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Inception: Movie Review

Posted by Ronak M Soni on July 19, 2010

Originally published at PassionforCinema.


Inception (2010), written and directed by Christopher Nolan

Memorable Cast: Leonardo di Caprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe and Cilian Murphy

Plot: Dreams and espionage. The details are not important.

Note: A depressing lack of spoilers abounds below.

Even a day after having watched Inception, I’m not entirely sure how much I liked it. I mean, if you asked me to recommend it or not, I would say that it’s certainly not bad, but not really good either. The problem is, I don’t know what I liked and what I didn’t.

For me, this has been the sort of reaction every one of Nolan’s movies, except Batman Begins — as cut into 4:3 by HBO –, has elicited. While I liked Memento and its structure, the denouement left me strangely underwhelmed, in all probability because we hae the choice completely explained for us when it was completely obvious. Besides, I never really understood how a structure as clean as the one we see is supposed to simulate the feelings of one suffering from short term memory loss (in fact, I would say that I felt that sort of confusion much more strongly in reaction to Surya’s dementedness in the Tamil Gajini, though that performance in many ways makes less sense than Guy Pearce’s). While I thought of The Dark Knight as a good action movie, I always found it hollow in that it didn’t seem to have a morality of its own; again, I’m not sure if this was a good thing. Further, with my recent comic-renaissance, I understood that it wasn’t even a very good representation of the Batman mythos.

So, first thing about Inception, it isn’t anything too smart; as far as the fantastic elements are concerned, the plot isn’t grounded in any larger significance, it’s completely literal (and brainless), and as science fiction, it is chock-full of ideas for good ideas, but the good ideas never blossom, not really.

Second thing, Inception is actually two movies, both rather clichéd, one of which ambles over and plonks its arse on the climax of the other one in a strongly unsavoury manner. The first movie is a straightforward, brainless, and ultimately enjoyable thriller. The second is a somewhat fascinating exploration of the dangers of the dream-mythos Nolan creates. The problem with this one is that it depends on psychology, and Nolan’s writing of the psychology is too clean, too full of Hollywood staples. This is why it is only “somewhat” fascinating. In fact, the only reason it is at all fascinating is di Caprio’s heartfelt and affecting performance.

Third thing, its final shot has an ambiguity that is both emotionally wrong as well as too on-the-nose, in that it only tells us something that’s been obvious for a while (thanks to some shot-mirroring with as early scene, but Nolan seems to think of that as too subtle).

Now that I have given the movie a proper beating over the head, let me tell you that on a moment-to-moment basis, I enjoyed it immensely. I loved, for example, seeing Ellen Page bend a city over itself in di Caprio’s “subconscious” or Joseph Gordon-Levitt… eh, just the guy. The only times I stopped enjoying myself while watching the movie was when it referred to good ideas, or when it looked as if it was heading for a good idea but crash-landed in the desert. To be sure, there were very many of the latter sort of moments, but in general I enjoyed watching it.

In the end, however, I think that Inception’s most important contribution to the film world is to the superhero genre. Rather, its criticism. Now, whenever someone’s angry about Spider-man in a movie, they know exactly who to name in the present actor’s place: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Of course, the ideal Spider-man would be much bulkier, but since in the present climate that is about as likely as Michael Bay making a great animated Batman movie, I look to the supremely flexible, supremely suave and supremely smart Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I can’t find a video of Gordon-Levitt’s fight scene thanks to which I say this, but the choreography of that fight is nothing less than awesome. Meanwhile, you’ll have to be content with this still:


11 Responses to “Inception: Movie Review”

  1. litdreamer said

    I can’t fault your review, Ronak, as I also enjoyed it immensely on a moment-to-moment basis, but am still figuring out if I thought the whole was fantastic, or just made up of some fantastic elements.

    And yes, Joseph Gordon Levitt was the best thing about this movie, while Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting gave the audience an emotional “in.”

    BTW, do you think Christopher Nolan purposely used an Edith Piaf song because Marion Cotillard was in this film?

  2. First point: latter, I say. Unless a movie has something for me after I’m done watching it, it ain’t fantastic.

    Third: Never even heard of Edith Piaf. Wikipedia’d it, now I think it’s possible. Even if it didn’t strike him earlier, someone must have pointed it out to him during filming. Or maybe he needed a song and Cotillard helped him. I liked the music though.

  3. S M Rana said

    Part of my fame rests on having neither seen nor reviewed said film.

  4. Pankaj said

    The movie does have plot holes i think. Whose dream is dream 1, dream 2, dream 3 and dream 4. how come limbo is common to all? Saito dies and reaches there. Fischer dies and reaches there. Cobb and Mal got trapped there for 50 years.

    is it like a Jungian communal unconscious?

  5. There are many explanations of these things on the internet.

    But forget that: I’m actually embarrassed of that line. I shouldn’t litter my reviews with unprovable, unarguable assumptions.
    What I wanted to say was that six others and I hadn’t found a plot hole.

  6. Serge said

    The film failed as it pretended to deal with serious issues, but avoided the essential moral question of inception itself. The criminals get away with their crime, and an innocent man is victimized. The end does not justify the means. This is a problem with much of Nolan’s work. An artist should consider what kind of world he is nurturing in reality by placing the “inception” of his work out into the minds of the public.

    • Thank you for your very illuminating comment, Serge. I never quite saw it that way, even though in hindsight I feel I must have been dimly aware of the problem. “The end does not justify the means.” So true.

  7. […] and in fact a bit worse because they act like they have psychological depth. I thought Inception was fun but utterly disposable  and I was not for a moment flabbergasted by its complexity.  And I think his batman trilogy, […]

  8. I went into this extremely skeptical, and while the first half hour seems to slightly drag, it really picks up and you realize that the slow burn was well worth the wait.

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