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Much has been made in anticipation of director Christopher Nolanís mysterious new enterprise, Inception.  Fans of the director have been seized with monumental expectations, while others less involved have no clue what the filmís about at all.  Despite my roaring adulation of Nolanís The Dark Knight, I tend to slant toward the Ďwait, what?í crowd that might acknowledge and appreciate the insistent ingenuity of Inceptionís twisting plot and stunning visuals, but in the end are left a bit flat by the filmís strange detachment.

The future is now and the days when your most intimate, unguarded moments were your own are gone.  Some clever jacks have figured out how to burglarise your sleep, invade your dreams and plunder all the subconscious treasures therein.  This is a lucrative vocation for one Dom Cobb, a master in this field, who hires his wares out to corporate bigwigs for extraordinary amounts of money.  Where better, after all, to hijack your competitionís latest ideas, inventions and deepest company secrets than right out of their own gray matter with DomĎs help?  Not that the task is ever simple; the subconscious is a mighty beast and sensing the presence of something or someone disturbing the bliss of Morpheus, will attack violently.  In fact, many business VIPs have even been trained against such infiltration by building an unconscious army to severely rout any invaders.  The danger to those inside someoneís dream is not death in the real world, but the next best thing; you can feel plenty of pain while in the subconscious state and your waking self can be lost forever in limbo if you cannot get back out of the dreamerís world or die inside it.  That peril is atop the actual physical threat of a company sending out its goons to find the dream thieves in person and make sure they never wake up in any consciousness.  The key to a good theft is in both its planning and its team, so you first need people who can easily get into the dreams without alerting their preyís defences, next acquiring someone who can manipulate the surroundings inside the victimís head to the teamís benefit is a must, also having some folks who know their way around a gun or a black belt or two doesnít hurt, either.  The more guarded the dreamerís unconscious mind, the deeper the team of crooks has to go into it to retrieve their goal -- or implant it in the dreamerís consciousness as is the main objective here -- and the more danger there is in getting out safely.  Of course while all this is happening, the trespassers must be able to control their own sleeping thoughts, because unchecked, the lingering ghosts, regrets and unfinished business that tuck themselves away in the back of oneís mind may come out to play during the mission and muck everything up nicely.

Bold stuff to even consider bringing this complex premise to the screen and then try to get it across to the average moviegoer in a way that they will not only understand whatís happening, but be entertained by it.  With Inception you get six of one and a half dozen of the other.  Thereís a lot of suspension of disbelief right out of the box:  The hijacking of oneís subconscious is an idea that is interesting enough to keep an audience attentive and the visuals are at times surrealist works of art; wonderful renderings of the possible impossibilities of the sleeping mind.  The creation of a dreamed city, block by block in layer upon layer, whether building outward or upward and the subsequent crumbling demise of such a delicately structured world is jaw-dropping.  So too is Joseph Gordon-Levittís gravity-shy battle against some dream-defending thugs which put me in the mind of Fred Astaireís then-revolutionary dance on the ceiling in 1951ís Royal Wedding.  Where Inception fumbles is that it spends so much time folding in on itself with the same idea of going deeper and deeper into the dream of the victim, that you are bound to lose your way somewhere.  Nolanís cast is an ensemble of some of the most talented and downright coolest actors around today (Most notably Mssrs. Caine, Watanabe, Murphy, Gordon-Levitt and Hardy).  Ellen Page about whom I had previous ambivalence was great as the voice of reason to Leonardo DiCaprioís reckless Danny Ocean of the subconscious.  Marion Cotillard is luminous and haunting portraying DiCaprioís (mostly) absent wife in what is essentially a reprise of Michelle Williamsí portrayal of DiCaprioís (mostly) absent wife in Shutter Island.  Unfortunately with the scriptís lack of any character depth, we donít give a fig for any of these people outside of the groovy folks playing them.  Not to say that each actor doesnít give their all; they seem to know they could be on the verge of something momentous and really shine, we just never get to know anything about their roles worth caring about.  To make up for the Byzantine complexity of the filmís idea and perhaps for the hollowness of its characters, Nolan gives us chase scenes and car crashes galore in oodles of ďdreamlikeĒ slow motion, as if to remind both the audience and himself that this film is also meant to give a visceral thrill as well as a cerebral one.  That said, Inceptionís biggest fault is that it trips on its own cleverness, taking the ingenuity one dream level too far.  Itís as if the audience is required to be awestruck by the very attempt of executing such an unfilmable idea that weíre meant to put such matters as character development or pacing (which drags each time the team sinks deeper into their victimís mind) to the side.  Those faults away, Inception is interesting enough in its very originality and so stunning to look at that it will keep viewers engaged even if they lose the plot on occasion.  Bolstered by its outstanding cast (and an excellent, powerful score by Hans Zimmer) one can forgive its hubris and certainly give Inception credit for trying to be a thinking manís action movie.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 16th, 2010

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Warner Brothers)

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