Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's all in the mind

It took me a while, but I finally saw Inception today, and I finally saw what all the fuss is about. It is by far the finest film I've seen all year, and it's going to be tough to top it. This is director/writer/producer Christopher Nolan doing what he does best: screwing with the audience's minds, in the most elegant, exquisite and highly entertaining way.

If you didn't take as long as I did to see Inception, you'd know by now that the title refers to the act of infiltrating a person's subconscious and planting an idea in it. This speculative fiction premise of the movie is intriguingly novel by itself, but in the deft hands of Nolan, it becomes utterly compelling. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio, still trying painfully hard to be taken seriously) leads a team of thieves that specialize in "extraction", stealing secrets from sleeping people's dreams. Cobb is bribed by Japanese tycoon Saito (Ken Watanabe) into accepting an inception job, the objective of which is to take down the empire of Saito's business competitor, Maurice Fischer, who is on his deathbed. Cobb and his cohorts are tasked to enter the subconscious of Fischer's son and sole heir Robert (Cillian Murphy), and plant the idea of dissolving his father's corporation.

Simple enough plot? So it would seem, but then it thickens into the consistency of almost-dry cement. Cobb's own subconscious is so messed up he endangers his team during their missions, as he battles his personal demons who keep showing up in the form of his two children and his dead wife (Marion Cotillard). I can't go into further detail without revealing too much, in case someone reading this hasn't seen the movie, but suffice it to say it requires one's full concentration to follow the crafty and convoluted twists and turns of the story. And even then, in the end you'll be left befuddled, as evidenced by the audible collective groan that rose from the audience when the lights went up inside the cinema-- just like waking up from a bizarre dream you can't wrap your head around.

Anchored by an interesting and arresting plot, Inception is buoyed by amazing CGI and special effects. Most kick-ass was the scene where Cobb's trusted point man Arthur (a very grown-up and very fine Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is in a hotel hallway, fighting off some guys in zero gravity. Excellent casting and flawless performances give Inception added credibility and character-- and prove that you don't need 3D when good acting already gives a film extra dimension. Special mention goes to
relative unknown Tom Hardy, who is a scene-stealer (and quite easy on the eyes) as Eames, the team's "forger", and young Ellen Page, who plays Ariadne, the gifted rookie "architect" Cobb enlists to assist them. Page failed to impress me in her claim-to-fame titular role in Juno, but I was more than suitably impressed with her in this one.

Reminiscent of Nolan's brilliant breakthrough movie Memento, Inception is one big mindf*ck that has viewers debating and discussing days after they've watched it. I don't have the words to adequately encapsulate how awesome this film is in its complexity, its originality, its artistry. This is one of those films you have to see for yourself in order to perhaps not fully comprehend, but definitely appreciate. The Dark Knight may have elevated Chris Nolan to superstar status, but Inception firmly establishes him as a genius.


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