By STEVE SLOANE / iGuide Movie Reviewer There are those who like their story-telling to be in a matter-of-fact A-to-B-to-C structure where the first premise or plot movement is built upon by the second, and so on. Then there's folks who prefer the Brechtian Distanciation approach: The artist goes about creating a textured canvas that only through thought and reasoning by the viewer brings about an understanding of the larger picture. And if the viewer isn't inclined to take the journey, well, he or she may be best served investing in something else.
Director Nolan subscribes to this second approach to film. We saw it in Nolan's The Prestige, where another excellent film of the time The Illusionist--both films about magicians--chose the more simply structured approach. I must say I enjoyed The Illusionist a lot more than The Prestige, but then again, I always preferred checkers to chess.
Here, our attention is drawn to the dream world. Or rather, the ability to jump into other people's dreams and either extract information for personal gain, or plant ideas and make that person think it was theirs', all along. Not a bad premise to base a film upon. Pretty exciting, actually. Think of the potential special effects. But Nolan's not done. We're not just talking about entering into a person's dream and having a snoop around. We're going to journey from one dream into another--and another, and while the dream-injector team are busy trying to plant an idea into the subconscious of the initial dreamer, our main protagonist (Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio) has issues like his late wife popping up into those dreams, and creating more than a little havoc. Maybe this subplot is the main plot, maybe not.
As mentioned, there's plenty of mind-bending special effects, but at the same time Nolan chooses that his dream sequences stay somewhat in reality: dusty warehouses, hotel corridors, and Bond-like snow-capped retreats in the Alps. I understand Nolan's choice in doing this--if he'd gone the other way, the dream sequences would have been one big CGI festival, and the movie would have turned into a darker version of Disney's Fantasia.
But--and I'm probably the only person in the northern hemisphere who feels this--I felt ultimately detached from the film, and wasn't swept up in its conceit. The initial idea that Cobb (and his entourage) tries to plant into another person's mind is quite simple: Billionaire businessman Saito (Ken Watanbe) wants the heir of a rival company to break up that company, so Saito's business will be more dominant. In short, the reason Cobb is going to the bother of planting ideas in another person's mind, is primarily for greed. My problem: I didn't find that premise particularly interesting--especially not when it's walking hand in hand with dream bandits and the subconscious injection of thought. Twenty-or-so minutes into the film, and I found myself unable to jump in and go with the ride. In other words--and I know this is an emotional reaction--I wasn't having fun.
However, Nolan is certainly successful on many different levels. First, he's created an original script and turned it into a high-concept action film--and I do think it's an action film first, rather than a psychological film. Second, the special effects are original and interesting to see--more than mere eye candy. Third, Inception has the ability to infuse discussion about the film itself, as well as its self-reflexive qualities--that is, what it's possibly suggesting about the medium of film as a dream-like experience.
Watching this film with a friend, we both came to the same conclusion that perhaps the story would work better as a book, than a film. Several times, characters in the film were talking to each other and relaying information merely so we, the viewer, would understand more of what's going on. As they say: "In film, show me, don't tell me." Perhaps this critic is being too critical, but either way, even with its possible flaws, it's worth taking a look--a good, close look.
Let's have a collective and wait for the lights to go down..... √
Let's push for cheaper ticket prices and better movies.....