Saturday, 7 August 2010

Review: Inception

I am generally split between not liking and liking Christopher Nolan's films. I didn't like Batman Begins or Insomnia but I really loved Memento and Dark Knight. I liked The Prestige but also found it a bit emotionally cold.

Inception falls into the didn't like camp.

Part of that may be that I am not that interested in James Bond style action sequences. Which is not to say that I don't like action, I do. I just have to care about the characters and find the sequences to have something new and engaging about them. I found Inceptions action pretty dull and unoriginal. And there was just TOO MUCH of it.

The film has some good things about it. The cast are great. The acting very good. There are some brilliant sequences, really brilliant, almost worth watching the over-hyped and overlong film for. They hint at how good the idea could have been: An action film/blockbuster than takes place in peoples minds. Thieves who steal information from inside peoples minds. A heist movie where they have to insert an idea into the marks mind. All good.

However the execution of the above is a vast failure.

People have said of Inception that it is somehow refreshing. That we don't get blockbusters with art movie ideas, with difficult concepts and existential elements. That Inception somehow changes the game.

I'm afraid it doesn't. The Matrix (and don't let the sequels spoil how good the original was) does everything that Inception tries to do, but it did so with style, originality and interest. Clever blockbusters have happened loads though, from Terminator I and II to LA Confidential. Inception isn't new. It isn't a game changer.

It also isn't as complicated as it wants you to believe. What it actually does is fail to explain things well. It thinks making things unclear can distract from When you boil it down it has lots of plot holes. It is generally very implausible.

That said all of this may be deliberate. I fear that it is. Take this review/analysis of Inception [WARNING FULL OF SPOILERS]:

Everything that review says seems likely to me. Nolan could very well have deliberately made things implausible and full internal logic for the reasons stated in that article. He may also have been trying to make a film about the process of making films. Crafting a clever metaphor for his own process.

The problem is that in doing so he has made a film that is indulgent and lazy. It would have been much better if he'd developed the idea for longer, researched his topic more, thought more about the effect of the film rather than the ideas he wanted to put in it. Boiled it down better. Stopped navel gazing.

The main problem with the film is that it isn't like a dream. It thinks it is, but it isn't. There is not enough surrealness. There is just lots of guns and chases. Is that what dreams are like? No. Dreams are much more interesting. There is loads of information out there about dreams that he could have fed into it, lucid dreaming, dream interpretation. All of that could have been great.

And why all the guns? Are they really that interesting? Surely you also dream about swords, about fish, about flying, about so many different things. And you accept them all because its a dream and we generally accept the logic of dreams. There are 3 beautiful bits that hint at what it could have been. 1. The sequence where Ellen Page redesigns the city in front of her using her imagination and making it not obey the laws of physics. 2. The fight sequence in a hallway where the centre of gravity keeps changing. 3. The sequence where gravity goes completely and yet various people need to be moved through space as if they were falling in order to wake them up.

We needed more of that and less Bond shoot outs. We needed fluidity, invention, imagination. We needed it to be a fucking dream.

The problem I think is that Nolan actually wanted to make a film about the subconscious. He wanted it to be all about moving through different levels of someones subconscious. Well that's a good idea too. So choose. Dreams or subconscious. And whichever you choose cut out all the guns. They aren't adding anything. The guns in the Matrix and Terminator and LA Confidential added something. Christ even the explosions in Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves add something.

If you are going to do it about different levels of the subconscious then it still has to be more interesting. You have to have different visual cues for the different levels, rather than colouring them all in a similar way. And crucially you have to think it through: Why would what happens to a body in one level have an affect on it in another level but not to the body in the next level... etc...

Inception to me was like District 9, full of great ideas that weren't thought through fully. However District 9 was a much more satisfying watch.

I was bored in this film.

I think a better film could have been made with 45 mins of action cut and more work done on the dreamscape and its logic.

I also think the idea could have been much better realised over a TV series, which would allow the sort of character development and narrative depth that an idea with this sort of potential deserves.

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