I don’t want to spoil a moment of Inception by describing any details. I plan to watch it again and come back here with a spoiler-filled analysis.
Until then, I’ll just paint with some broad generalities.
Inception combines many of the best elements from the mind-bender Christopher Nolan movies Memento and The Prestige with the action-movie Nolan of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Fans of these films will find themselves on familiar ground.
Movieplex Mike might find the film muddled at first. The opening act cuts together scenes in a way that made me wonder if a reel was missing, or a screw was loose in the head of writer/director Christopher Nolan. While defenders are sure to pipe up that this is Nolan refusing to spoon-feed us exposition, it’s my suspicion that the opening is actually just not handled very well. I’ll reserve final judgment until my second viewing and report back.
(It may be that part of the problem is that many lines in the first act are spoken by Marion Cotillard and Ken Watanabe. I’m convinced that they are fine actors; I’m just not convinced they don’t need subtitles when speaking English.)
The good news is that the movie soon settles into an elegantly escalating heist plot that involves the invasion of the dreams of a corporate scion (Cillian Murphy). Professional dream-thief Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) must assemble a team that would make Jung proud, gathering an Architect (Ellen Page), a Forger (Tom Hardy), a Chemist (Dileep Rao) and a, I don’t know, Friend (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
There are some rules to how these dream invasions go, and much like the conjurer’s rules of The Prestige, they involve enough involutions of deception to put Scheherazade to shame. Which is not to say that Nolan and editor Lee Smith haven’t done a good job of keeping them distinct enough for someone who is paying attention to follow. I’m just not sure Multiplex Mike will be able to follow it.
Then again, the audiences whose minds were blown by The Matrix is a sizable group. If the movie gods smile, this smart blockbuster won’t be a bust. And that’s a dream I’d like to be in.
IMAX review: Worth it for the sound alone. The sound design in this movie is incredible, and I’m convinced that IMAX’s high standards are one of the few places where you’re guaranteed to get the full gut-shaking experience. As far as the visuals, I’m less convinced. You can definitely see the flaws in Ken Watanabe’s make-up right off the bat. It’s good – but not IMAX good. Likewise for a few of the CG effects (exploding wooden crates or floating blood drops, to name two that stood out for me). The screen does not “open up” for the full IMAX frame like it did in select scenes of The Dark Knight IMAX. I could tell that some shots were shot in the larger format, with top and bottom presumably cropped. But I didn’t spend the whole film trying to pick out what was 35mm anamorphic and what 70mm native. Visually, you’re probably getting a marginally better experience from a smaller frame, but it does not outweigh the sound advantages. Not just the effects but the Hans Zimmer score was tremendous.
Review of The Prestige