Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) July 31, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood.
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy
I guess what Christopher Nolan’s been doing in the last few years is redefining mass entertainment. While it’s true that his films pander to people who are intelligent—more so to people who think they are intelligent—it’s also clear that he has created a steady mold for these blockbusters. I can’t help but imagine other filmmakers who are eager and inspired to have at least the sawdust and tinsel of his big ideas, enthused to imitate his experiments and articulations. Nolan’s concepts, albeit clever, are showy to the point of tiring the viewer out of his mind. He’s too smart for his own good that he creates the illusion that every time he makes a film, that wisdom could be passed on to his audience. Rubbing shoulders with the “thinking audience” is Nolan’s lucrative business particularly after The Dark Knight. Sadly, the ticket to immortality seems to need only a rave status update on Twitter nowadays.
Nolan has the whole Internet to thank for. Aside from Heath Ledger’s death, The Dark Knight raked in the box office due to the incredible hype (and meaningless discussions) it raised on blogs, social networking sites, and comment reviews. It’s the phenomenal disease that hasn’t waned until Nolan’s next film, the pointlessly glorified Inception. Again, it’s the film that tipsy fans would exclaim, “Fuck, I have to see it at least twice!” But is Inception really that clever or these people are just being unreasonably stupid for coolness’ sake? Hasn’t it already become, in only a matter of weeks, a symbol of cinematic hipsterness?
In hindsight, Nolan has raised the bar for blockbuster movies. When a 160 million-dollar movie becomes the talk of the town because of its merits, and eventually puts itself in the position of audience’s exaltation, honestly, that’s an uncomfortable thought to deal with. It kills many loyal members of the audience who want their entertainment without the sugar rush of too much icing, viewers who don’t complain about clean fun and excitement. James Cameron’s Titanic, as far as I can remember, didn’t have to explain its mawkishness; in fact, it’s proud of it. On the other hand, Inception is always in defense. It’s no clean fun and excitement. It’s too busy taking up Freud and Frank Lloyd Wright to bother with that. It’s one of the most narcissistic films ever made; and the big narcissist, if only it needs to be said, is Nolan himself. The chases are awful, the cutting between scenes too dull, and the Matrix concept too exerted and stressed to pound one’s nerves. It gave me a headache, to say the least, and it’s not a good thing to take an aspirin while the film is so bent on pressing the mind tricks. Like a moebius strip of clever that drags on for so long it’s no longer interesting. His Batman movies are lamentable and The Prestige is almost ruined in the end, but how come I still can’t shake this feeling that Nolan’s middle name, for Christ’s sake, is fast becoming Jesus Christ?
The dialogues are downright explicit that there is not much thinking involved while watching the film. It’s all there, skin and bones. The only muscle it keeps on moving is Nolan’s mania for highfalutin action and countless references. It is too intentionally messy with a very weak emotional hinge. When it goes on with the dream proper, it walks cool. But when it comes to personal correspondence and motives, it all falls apart. The drama couldn’t be taken seriously. It’s almost close to bluffing. Thank the cinematographer Wally Pfister for the impressive visuals, but hell, it’s fucking $160 million. Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page are exceptionally pretty; so as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy, who all excel at being cute. Leonardo DiCaprio, however, has more problems than Africa, and his damn eyebrows are overworked and underpaid. Hans Zimmer pricks up my ears. All this makes Inception stunning on the surface, but as with some pretty-looking things, you don’t always give it a second look.
The dream concept is what everyone’s been crazy about. But hasn’t Satoshi Kon played with the unconscious with more grace and wonder in Paprika? Also, Luis Buñuel. Just one ridiculous dream sequence in one of his movies turns Inception into a lousy karaoke. I quote David Denby:
“Dreams, of course, are a fertile subject for moviemakers. Buñuel created dream sequences in the teasing masterpieces “Belle de Jour” (1967) and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972), but he was not making a hundred-and-sixty-million-dollar thriller. He hardly needed to bother with car chases and gun battles; he was free to give his work the peculiar malign intensity of actual dreams. Buñuel was a surrealist—Nolan is a literal-minded man.”
What am I getting at here? Aside from Nolan’s fake empire, nothing. But two weeks later, it’s still cool to talk about Inception, isn’t it? I belong to the club. Welcome me. Losers.