Monday, September 06, 2010
Movie review: Inception
Inception, the new film about "dream thieves," written and directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo Dicaprio, enters into a very select set of films. Maty and I were in agreement on its entertainment value. That rarely happens. Unfortunately, neither of us liked the film.
The setting is the near future, in which technology has created the ability for people to enter one another's dreams and extract information. Cobb (Dicapprio) is the foremost pioneer of this new psychic frontier. He is hired by Shaito (Ken Watanabe), a fabulously rich business mogul, to enter the dreams of a rival, there not to extract information, but to plant an idea! Cobb goes about assembling a team of experts and concocting a plan to succeed at the impossible. Moderately suspenseful action sequences, laced with incessant special effects ensue.
The film seems to be an attempt to bridge the gap between a "special effects" movie (think Avatar), and a "heist" flick (Ocean's 11, perhaps) with a scifi twist. I grant, penetrating the dreams of other human beings is an intriguing concept. But in order for it to work, the universe in which that is possible must be complete, consistent, and true to its own laws. Somehow, the film must provide its audience with the background information, while at the same time advancing the plot at a compelling pace. That's a pretty big undertaking and it places a huge burden on the script.
Unfortunately, Nolan didn't pull it off. Much time is given to background information --explaining the laws of dream time and dream landscapes and the different levels of dreaming --but it is delivered in staccato intervals, in jarring, pace-killing segues from action to interminable dialog. So much information must be related so quickly that it soon becomes too much. A few minutes into the flick I had given up on trying to make sense of all the gobbledygook that the various characters uttered. But, alas, the action is so staccato and halting that one can't really sit back and enjoy the roller coaster ride either.
At some point, I suspect, Nolan took pity on those viewers who might still be trying to make sense of it all. That can be the only explanation for the imposition of Hans Zimmer's score, which strains desperately in its attempt to suggest emotion to the clueless audience. It's not subtle.
The herculean effort required to make the whole thing fly, it seems, left Nolan nothing to spare for trivialities like character development. And he held his talented cast in check, letting none of the actors make a run at some real acting.
Perhaps Nolan's hope is that, now that all the background information is established, and if Inception is deemed enough of a success, a sequel will follow. Any subsequent film would be rid of the burden of background development.
But Maty and I left the theater in rare agreement. Inception is not our kind of film. Quoth Maty: "I love Leo Dicaprio, but this movie..."