While the MovieChopShop has had a pretty big month, having been featured on TV and in newspapers. It’s been pretty cool, and the exposure has been lovely and terrifically ego-boosting. And with nice exposure comes some really nice perks.
Like last night when Quaid and I—as recognized members of the “reviewing press,” as it’s called—were able to attend an advance screening of the only movie that’s really (and I mean really) piqued our interest this summer. That little movie, of course, is Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Does that mean we’ve hit the big-time? Let’s just say yes and move on.
Now, surely you know Chris Nolan, don’t you? After debuting with the low-budget black-and-white psychological thriller Following, he became quite the breakout success with his backward-narrative mind-exploding indie crime drama, Memento. He then remade the Swedish thriller Insomnia with Al Pacino and Robin Williams before being bequeathed the Batman franchise and turning out the outstanding, dark, and mature Batman Begins, breaking records and making an instant-classic with its sequel, The Dark Knight, which today is the third-highest-grossing film of all time. In between the two was the better magician thriller of 2006, The Prestige.
So yeah, that guy. You know him. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Dark Knight was pretty effing amazing—how do you follow up that?” A very good question. The answer is quite simple: with one of the coolest movies you will ever see in your life.
That’s really the best way to describe Inception. I’ve never seen a movie that left me so in awe of every last detail to the point where I walked out marveling at how one man could have created such an intricately layered tapestry of ideas, action, emotion, and nail-biting suspense all by himself.
If the screenplay for Inception goes unnoticed by the Oscars, a great injustice will have been committed. It’s so good, so fascinating and complex that I feel wholly unworthy and pathetic just sitting here writing this review. I’m pretty confident that I’ll never write anything a hundredth as skillful, smart, and incredible as Inception.
Hell, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to even write my name again without feeling self-conscious. There Chris Nolan will be, standing over my shoulder, looking down and telling me “I could do better.” Yes, you could, Chris. Yes you could.
Now, I’d like those of you reading this to get the experience that I had, which means I don’t want to tell you much at all about the plot. I made it my business to try and underexpose myself to this movie as much as I could so that I could go in as fresh as possible. I’d say I did pretty well for myself.
But let me also say that the trailers for this film do it no justice—not like Dark Knight, which had some great trailers that I was addictedto. Inception is a horse of a different color, however. As excited as you are for this movie on the simple basis that it’s Nolan and he’s awesome, you will be even more excited upon leaving the theater, I promise you.
But maybe I shouldn’t promise; I don’t want to oversell it! But how can I? It really is that good!
And you know what? I’ll admit to some flashes of mild concern. I liked the trailers and was pretty confident the movie would be awesome, but there was room for doubt. When the cavalcade of positive reviews started flowing in I was wondering if everyone—out of the same pre-ordained enthusiasm that I had—might have been making the movie out to be more spectacular than it actually was.
But now I understand, and soon you will, too. Inception is utterly thrilling in the most unique ways I’ve ever seen. There were several moments in Inception where I simply had to laugh—almost as if I couldn’t handle just how cool what was happening was.
You probably already know—and if you don’t it’s not giving anything away—that the film has a lot to do with dreams, and is largely a heist movie. That’s fine, but just leave it at that for now.
There’s far more to it than simply that, of course, as Nolan has many a trick up his sleeve, but the experience of watching it unravel is absolutely mind-blowing. It goes without saying that Inception is a movie that will demand repeat viewings, but there, I said it anyway. Personally, I plan on getting my second helping Thursday at midnight.
Who knows what new details I might catch or what new shape the whole picture might take? After all, perception is a key element to the inner-workings of this movie and is just as important to you the viewer, as it is to its characters. However, no matter how you perceive it, I promise—you’ve never seen anything like this before.
One of the most interesting details about the film is the way that Nolan characterizes the subconscious. Many movies have done many a trick placing minds inside of faux realities and even inside the imagery produced by the mind itself. And in movies like The Matrix and A Nightmare on Elm Street certain characters are allowed total control over their fake worlds. But Nolan acknowledges that we really don’t have any control over our subconscious mind at all—that’s what makes it the subconscious, and it presents one of the greatest dangers in the movie.
But here I go! I’m rambling, I know, and talking too much about the movie. However none of that will probably even make a lick of sense until you’ve seen the movie, so I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. Instead of letting everything spill out of me, let me just try to break it down a bit.
