Inception

[Screenshot]I am largely impressed with Christopher Nolan; his films usually have some element of the puzzle-box and some element of the thriller in a pleasant combination (OK, I’ll admit The Dark Knight was devoid of puzzle-box elements but still was a nice ride). In many ways, Inception was more of the same, with mostly straight-up action thriller and a certain element of the cerebral. I can’t help but feel a little cheated by the sheer arbitrariness of some of the rules of the central plot contrivance (I shall dub this now-all-too-common plot element “Harry Potter syndrome” although there are plenty of prior examples of it). The relative time rules are pretty bizarre, the internal gravity rules are really rather capricious, and the whole “dying wakes you up, except when it doesn’t” thing didn’t quite work from my point of view. Cobb’s motivation confuses me too: given that his children are in the care of a sympathetic character, spiriting them out of the US should not be rocket science.

Despite my reservations about its central conceit, though, I actually quite enjoyed this film, although with so many films nowadays, the sheer sprawl of the thing rather drove down the enjoyment-per-minute-of-running-time ratio. There was a great deal I liked: the acting was mostly excellent, the visual effects appropriately fantastic, and the conceit of hostile manifestations of the subconscious was well-integrated and thematically appropriate. Leonardo DiCaprio’s done much to redeem himself as an actor, and both Gordon-Levitt and Page acquit themselves well; most of the other acting is not particualrly inspiring but doesn’t really need to be; the core characters create the psychodrama effectively and they steer clear, to my relief, of the most obvious pitfall of casting the new inquisitive female team member as a romantic interest for the lead, althoguh having her plumb his psyche skirts the edge of this problem. The visual effects provide a similar restraint: there’s no lack of fantastic and impossible shots to point up the unreality of the worlds explored, but they’re used sparingly enough for the gimmickiness of it not to ever become problematic. In short, I’d qualify Inception as an intelligent and dense work that largely avoids the self-indulgent pitfalls so common of directors who have been found to be clever. I’m not sure if it’s my very favorite work of Nolan’s — I actually very much enjoyed the structuring and design of Memento — but it’s certainly a film I can respect.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

One Response to Inception

  1. Greg Sanders says:

    I still need to see inception but I totally agree on Harry Potter syndrome. My take on the last book was the JK Rowling had bought a book of supplemental wand rules and was eager to try them out.

    I did rather enjoy Disney’s Princess and the Frog in part because it had a simple rule but played around with it a lot.

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