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Monday, July 19, 2010  

M. Ovie Reiew: Inception

Christopher Nolan was exhausted when I saw him in person years ago. It was late morning, Pacific Time, but he'd just flown in from London and was so jetlagged he looked hung over. During the symposium, he kept rubbing his face while one of his fellow screenwriters whined about all the problems that went along with writing the biographical script that he'd be winning the Oscar for a few weeks later. Nolan looked like he needed some sleep.

This, of course, was just a cheap way to start the review by saying I once saw Christopher Nolan in person, and since I don't really have a transition from here, I'll just start over.

It's often said -- including in Inception itself -- that we humans only use a small percentage of our brains. When seeing most summer blockbusters, that percentage gets even smaller. Not the case with Inception. You need to pay attention, or you're screwed. Fortunately it meets you more than halfway by holding your attention, so that makes your job easier.

This almost seems like a premature return for Leo given how recently he was in Shutter Island, especially given the number of similarities between his characters in these two films. Both Teddy Daniels and Dom Cobb have tragic marriages, experiences that call their personal realities into question, distracting facial hair, and dumb names. Plus Leo persists in his stubborn inability to stay dry in a movie. But at least he drops the accent here, so it's all good.

But as for the movie itself, I don't think I'm spoiling anything in referring to the fact that a lot of it takes place in various dream landscapes. Now, obviously the characters experience their dreams differently from the ways I generally experience mine. For instance, they experience them together, which I have not as yet done. The dreams in the movie also have unusually stable architecture and object (not to mention character) permanence, and unlike me, the characters can run, yell, and fight when threatened in them (most of them very well). Also, nobody ever finds themselves in a class they've been forgetting to go to all semester or appears in public in any stage of undress. In fact, this movie's interpretation of one of the most frequent recurring motifs in my dreams -- what I call the "Oh, now I have to squeeze myself through this ridiculously tiny opening in a public space for no reason, what the fuck is this doing here it's a fire hazard" situation -- appears when the character experiencing it is awake.

But it makes up for all this with a lot of other clever observations about dreams. Like how you never remember the beginning of a dream, or how the sensation of falling is the quickest way to wake up, or the way it's raining in one character's dream because he has to pee.

And I love the concept of the dream-within-a-dream. Anyone who's ever gotten up in the morning, gotten dressed, eaten breakfast, and then gotten yelled at because they're still asleep knows what that's about. This movie takes that idea and runs with it, brilliantly.

And of course the idea that you dream so much faster than you live -- and that this extends exponentially to deeper layers of the dream, so a whole dream about a dream about a dream can take place in a matter of seconds. And then when they have to synchronize the endings on the fly because everything's going wrong, it's like doing astrophysics in your sleep, almost like Apollo 13, and not just because there's a fair chunk that takes place in zero gravity.

Don't get me wrong: I don't buy 90 percent of what happens in this movie for an instant. But it establishes its internal logic and sticks to it, while playing with it in clever ways that keep you not only guessing, but totally engaged and invested.

And the ending? It's controversial, I know, but then I think that to a certain extent, that's just Nolan being Nolan. Think back to Memento, after all. And if that last shot upsets you that much, just try to remember it going the other way. Maybe eventually you can convince yourself that you dreamed the real ending.

As for my own dream situation, I had to catch this at an 11:00 p.m. showing, and its 2½-hour runtime meant I was up until 2:30, mulling it all over. And then Trash and I were taking it in turns to travel to Duluth in Luke Skywalker's landspeeder so we could both attend an overnight farewell party in honor of our longtime personal friend Angelina Jolie, but that's neither here nor there.

posted by M. Giant 8:25 PM 3 comments


Holy crap, I had the bad dream you describe at the end of paragraph five for the first time, just three nights ago.

Unnecessary boxes, blocking my swift escape! Aaah!

By Blogger Andy Jukes, at July 19, 2010 at 10:19 PM  

Wow, I thought I was the only one who had the "skipped class all semester" dream. Although, in my defense, it's usually because the campus keeps changing and I can't FIND it. And the squeezing through a tight space ... this recurring thing with a house that's never the same but the ridiculous path I have to take to get through it is.

But I just saw this movie yesterday, and holy crap. I wanted to turn right back around and go back in to see it again because I know I missed a lot of stuff ... and I woke up this morning still thinking, "wow."

By Blogger Quiddity, at July 26, 2010 at 9:11 PM  

The only problem I had with the movie was that they made such a big deal about how the feeling of falling woke people up from dreams. However, then it was always the impact that woke them up.

By Blogger Betsy, at July 28, 2010 at 4:46 PM  

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