REVIEW?: Inception

This is very late in coming, and is probably completely irrelevant by now as any of you that still have some semblance of humanity left within yourselves have already seen this movie. Those of you with slightly more humanity have probably seen it twice. Honestly, I find myself between a rock and a hard place on this one, as talking about this movie can really only accomplish two things: I can either blather on about a film that you’ve seen before and so do not need me to reinforce the idea that it it worthwhile, or I can blather on about a film that you haven’t seen (you monster) and ruin the whole thing for you.

Really, all I can say here is this:

Inception is good.

Simultaneously classy and badass

There. That’s all you need to know. Now go throw your money at the feet of Christopher Nolan because the man has earned it.

But in all seriousness, there are things to be said about this movie that won’t ruin the experience for you, so we’re going to depart from the traditional “here’s a brief summary and explanation of it’s entertainment value” formula that I’ve used on here thus far. Instead, there are things about Inception that can and should be discussed not solely relating to the film, but about how they relate to movies on the whole.

First and foremost, Inception is a movie that earned my admiration early on because of one crucial factor: it does not fall into the trap of catering to the lowest common denominator. Or, to be more concise, Inception is a movie that doesn’t cater to stupid people.

Now, let me explain what I mean by that. Movies occasionally feel the need to dumb down their content in an attempt to get the most number of people in the theater as possible. It makes a fair bit of sense from a business perspective, thinking that making a film more accessible to more people will therefore bring in better profits. However, it doesn’t necessarily work that way.

Instead, what usually happens is you get a movie that is so dumbed down that absolutely no one can appreciate it. The finished product ends up being made so “accessible to the masses” that anything that could have made it special is gone and has been replaced with immature, shallow, and entirely inane content that manages to bore even the lowest common denominator they were looking to appease without quite managing to come around the horn into “so bad it’s good” territory, a la Plan 9 From Outer Space.

So bad that it breaks the laws of quality

Just look at some of the movies that are being made right now: Hot Tub Time Machine. Legion. Mother-frakking Twilight. And if I see another Will Ferrel movie where he plays a bumbling man-child character I might just have to raze Dreamworks SKG to the ground. There was actually a great article in the Wall Street Journal a little while ago that basically says what I’m trying to a little better than I myself can.

But Inception (for the most part) manages to avoid this trap. It creates a movie that doesn’t neuter it’s intellectual properties to accommodate that brain-dead teenager three rows in front of you that can’t stay focused on the screen for more than 3 minutes before texting his “bros” that are sitting two seats away from him. Inception is a movie that isn’t afraid to reach out into the audience, grab your brain by the medulla oblongotta, tie it in several intricate knots for two hours and then finally rip it out your eyes and curb stomp the little bugger into a beautiful oblivion.

Christopher Nolan is hereby endowed with the rank of Magnificent Bastard.

There are very few instances where Inception does not maintain the intellectual high ground among it’s fellow summer films. There are one or two segments that seem to lose focus a bit as the camera gets caught up in the rush of pretty explosions and excessive gunfire, with no real explanation given as to why the characters suddenly attained a level-5 badass degree from the John McClane Institute of Looking Cool While Killing People. It’s a bit of mainstream catering that really only happens in one particular sequence. The rest of the time, the fight sequences are impressive, but justified in their scope and intricacy (or lack thereof).

I just realized how ridiculous this still frame looks

But moving on to a slightly less pretentious point, another element that Inception truly gets right is consistency. It nails this point so completely that you don’t even realize how much it’s missing in other films until you’ve seen this, which is either a testament to the genius of this film, or to the passively accepting attitude we as moviegoers have developed over the years. Possibly a bit of both.

But what do I mean by “consistency”? Well, what I mean is that in a lot of films things seem to happen quite frequently that put a bit of strain on our willful suspension of disbelief. It might have been perceived as strange at one point in time, but now whenever we see a gas tank explode after a single shot from a 9mm pistol, or an F-14 flying inverted a meter away from a MiG-28, we eat it up and attribute it all to the Rule of Cool. Things simply happen because they’re awesome, and that’s all the reasoning we need.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this. I’m actually a huge fan of the Rule of Cool. Without it we wouldn’t have movies like Rambo, The Blues Brothers, or Die Hard. But sometimes the rule gets overused a bit. Even in movies where the laws of the universe can be re-written however the author likes things still appear to happen simply because, hey: why the hell not?

This looks like a surrealist painting: but it manages to make far more sense

But Inception doesn’t do that. The thing that I find the most impressive about this film is that it was clearly somebody’s baby. You can tell from watching it that this was an idea that Christopher Nolan has had building inside his head for years, and has only now been able to release it upon the world. You can tell this because of that one persistent element I mentioned earlier: consistency.

You see, in Inception nothing ever seems to happen “just because”. For every single action that is performed onscreen, there is a law for it. If a staircase can infinitely circle back on itself, or if people tumble in circular motion around a hallway because of sudden shifts in gravity then there is a real, legitimate reason for it. Nolan created a universe that has a set of laws just as concrete and inflexible as Newton’s in our own, and his characters and his stories in that universe follow those laws. This movie was seemingly imagined as a fictional realm first and as the story within it second. It creates an image that is almost completely seamless.

I could easily go on for another hour or so about Inception. In fact, I have on several occasions. But that would involve talking about specific plot points that you either need to find out for yourself or engage in an actual discussion about, not just sit here and listen to me talk about them. Inception is a movie that you get far more than your money’s worth out of simply because when you leave the theater it’s not anywhere near over. When you step out into the parking lot, you’ll enjoy yourself just as much talking about the movie and debating its assorted twists and turns, its philosophical implications, and its entirely perfect ending. It’s a movie that is only enriched by a second (or third or fourth) viewing, and one that will be talked about for some time now.

Make your Oscar picks now, ladies and gentleman, because regardless of what comes out between now and February 27, I expect Inception to perform admirably… or unfairly steal the awards away from everyone else, if you ask anybody who wasn’t involved with its production.

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