Silver Emulsion

Film Reviews

Inception (2010)

Inception (2010)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Expectations: Extremely high. Through the roof even.

I’ve been a big Christopher Nolan fan since the release of Memento several years ago. I patiently wait for each of his films and relish the moment when a new one is unleashed on the unsuspecting masses. Nolan is one of the best working directors right now and with Inception he proves that even without Batman, his films can be successful within the mainstream culture. He is the new superstar director for our age with a firm, virtually unmatched grasp on filmmaking and storytelling. He’s at the top of his game in Inception, skillfully making over two and a half hours fly by at a good pace as I sat on the edge of my seat for most of the film.

I went into Inception only knowing a few minor details about it. I had seen the first trailer released months ago once and then completely avoided everything after. This really works to the film’s advantage as I had almost no idea what was coming next. If you can, see the film as uninformed as possible. As much as I enjoy having readers, I advise you stop reading now if you haven’t seen the film. I’m not going to lay out the plot or anything but I do plan on mentioning a few aspects that would be better off experienced without prior knowledge. You’ve been warned!

Ok, for those still with us (Inception viewers and brazen people who did not heed the warning), Inception is the movie of the year so far, without a doubt. I can pretty safely say that nothing is going to top it in this rather lackluster film year. I realize there are lots of movies still to come, but just like when I saw Inglourious Basterds last summer, I knew instantly that it was going to be my favorite of the year.

Inception is a hard film to summarize. Leonardo DiCaprio is a professional, trained in the art of extraction. He and his crack team of operatives are able to enter a person’s dreams in order to unlock and steal secrets from their own mind. DiCaprio finds himself stuck in a bad situation and must accept a seemingly impossible job… and we’re off. The film unfolds and intrigues the viewer right from the get-go, with Nolan’s trademark of starting the film with a slice of pivotal scene from later in the story.

DiCaprio gives what is easily my favorite performance from him. I’ve never been a huge fan and was disappointed when he was cast. He quickly set fire to my expectations and simply ran away with the show, giving a commanding and convincing performance. A good man’s only as good as the people he surrounds himself with though, so credit must be given to the fantastic supporting cast. Joseph Gordon-Levitt showed new depth and range and Tom Hardy proved to be one of my favorite members of the team. The casting of Ellen Page worried me a bit as well, but she handles her scenes well and while it’s easy to question why they’d trust and bring her character along for the ride, I am willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of such an enjoyable film.

Nolan’s directing feels more mature and solid than previous efforts, with his abundant confidence in the material coming right through the screen. The script is smart and constantly unveiling something new. It is so refreshing to go to the movies and see something truly original. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen so much sustained imagination and excitement packed into one film. It doesn’t fall into the standard Hollywood trappings of “highly trained operatives” movies either, so every character has a purpose instead of one guy just being around for laughs and the girl just being there for one (or many) of the guys to get it on with.

Now having said all that gushing bullshit, it might seem like this is Nolan’s new masterpiece. For some this may be true, but I think I still prefer The Prestige or The Dark Knight to Inception. I’ll have to watch them all a second time and get back to the question. Inception has only a few moments that sag, but its most obvious flaw is that the supporting characters are all very minor and do not have any character arch to speak of. They come off as fairly shallow and are essentially only there to move things forward. This worked for me because it allowed the focus to be elsewhere, but some will definitely have more of a problem with it. The main emotional depth comes from the trio of DiCaprio, Page and Cotillard and they easily pull off the huge responsibility, sucking the viewer into their struggles. I was surprised that the film was pretty straightforward for the most part, being far less of a mind-fuck than I expected. It all made perfect sense, and while a second helping would definitely bring new light to the experience, I didn’t walk out confused in the slightest. This is either a testament to Nolan’s well-written script that he supposedly worked on for the last ten years, or evidence that I am becoming older and wiser… Yeah, it’s probably more on Nolan.

Nolan presents his fans with an original science fiction film that exemplifies the best traits of the genre without resorting to typical Hollywood trappings. He is the best hope for the survival of true science fiction in film and I must applaud him. So often Hollywood simply throws an action movie into the future or space and calls it science fiction, but here Nolan works from a fairly simple idea and runs with it in ways that only a true visionary that understands the genre could. As much as it is a horrible time to be a science fiction fan, Nolan is a shining example for the new generation of speculative fiction authors and filmmakers. With Inception, he schools Hollywood and shows how true science fiction is a skillful blend of imagination and action that will heartily please fans of both genres.

