July 28, 2010
I first heard about Christopher Nolan before seeing any of his films as he was interviewed in The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook. At that point he was saying that new film-makers needed interesting structure in films to get noticed, and this was what he did in his first film, Following. I've still never seen Following, but have seen everything he has made since, including the brilliant brain strain Memento, the excellent adaptation of The Prestige and the wonderful The Dark Knight.
Whilst the trailers for Inception focused on the blockbuster elements of the film: nice special effects and Leonardo DiCaprio; much of the hype has been about the film's complexity and "intelligence". Well, it's not a stupid film, that's for sure, it doesn't dumb down, it doesn't try to be too clever, it just tells a story and expects you to follow along. And following along isn't very hard, those people who got lost really do need to exercise their brain more. At most there are five concurrent plots, although really they are just different perspectives of the same plot. Each thread is interwoven, yes, but it's not difficult to see which is which. It's nowhere near the mental workout of Memento, and doesn't come close to the mind spinning after-effect of watching Primer. And then there's literature: five plots in Mona Lisa Overdrive, ten in River Of Gods, and there's more. SF readers can cope with complexity.
What it does do however is deliver an effective thriller.
So let's forget about the complexity hype, because what worked for me best were the action sequences and the pacey plot. The dream gravity fight sequences were some of the most original since The Matrix. The multiple threads intertwine effectively to ratchet up the tension, the action is surprising and even The Matrix-like exposition is entertaining. On top of that is the noisy score harrumphing along in a not very subtle but fun way, which combined with the visuals spell BLOCKBUSTER.
There was one negative point, from the start I thought I had guessed the ending and didn't need the large signposts, however the film delivered a slightly different ending which was not terrible but was deliberate and made me groan.
Was it Science Fiction? Yes, I think four layers of dreams count as that. Which probably makes it the best and biggest SF film of the year.
I enjoyed it. Fun. But if you think it's complicated watch Memento or Primer.