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Brief Thoughts on "Inception."

by Eric Kohn
July 8, 2010 2:20 AM
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Nobody can deny that Christopher Nolan's "Inception" is a thinking man's blockbuster. A mind-bending epistemological sci-fi action epic that alternately recalls everything from "The Matrix," Nolan's own "Memento" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," not to mention heist movies and "Lost," the ideas zipping through this supremely high concept entertainment force you to fight the trappings of confusion. Like "Memento," active viewing is essentially the fun of it. But there are also a host of rather trite shootouts and an extreme lack of sentimentality (a problem I've had with Nolan's Batman movies as well), resulting in a remarkably advanced Hollywood product with loads of brain but only the faintest heart. I'm not complaining, exactly, but let's be clear here: "Inception" bucks any sort of lasting emotional impact in favor of brainteasers. It's awesome, sure, but also a bit cold.

In case you haven't heard yet (but, let's face it, you have) Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a psychic con man of sorts, a master of the art of "extraction" -- essentially, entering another person's mind through their dreams and stealing their ideas. A contractor hires him to embark on the risky mission of implanting the idea in the head of a rich man's heir (Cillian Murphy) to destroy his family legacy. This requires the elaborate construction of several dream layers, carefully built by a team of highly trained psychic types, including a slick Joseph Gordon Leavitt and a newbie played by Ellen Page. Despite the advanced premise, at its core "Inception" works as a swift tale of espionage, gliding along on the conviction of its intense performances and Nolan's unstoppable storytelling momentum: He zips from one scene to another, staging impossible shootouts in rooms devoid of gravity and pitting his heroes against unstoppably angry armies of their target's subconscious. Maybe I've been trained for too long to expect a few quieter moments, even though in the blockbuster mold they usually only show up in time for a boring monologue, but "Inception" sometimes loses its potential to create a fully involving experience because Nolan refuses to slow down and take a breather.

I'm being cautious here because the truth is that a lot of "Inception" is indeed quite amazingly BRILLIANT and the underlying quest -- it all comes down to DiCaprio's character needing to rid himself of an old destructive memory, get over the death of his wife and return home to his children -- contains striking poignancy. The movie functions as a revelation on its own terms and within a larger industrial context, given the generally crappy quality of the market standard. See it, think it through, see it again. It works. A wonderful motion picture experience rarely comes along on such a grand scale. Just remember not to get too comfortable, because Nolan has no apparent pity for audiences expecting breezy escapism. And that's both its masterstroke and potential Achilles' Heel.


  • ProMovieBlogger | July 24, 2010 6:50 AMReply

    "loses its potential to create a fully involving experience because Nolan refuses to slow down and take a breather. "
    There are plenty of these moments: when Cobb asks Ariadne to make a puzzle that takes a minute to solve and two minutes to construct, when Gordon-Levitt kisses Ariadne, etc.

    The one grip I have heard about this film is the lack of emotion yet in the third act, the scene when Mal and Cobb are seated at a table, is chalk full of emotion, especially on Mal's part.

    A rather interesting review of the film:

  • Dread10ck | July 13, 2010 11:57 AMReply

    @DW: The word is inneptitude.
    One question mark in the right place will do quite nicely, thank you.
    Finally, ellipsis marks should look like this... using more is... well... inept.
    The review is adequate. The film promises to be truly special.

  • erichkohn | July 13, 2010 6:43 AMReply

    @Thanks a lot: The wife is revealed to be dead at a fairly early point in the movie. It's not a big reveal, but rather a key part of Mr. Cobb's back story that establishes the dramatic centerpiece of the story.

  • Thanks a lot... | July 12, 2010 8:45 AMReply

    ...for telling me that his wife is dead, dude!

    While you´re at it, why don´t you tell us in detail how the movie ends?


  • DW | July 12, 2010 7:43 AMReply

    Dude....I just went comatose from your comment. Wake me when it's over.

  • DW | July 12, 2010 7:41 AMReply

    "It should children very confused"????????????????? Am I gagging on your low forehead, knuckle dragging intellect, or your angsty, anxiety driven drivel to get your message online , while leaving your grammatical inneptness behind. Yeah, "It should children very confused"..........ghetto.

  • Bubba Nicholson | July 12, 2010 7:08 AMReply

    I provided the concept for this flick, but I also did Avatar, Titanic, 6th Sense, Forrest Gump, E.T.--you get the picture. I also did Apocalypto for that racist finko, so what am I? A monster?

  • Sketchbook | July 12, 2010 3:47 AMReply

    It should children very confused. Especially
    in their dreams.

  • c | July 12, 2010 3:46 AMReply

    As a critcic you sound "jaded", borderline jealous, and put-off by the fact that maybe....JUST MAYBE...the director is a LOT more creative than you are...hmmmm....well, get over it !!!!!!

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