August 27, 2010 - Posted by | 2010s, Action, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I’m with you that I still prefer The Prestige, Batman Begins, Memento or even TDK ahead of this. It was a good summer blockbuster to me, nothing more. I thought DiCaprio was good but his performance was exactly the same as the one he gave in Shutter Island, the rest of the cast is solid but they aren’t doing much of anything to do. Also great point that this movie isn’t nearly as complex as it looks, it really wasn’t lol.

    Comment by Castor | August 27, 2010 | Reply

    • I liked DiCaprio a lot more in this than Shutter Island, but they are similar performances.

      The film is as complex as it needs to be, but I was struck afterward how simple it really was. There are things in his other films that kept me guessing up to the final moments, but the foreshadowing in the opening scene of Inception might have been too much because it gives away the ending fairly early if you’re paying close attention.

      Comment by Will Silver | August 27, 2010 | Reply

    • It’s true that the film probably isn’t as complex as many people mistake it to be, but when you word it like that it implies that the film is worse off for it. Not every film Christopher Nolan makes has to be like Memento.

      Comment by Fitz | August 28, 2010 | Reply

      • So true. As I said above, for me the film is as complex as it needs to be and is just fine as is. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

        Comment by Will Silver | August 28, 2010 | Reply

      • It’s definitely not as complex as I thought it would be. I’d heard it was difficult to understand, but I have to say that I didn’t see where the confusion was. Maybe people became distracted during the film and missed out on one or two explanations…Or maybe I completely misunderstood the film myself and am happily unaware of my gigantic cluster of ignorance 🙂 Either way, it was definitely a very good piece of creativity by Nolan, albeit not as novel an idea as I had anticipated…but still very well thought out and a cinematic treat!

        Comment by roisinaobrien | August 30, 2010 | Reply

        • My girlfriend missed a few things but still enjoyed the film and I myself was wondering if my easy understanding was simply due to ignorance and I had missed the point. Looking forward to a re-watch.

          Comment by Will Silver | August 30, 2010 | Reply

  2. I think I also still prefer “The Dark Knight” by a slim margin, but “Inception” is a great achievement and one that I look forward to revisiting countless times.

    Comment by Danny King | August 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Yeah, I can’t stop thinking about it. Really looking forward to watching it again. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

      Comment by Will Silver | August 27, 2010 | Reply

  3. Ok, I have a genuine reply with this one, I just hope I’m not TOO late to the game. But where do I start? Just to be straight, we are on opposite sides of the fence with this Nolan guy. I’m afraid I find him to be cheap too often to forgive.

    I feel his strengths so far have been having a classy production and set-piecing, but then again this guy is utilizing budgets from outer space. I notice more flair than style with his visual style. He scores THE best movie stars in place of actual casting. Who in their right mind does not like Leo D?! With Michael Caine playing his father! And Ken Watanabe? Was he really the best choice? I could hardly understand his English at times. I have to say it: I sense Asian token-izing here. Because for real, wasn’t it just cool that he was Japanese? Spending the extra few bucks on wardrobe really helped tie the production together. Very, VERY handsome outfitting to match settings. I even wanted to date the extras. This impeccably handsome production played a large part in bringing this movie home.

    You’re right about the characters though. As dull as they were, it did allow for the attention be placed elsewhere (which may have been necessary), but I’m sure as shit that that’s not a compliment. Actually, I walked out the first time I watched it. The first third was unbelievably flat to me (again, we’re just on different sides of the fence here).

    But for the actual point of the movie? Yeah, that was dope sci-fi. I found that one of it’s achievements was the the level of intellectual engagement. I found that to be a unique movie going experience. The movie was based almost entirely on logistics. I believe this film is his exemplary work, which unfortunately includes his glaring shortcomings. This logistical mode which allowed for the unique experience also accounts for the cardboard characters, which in turn allowed for the most horrible excuse of a “love story” (which was supposed to be the very heart of the film), and the cheapest symbolism I thought was by now outlawed. They take a fucking elevator (the visually classic fence-style, of course) down to his subconscious — in literal fashion!

    It’s like he’s originally a business major with a creative writing for beginners book (different sides, I know). Which brings me to what I think is another interesting accomplishment: his very sophisticated portrait of industrialists and the industrial business world. This is a gnarly setting and probably the most fertile ground for sci-fi. This as subject matter is an incredible fact of life, something that continues to become more prevalent. His fictionalizing of this was effortless and genuine. I attribute this savvy to his humongous stature.

    And for the record: this movie WAS confusing. It was an exhibition in complexity. It just happens that it was told, almost exclusively, in rudimentary (not even good) Hollywood gunplay — a language we all speak fluently. I challenge anyone to tell me whose dream we were in at any given time, and who was allowed to die and who wasn’t during the operation.