Not the plot, though—that will stay tucked away safely in a vault deep in my mind for now. There will be time for much discussion at another date, I’m sure.
But there are other elements at play, of course, and they’re certainly worth talking about. It should be of no surprise that, visually, the movie is quite breathtaking. But what’s also quite remarkable—and unsurprising considering that it’s Nolan—is that the key visual effects set-pieces of the promotional materials (the crumbling buildings on the beach, the folding city roads, etc) make little attempt to draw major attention to themselves in the context of the actual movie. Inception has better things to do than dwell on Transformers-esque displays of visual machismo.
But that’s not to say that the action in Inception isn’t top-notch—it is. There’s a fight scene in this movie that is one of the best ever (certainly it’s at least the best since the Viggo Mortensen naked-sauna-fight in Eastern Promises).
Also noteworthy is the score by Hans Zimmer, which fantastically compliments all the aforementioned elements.
Finally, there’s the cast. DiCaprio is great. Let me just say that if you liked him in Scorsese’s Shutter Island, you’ll like him in this—they are extremely similar characters. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a fine job as well, as does the extremely likeable Tom Hardy, who I haven’t heard of until now. Ellen Page does what she’s there to do, and that’s about it. She’s neither good nor bad, she just…is.
On the only down-notes, I do sort of wish that Ken Watanabe had come with a subtitle track (other than that, another fine performance), and I was also not the hugest fan of what Marion Cotillard brought to her character. But, to be fair, it’s a very difficult role to cast and I have no idea who could have really pulled it off in the way it needed to be done. I could explain what I mean, but to do so would take me into that spoiler territory that I refuse to go into. So you’ll just have to trust me.
Now, since Inception hasn’t come out yet, let me just get this in writing first, just so it’s there whether I’m right or wrong. But to say what I’m about to say, I’m going to have to go back a few months and tell a little story.
When I walked out of Avatar after its midnight screening, I hated it. I’ve made no secret of that. I believe it to be a truly terrible movie. Now, you may not agree, and that’s fine (I guess). But, for a second, let’s pretend that you do—that you believe my opinion to be right. Just go with that for a second so that you may properly ensconce yourself in my shoes.
With Avatar, I put my faith in American audiences. When I walked out of that movie, I said to myself, “People aren’t going to fall for this crap; this movie will bomb.” I was wrong. Avatar is now the biggest movie ever. For those keeping score, that’s James Cameron 1, Shep Ramsey 0. (Ouch, my ego.)
And now, with Inception’s box office numbers yet to be made, let me give American audiences one more chance—I think this movie, challenging though it is, will be huge. Now, supposedly, American movie audiences don’t like to be challenged at the movies. This is a true statement, and I’d never in a million years predict any kind of large monetary success for a movie like, say, Mulholland Drive.
But this isn’t Mulholland Drive. I love that movie to death, but it’s made for a very specific taste. Inception is a smart, challenging epic heist movie that’s made for the audience at large, and Nolan knows how to sell sophistication to the same audiences that stand in lines to see Transformers—he proved that easily with Dark Knight. He knows that the key to giving mass appeal to a challenging film isn’t to make his audience understand everything, but to make them want to understand everything, and the rest will follow. In Inception, when everything is at stake and the tension is at its highest peak, your mind is still racing to keep up with it all, and it’s exhilarating, exciting, fun, and the total epitome of the purest cinematic thrills!
I remember back when this project was first announced—back when it was being referred to as “a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind” (which made us all say “what??” back then, but now seems pretty spot-on). It was actually one of the first news items we ever ran here at MovieChopShop. I remember wondering if Dark Knight would be an impossible act to follow—if he really could outdo himself. Well, I think he just did…which begs the question, if Christopher Nolan is only capable of outdoing himself for the rest of his career, will it even be safe for me to watch Batman 3 or will the hyperbolic metaphors applied to his films like “mind-bending” and “earth-shattering” suddenly become literal fact? Well, if you gotta go, that’s the way to do it!
I’ve been a big detractor of this summer’s movies, but now there’s finally one worth going to see as soon as you possibly can! This summer gets so much better than Twilight, people! Do your horizons a favor and expand them! Inception will open at midnight on Thursday–see the shit out of it!