Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan's new movie Inception is out today! Leonardo DiCaprio is in it. Ebert loved it. Rex Reed hated it. We saw it too. (SPOILER: It is totally nuts.) And we have some thoughts! Good ones, promise!
Inception already has more than 2,000 votes on IMDB, giving it a rating of 9.6, a full point higher than Citizen Kane. (To be fair, Citizen Kane doesn't have a scene where two dudes fight in a hotel hallway in zero gravity, and Inception does.) Twitter is freaking out about it. People are really excited for it. (I was too!)
Okay, and the thing is, it's good. Really good, maybe. But it won't surprise you to learn that the internet is, maybe, going a little bit overboard. To wit: The script is pretty awkward, and manages to still be confusing despite 70 per cent of the lines being expository. (Like: I think there is a huge plot hole, but I might just think that because the script under-explains at least one important plot point.) The attempts at comic relief, with maybe two exceptions, fall horribly flat. The emotional center—the main romantic relationship in the movie—is completely blank. Leo is still playing his character from Shutter Island, which is not a bad thing, necessarily, but maybe he could have brought that sweet Boston accent with him. Michael Caine is criminally underused. Ellen Page appears to still be wearing her wardrobe from Juno, complete with handkerchief around the neck, while everyone else is dressed like an APC model.
But besides all those things (and I know they sound like major things, but you'll have to trust me; they're not) Inception is fucking rad.
The plot is, despite what people seem to think, pretty simple. DiCaprio and a motley crew of dream thieves (they have these awesome, blunt spy-movie roles and accompanying titles, like "The Architect" and "The Chemist") are given a seemingly impossible task (you know it is impossible because like six friggin' people say "that's impossible"): Instead of stealing an idea from their mark, they're going to plant one. This is called "inception" (OH I SEE) and it requires this whole complicated dream-within-a-dream setup to accomplish. Obviously, things go wrong in unexpected ways, as they tend to do, in movies.
Which means that the whole movie is, more or less, one ridiculous set piece after another, as the characters move from dream to dream. This is a good thing. Nolan handles each new scenario with such brutal confidence and efficiency it's kind of frightening. The script is smart (or at least, the ideas in the script are smart, mostly) but there's almost no time to think about it. Or care about it. Or breathe at all, really.
But let's be real: The ideas are all a sideshow. Nolan's "thing" in Inception is the choreography of objects in motion. If the emotions are boring and empty, it's because all of the radness and energy has gone into the creation of an insane, exhausting ballet of force. Bodies crash! Things collide! Machines abound, doing machine-y things, loudly! Everything is made into an actual thing that can be moved or used: The subconscious of the dreamer manifests itself as hostile projections of people within a dream; the ideas and emotions DiCaprio comes across in the dreams are given physical form, as documents or (barf) childhood toys. Even the score—which is quite good—is physical; it's huge and booming, sometimes seat-shaking.
(And look, the script isn't even that stilted. Inception is like half pulpy sci-fi stories and half Jean-Piere Melville heist movies, and its characters are efficient professional assholes, who only say things that have direct impact on the plot. Even Ellen Page manages to go the whole movie without Juno-ing it up once, which is relieving.)
But ultimately it's about the spectacle. You're welcome to think more about the dreams and the realities and emotions or whatever, and what it all means, man, but I'm not sure it's really worth it. There are people floating in a hallway! Streets upending themselves! Trains driving through cities! It's exhilarating, and a frankly, fucking tiring. But it's totally worth it.
Still kind of bugged by the neck-handkerchief, though.