't show any real aptitude beyond shooting Édith Piaf because she was an architecture student who has had no combat training.

I've spent a lot of this week discussing and trying to fill in possible plot holes of Inception, but that just means the fun lives on.
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Hobbes
post Jul 23 2010, 08:02 PM
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QUOTE (Sean of the Dead @ Jul 23 2010, 06:27 PM) *
Because they were professional thieves and presumably went through training in both the real world and within dreams? Certainly, Jack from Titanic showed himself to be adept in both worlds when he escaped from Cobol in Mombasa. Conversely, Juno didn't show any real aptitude beyond shooting Édith Piaf because she was an architecture student who has had no combat training.

I've spent a lot of this week discussing and trying to fill in possible plot holes of Inception, but that just means the fun lives on.


Yeah, but then why were his kids exactly the same age as he remembers them being, when he's supposedly been on the run/getting good at this job for so long? Surely if he's now the best at 'extracting' in the world it would've taken more than a couple of months to get there?
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maian
post Jul 23 2010, 08:31 PM
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QUOTE (Hobbes @ Jul 23 2010, 09:02 PM) *
Yeah, but then why were his kids exactly the same age as he remembers them being, when he's supposedly been on the run/getting good at this job for so long? Surely if he's now the best at 'extracting' in the world it would've taken more than a couple of months to get there?

One theory about the film says that the ending is a dream, so the kids being the same age as the last time he say then reflects the fact that he is trapped in a memory, unable to escape.
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Hobbes
post Jul 23 2010, 09:31 PM
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QUOTE (maian @ Jul 23 2010, 09:31 PM) *
One theory about the film says that the ending is a dream, so the kids being the same age as the last time he say then reflects the fact that he is trapped in a memory, unable to escape.


Yeah I guess that sort of covers it up a bit, but it's still a fairly sizeable leap of faith to take, especially when you consider that when he spins the top in a dream, it's in perpetual motion and doesn't waver at all, and perpetual motion is defined by consistency of movement. If they'd wanted to make that the point, then having it wobble is silly, since its imbalance is caused by normal gravity.

I think the whole 'it's up to you to decide!' ending was a massive cop-out. It should've stayed spinning and rendered the whole movie an epic tragedy, instead it felt a bit Disney. The entire cinema sighed when it ended, the kind of 'bit rubbish' sigh that the rest of the film didn't deserve.

The more I think about that finale, the more it annoys me. Really sweeps the legs out from under the film...
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Shack
post Jul 24 2010, 04:28 PM
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QUOTE (Hobbes @ Jul 23 2010, 10:31 PM) *
Yeah I guess that sort of covers it up a bit, but it's still a fairly sizeable leap of faith to take, especially when you consider that when he spins the top in a dream, it's in perpetual motion and doesn't waver at all, and perpetual motion is defined by consistency of movement. If they'd wanted to make that the point, then having it wobble is silly, since its imbalance is caused by normal gravity.

I think the whole 'it's up to you to decide!' ending was a massive cop-out. It should've stayed spinning and rendered the whole movie an epic tragedy, instead it felt a bit Disney. The entire cinema sighed when it ended, the kind of 'bit rubbish' sigh that the rest of the film didn't deserve.

The more I think about that finale, the more it annoys me. Really sweeps the legs out from under the film...


Inception

Having watched it this afternoon, I feel a little bit like you did. The main problem with having a film about dreams is that you can always stump up for the "it was all a dream" ending. I'm not sure if that's a problem with how Nolan handled it or a problem with JR Ewing for getting out of the shower.

Overall, I thought it was pretty good. Ellen Page is delightful, Joseph Gordon-Levitt a growing screen star and Tom Hardy a terrific presence. It held my attention very well, moved fairly quickly for two and half hours of film and was enjoyable as well.

My only real gripe is that some of the twists nearing the end are fairly telegraphed and I didn't really like the Mal character.

I also think the BFG did it.

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Serafina_Pekkala
post Jul 26 2010, 09:34 AM
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QUOTE (Sean of the Dead @ Jul 23 2010, 06:27 PM) *
Because they were professional thieves and presumably went through training in both the real world and within dreams? Certainly, Jack from Titanic showed himself to be adept in both worlds when he escaped from Cobol in Mombasa. Conversely, Juno didn't show any real aptitude beyond shooting Édith Piaf because she was an architecture student who has had no combat training.

I've spent a lot of this week discussing and trying to fill in possible plot holes of Inception, but that just means the fun lives on.


I also note the holes. And quote the above because it's classic Seany and made me lol like a cat.

I'd also like to add that Bronson, Ra's Al Ghul, The Scarecrow and Tommy from Third Rock are charismatic sons-o-bitches and raise the acting bar very high indeed. As Lord Flashheart would say - "woof" - the only word to describe. Also nice to see Sgt Barnes from Platoon back on screen. And Alfred - again, stealing the show. Jack from Titanic isnae bad - I personally don't like the actor but he is talented and works as a lead. In fact, I may be warming to him after all.

Juno and Edith Piaf are alright but they don't have much to do proving that - for all his smarts - Nolan still cannot write decent female characters at all. Quentin and Lars needs to sit him down and pass along some tips. It's kind of embarrassing how bad he is at 'teh girls'. Also, he has two incredibly talented and beautiful young ladies to work with. Why did he make them look so dull and plain - even? The man could make Monica Bellucci into 'average'.

As a lucid dreamer (thanks to narcolepsy) - it was interesting for me to watch this movie. Nolan is clearly not a lucid dreamer - his visuals are very very pedestrian indeed. Yes - lots of expensive hotels and suits and austere buildings and Escher references and those old fashioned Rocky Horror lifts. But why so brown and gold and grey - why does his work always look washed out and his production design so cheap? It looked very bland like something from a very slick Conde Nast publication. A 4 star hotel at Singapore airport. If this was Tarsem (the master at dreams on screen) or Del Toro or Gilliam (even Burton and Scott - although they were more vibrant back in the day) - how amazing would this movie be? Nolan is not a visionary. Films about dreams need this aspect. The stuff about Edith's house was interesting I suppose but the rest didn't come close to the world of dreams. Not by one iota.

Saying that - I liked the film but was not overwhelmed by it. Nolan (as with Michael Haneke) is very cerebral and a master at pace & structure & dialogue. The word 'architecture' is used a lot - and this describes it entirely. He can draw and plot and impress with his engineering and inventiveness - but it is still an empty building. All very distant and lacked heart. I didn't feel for any of these characters aside the Scarecrow (and then not really, only because the acting was good). However - the fact that the narrative was so challenging and done on this scale is admirable, even if the movie lacked any real flair. The holes in the plot (of which there are many) didn't bother me so much.

This post has been edited by Serafina_Pekkala: Jul 26 2010, 09:44 AM
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