Am I dreaming? A movie from the Hollywood system done with intelligence and ambition? Christopher Nolan's Inception is just that movie & although it is not a perfect one, there is something ambitiously sly and shocking about Nolan actually trying to sell such a movie to the mainstream. That's what happens when your last movie was The Dark Knight- you usually end up getting creative control for your next project. Nolan was given 200 million $ to make a movie about dreams within dreams within dreams, a maze-like art film masqueraded as an action picture starring Leonardo Dicaprio.
I've seen Inception twice and although I understand its concepts and (most of) its ideas, It's a real mindfuck. It's a puzzle that unfolds before your very eyes with different clues flying all over the place at the same time. It is rooted -just like in Nolan's other films- with psychological undertones that bring much depth to a story about loss and illusion as Dicaprio's Cobb tries to find the memories that have haunted him since the death of his wife. Sounds familiar? Martin Scorsese pursued the same themes earlier this year in Shutter Island, a movie in which his main hero -also played by Dicaprio- is haunted by the death of his wife & resorts to a made up dream world as a cure. Familiar?
The film's highs are joined in by its lows as Nolan overdoes the action that takes place in 4 dream stages. His use of hand held camera does not necessarily make his action any easier to comprehend- because as talented as the man is, he still has a lot to learn with the staging of his action sequences & the emotional coldness that his characters seem to possess. The film juggles many ideas and doesn't deepen the character development. You don't care as much as you should about his characters and what's at stake. As much as I adored Memento and The Dark Knight, their main protagonists always left a coldness and detachment in me that was bothersome but not entirely distracting to the overall originality and sheer chutzpah of the overall piece.
Inception is Nolan's most frustrating film to date, a film which provokes its audience to ask many questions- which isn't a bad thing. It is an original work of art that has the advantage of being thought provoking and infuriating. A film rooted with a sense of purpose and intrigue, even if it didn't necessarily entertain me as much as make me admire its originality and ambition. To call it imaginative would be to state the most obvious of statements. In a summer filled with nothing but bad movies, Inception comes out of nowhere and makes you think hard about the psychology, philosophy & meaning of dreamlike existence.
The more the days go by, the more I come back to Nolan's visionary film. It lingers inside our heads like a nightmare that won't go away. Its existence is important because it is soaked in idealism that is rare and and almost non existent in mainstream -and even independent- consciousness. It provokes conversation that resorts t0 furious debating and psychological reasoning that can warp the most timid of minds. Only time will tell if Inception will hold up in the years to come but in a summer movie season filled with crass entertainment, the ambitious but flawed Inception is a welcome jewel from the sky.