    Speaking of bomb recent sci fi, you got around to Solaris didn’t you? And have you seen Moon? I thought it was gay actually, but still a full-on take on sci-fi — revival levels, really.

    Thanks for letting me take up all this space! You should post Prestige next. I can hate on that in one short paragraph.

    Comment by Mike_D | November 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Sorry… that line in second paragraph is supposed to read:

      “I notice more flair than style in his… style.”

      No “visual”.

      Comment by Mike_D | November 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Great comments, man. I agree that given the budget Nolan is working with on this ($160 mil) it shouldn’t be too hard to churn out a quality film, but given Hollywood’s tendency to have films with massive budgets be complete trash, I am still impressed with Nolan’s films. It’s really only with the Batman and this that he’s worked with big money though. Prestige was $40 mil, which isn’t chump change for sure, but it is for a grand Hollywood movie of the 2000s. I’d rather champion someone that can make something amazing for no money (and I do regularly on the site), but for what it is, Inception is far superior to similarly budgeted pictures. It’s possible that the intellectual engagement you mention is clouding my judgment a bit, but I think it is that engagement that sets this film apart.

      I also agree that Ken Wantanabe wasn’t the best choice. His English was definitely blurry in places (the helicopter scene comes to mind) and token Asian is an apt description. BUT… having the Asian character spices up the cast a bit (as did Cotillard’s inclusion) and I wouldn’t have liked it as much without these choices. Like you say, the dull characters aren’t a compliment and are a definite flaw in a grand sense. For me personally though, the fact that the dope sci-fi elements were as dope as they were far outweighs the lack of deep side characters. I also don’t mind so much the cheap symbolism, but I did cringe a bit at the elevator gag.

      The business world as sci-fi setting is a good one for sure. I just read a Phil Dick book, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and it has a lot in common with this movie actually. Battling companies and people dropping in and out of dreams, wondering what is real and all that.

      I saw Solaris a number of years ago, so I’d have to see it again to even begin to remember what went on. I remember thinking it was boring though. I saw Moon right before I started the website. I agree that it really isn’t that amazing on its own, but it does fall into my personal category of “true sci-fi”, so it is notable for that. It just could have been pulled off a lot better if it was better written.

      Dude, Prestige is good shit! Although I only saw it the one time, so who knows if I still like it.

      Comment by Will Silver | November 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Wow Mike, your comment is pretty much a second fucking review of the movie. I don’t want to write too much, but I will say that I agree with you that this movie was confusing. Some movies can get away with it and still keep you engaged, but as you said, I was frustrated trying to work out all of the bouncy metaphysics of the entire final act. So much in fact, that I felt totally sidelined at the end.

      I will agree that this movie was unique and fresh, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. I feel like I put in way too much for what I received in return. I liked the Batman movies and I loved Momento, but where this movie should have been fun, it came off as pompous and indulgent.

      Not to take away from anybody’s love of the film… there is definitely an audience who is passionate about the subject matter. Unfortunately I just didn’t understand the fuss.

      Comment by Uncle Jasper | November 21, 2010 | Reply

  4. I was worried that shit was getting unreasonably long, so I left out some final words.

    All in all, Inception was an incredibly dope, unique ride. Your last paragraph really brought out the worthwhile value of the movie. And yeah, Prestige was pretty dope. I just have this trivial chip on my shoulder about his output thus far (I liked Insomnia… which featured a young actress who also stars in this REMARKABLY ADORABLE gem of a horror me and Ev discovered relatively recently… if you are unfamiliar and/or interested let me know and I’ll divulge. We find it to be so adorable I’d rather not drop it unecessarily). I am warning you, though. As much as enjoyment of Prestige cannot be discredited; if you post it, I will shit all over it.

    Keep up the good work. Hope to see another film here I’m actually familiar with (except Prestige) soon.

    *Yeah, Moon was weird. Totally “true sci-fi”, but also incredibly vain and “fashion statement”-ish. Cool ending.
    (directed by son of David Bowie [?!], which leads me to assume its overly privileged roots as the cause of vanity… maybe?)

    Comment by Mike_D | November 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks, Mike. Hahaha, I want to watch Prestige again just to hear you shit on it. Moon is definitely concerned with its image more than its substance. He’s making another sci-fi movie now also. Even if it’s just OK, I enjoy that people serious about sci-fi are getting to make movies.

      It’s been so long since I saw Insomnia that I don’t remember too much about it. I don’t even know to who you’re referring to. “REMARKABLY ADORABLE” and horror sounds intriguing, don’t see those thrown together often.

      Comment by Will Silver | November 22, 2010 | Reply

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