What’s the point? $1bn and counting… I hereby declare I am too old to review ‘popcorn’ movies as I’ve seen too many of them. That’s not to say this is a bad movie, just when you get north of 50 there are many better ways of spending three hours of your life.
Christopher Nolan managed to make The Dark Knight (2008) an exciting roller coaster ride for both mind and body; the moral mazes adding heft to the visceral action. He’s clearly attempting the same with Inception, which he wrote, produced and directed. Imdb suggests the budget was $200m and with that sort of money on the line, the film has to be a crowd-pleaser. Pleasing it seems to be with a $63m opening weekend and – as I write – a 9.3 rating on imdb putting it in at the coveted ‘3rd greatest movie of all time’ slot.
I shall probably have to see it again as not only are the rules of the ‘dream worlds’ confusing, but the helter skelter action – of Bondian proportions and exoticism – also makes the film difficult to follow. I hope that it stands up to the second viewing as there are moments of pure bravura (Paris folding up on itself) and mind tingling ideas (reality or fantasy anyone?).
My first impression is the action gets in the way of the really interesting stuff and I don’t think it’s particularly well done – unlike The Dark Knight – as I was often unsure who were the ‘bad guys’. The ‘heist’ narrative, a brilliant concept of placing an idea in someone’s mind via their dreams, is fascinating.
That said, even if it is a failure, in terms of its coherence, Nolan is still to be celebrated in attempting cerebral fare in Hollywood. That’s not say all films should be cerebral, but monolithic Hollywood does not have a good track record of delivering films with interesting ideas.
DiCaprio is okay, which is as good as he gets for me, and the supporting cast… support well. Ellen Page is wasted as the token female and it’s good see one of the hero’s helpers called Yusuf. Great cinematography (Wally Pfister) and even Hans Zimmer’s bombastic music worked.
Bechdel test: Fail.
It’s heartening that the year’s big movie is going to be such a thoughtful film. Of course that doesn’t mean the millions of people who’ve seen the film have necessarily thought about it but at least it raises interesting questions compared to, say, last year’s Transformers which, despite some witty dialogue, merely painted by (American) numbers. The Dark Knight is an event movie on a number of counts: enormous hype built, partly, around Heath Ledger’s death; the immense box office (currently 2nd biggest non-adjusted at the North American box office); two and a half hours of superb blockbuster cinema.
The highlight for me was the ‘stand-off’ between the ferries; it doesn’t take much imagination to see this as a critique of the ‘hit ’em first’ philosophy that governs western (and Russian) foreign policy. And Ledger will probably deserve the Oscar he’ll get as it is a tremendous performance (best as a nurse destroying a hospital) – a sad loss.
There’s been a debate about the certification. When the BBFC introduced the 12A (in response to Spiderman (2002), they should’ve retained the 12 for films such as this as it isn’t suitable for most children under 12. However I don’t see the problem with 12+ with an adult.