Inception : Not bad, but definitely not genius
Inception is one of those movies that "engaged" film-goers will mistake for genius. Let me explain my theory on people and movies. There are three types of movie-watchers: passive, engaged, and intelligently engaged. Passive people will watch Die Another Day and like it just as much as the Bourne Identity. They don't go to the movies to think, they go to be entertained by cool effects and witty one-liners. Engaged people think they know what they're talking about, and generally love movies that are edgy in plot and execution but conventional enough to understand, like Fight Club and the subject of this review. They believe themselves to be refined in cinema, but ,in reality, just don't quite have the intellect, cinematically speaking, to pull it off. Intelligently engaged people will appreciate the complexity of Inception, but also recognize it's a little sloppy, self-serious, over drawn, and empty. They recognize its audacity, but don't pretend like it is Kubrick or Paul Thomas Anderson. Suffice it to say, most people who fall into the engaged category will try and pretend that Inception is a 'masterpiece' and that they know everything about movies. They don't. Inception is clever, but it doesn't rank anything above respectable.
The premise is ingenious, and Inception is able to live off its sheer mind-bendiness for the first 45 minutes. Leo is a specialist at entering people's minds and extracting, or in this case, planting information. The dreamworld is so exciting and unpredictable, that the audience couldn't care less about the actual story line. Unfortunately,when the magic wears off and the extravagantly overlong climax starts (almost at the midway point), as Chinua Achebe says, things fall apart. The first problem is the eventual goal of the whole operation is seriously anti- climactic. As far as I could tell, they're trying to break up some obscure monopolistic multi-national company for a rich CEO, who in turn will give them large sums of money and Leo a way back to his kids. Sound under-developed? It is. Nolan never really fleshes it out. He is too busy creating spectacularly slick effects to get caught up in silly things like crucial plot points.
Nolan makes the mistake of thinking multiple things happening at once equals suspense. In an effort to ratchet up the intensity, Nolan piles on at least 5 simultaneous plot-lines that climax at the same time. All this serves to do is suffocate the little suspense that had been built up. There is literally a fifteen minute stretch where Hans Zimmer's deafening score blares and Nolan annoyingly flips through the parallel actions like that ADD friend of yours who can't decide what channel to watch. It's mind-numbing, not to mention confusing as hell. One of these little subplots is particularly ridiculous and consists of a guy running around a snowbound bunker shooting people for the whole 15 minutes reminding me of those awful 70's Roger Moore Bond flicks.
The most damning aspect of Inception is it's complete lack of heart or emotion. The one remotely human thread in the film is Leo's wife problems. This thread is drawn out to excess and becomes more and more incomprehensible as the movie progresses. Near the end, the dialog between the unhappy couple is completely devoid of meaning (at least to the audience), made worse by Nolan attempting to give it resonance through close ups of people crying and a climaxing score. Due to the nature of the story, I wasn't even sure if Leo was talking to his wife at all.
Despite the fact that the majority of this review deals with Inception's shortcoming, I actually like the movie as a whole. For all Inception's faults, I was grudgingly won over through its pure style and visceral power. Nolan occasionally strikes brilliance, especially in an early scene where a dream explodes around Ellen and Leo in slow-motion virtuosity. This movie is not the genius many will claim, but its not so bad either. Give it a shot, just don't expect to dream about it afterwards.
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