Before I begin to discuss Inception lets for a moment take it for the rarity it is – a big budget adult aimed blockbuster that is based on an original idea – rather than being an adaption of a comic, book or a remake of an TV series. Avatar is the only other film in recent memory (of this scale) that can claim this, although it’s hard to argue that it was designed with adult audiences in mind. Even if it wasn’t any good, we should be grateful that occasionally the studio’s are still willing to take these risks (although how much of a risk a director that delivers a $1.5 Billion paycheque for the studio could be argued).
That the end result is a dazzlingly original, intelligent blockbuster makes it all the better. Inception will make money because it will demand additional viewings to try to determine whether it is pieced together as well as it appears to be after the first viewing – it’s a puzzle box and half the fun is seeing how it fits together afterwards. That half a dozen of us saw it and have produced half a dozen theories about it afterwards shows how clever this is, Inception demands that you think about it rather than just zone out and wait for things to happen.
Nolan has once again realised that no matter how big the spectacle it’s all worth nothing without a decent plot and characterisation – we need to care about the people involved, an investment on the part of the audience is what determines the success. To this end he is greatly aided by DiCaprio who builds upon his recent image of a deeply shattered hero to create another piece of the puzzle. How you view his performance will determine how you think things have proceeded, but suffice to say he continues to impress with a consistency few other actors of his generation can manage. Elsewhere the rest of the cast deliver equally impressive turns, Cillian Murphy in particular for playing against type and delivering what could be viewed as the one truly sympathetic character in the film and it’s a shock to see Tom Berenger actually remembering how to act (Someone To Watch Over Me being the last time I can recall that, which was mid eighties). Nolan seems to be building himself a small repertoire of actors and it will be interesting to see who joins him from this newest ensemble.
The ensemble extends to behind the camera as well. Wally Pfister returns as DOP once again showing that for all of its technological marvels digital still has a way to go before it matches film. Hans Zimmer provides the bizarre team up of the film to provide a score alongside former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr (which is as weird / wonderful a result as it sounds). Nolan clearly knows who he can trust to deliver.
But this is clearly Nolan’s show and he’s delivered an absolute stunner. Whilst the adverts show brief glimpses of what is possible within his world (with its clearly defined rules that are never broken) the truth is the film we get is not the one we were promised – but then it could be argued that that’s part of the point of Inception, instead getting something that’s more intelligent than we expected. Nolan’s insistence that effects should be physical where possible delivers a real sense of disorientation that would not survive CGI – a fight in a corridor where the gravity is being affected by outside factors delivers the sort of physicality that we don’t expect in large scale sci-fi films these days. This is just one of many large scale set pieces that forward rather than stop the plot, Nolan seems determined that at all times the story should be progressing – like Cameron he views technology as another tool in the filmmaking arsenal rather than the sole reason for a film.
Nolan now moves on to complete his Bat-trilogy, with reported producer duties on another Superman reboot as well in the pipeline. The big question now is whether he can deliver a film that exists outside of the twist / turn genre that he seems determined to dominate, but until then Inception is well worth the time.