Sunday, July 18, 2010


Review by Paul Steven Brown

Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanbe, Marion Cotillard, and Cillian Murphy

I’ve respected Christopher Nolan since Memento. It was an original concept of a film that was skillfully crafted together. His big studio film that followed two years later, Insomnia, was a lukewarm affair; nothing outwardly wrong mind you, but it certainly lacked the punch of Memento. While Batman Begins pushed his name further into the mainstream, Nolan was still able to make a superhero film that was very character and mood driven, as well as an action showcase.

Then came The Prestige, and I realized that I was becoming a Christopher Nolan fan. Not only was The Prestige Nolan’s most elegantly shot films up to this point in his career, but it was full of delightful twists and turns. Also, he had brought along Christian Bale and Michael Caine from Batman Begins and was able to draw out Hugh Jackman’s best performance this side of The Fountain. And like that Darren Aronofsky film The Prestige was grossly underrated.

Nolan sealed the deal with me by creating such a powerful piece of superhero dramatics with The Dark Knight. The skill that he applied to atmosphere in The Prestige was used to equal aplomb for the various action set pieces in The Dark Knight. It was exciting and cerebral, proving that you could have your cake and eat it too, even when the main characters are in masks and caked on make-up.

Inception feels like the culmination of everything Christopher Nolan does best: atmosphere and action set pieces. This film is basically a heist film, but the job takes place in the realm of the mind. At the same time this is perfectly Nolan. He’s been obsessed with perception and almost all of his films play with that theme in some form: memory loss, functionality on little sleep, illusion, public image, and now dreams. I’m going to leave any plot revelations there, since Inception should be peeled away like an onion by the viewer themselves to really enjoy this amazing movie.

The cast is pretty great as well. Leonardo DiCaprio has been a leading man for the better part of a decade, but it’s great to see him work with someone other than Martin Scorsese for once. He does action well, but it’s the emotional depth that he brings to Cobb that really sells the character.

The quality of a caper movie is always elevated by the uniqueness of the characters that are on the team and Inception has a great one. Joseph Gordon-Levitt really hit it big with 500 Days of Summer last year, but this is the role that will finally stop people from thinking of him as just the kid that was on ‘3rd Rock From the Sun’. Gordon-Levitt has a very classic, old film quality to his demeanor;  and it doesn’t hurt that he looks fantastic in a finely tailored vest. He’s also an incredible physical actor who did most of his own stunt work in this movie. In fact, Gordon-Levitt is given by far the film’s most mind-blowing action sequence. Not to get into too much detail, but think Fred Astaire meets The Matrix, and you’re close.

Ellen Page is plenty capable in Inception, too. I’m just thrilled to see her in a role other than “spunky teenager”. Sure, she’s a college student in this film, but she’s the emotional anchor of the story and thankfully not as a love interest. Hopefully, this will begin a trend of Page getting cast in more mature roles.

While the rest of the cast is great (I don’t want to get into too much detail about the ravishing Marion Cotillard’s character), Tom Hardy comes close to stealing the film away from everyone else whenever he’s on the screen. Hardy may be best known for, unfortunately, as the clone of Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Nemesis. He’s a little older and a little hunkier now and his character has an awesomely dry wit. This is a really great performance and I’m expecting his profile to rise greatly due to it.

Inception is the summer film that I think many people have been hoping for. It’s full of action and suspense and amazing special effects, but it asks us not to turn off our brains. It’s gorgeous to watch and compels us to think about it hours after it is over. Inception proves that fun doesn’t necessarily have to be dumb fun.

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