When The Matrix first came out, I didn’t really dig it. I found it to be overlong and a little too confused as to what type of film it wanted to be. Nevertheless, it seemed to blow a lot of people’s minds, and it was considered stunningly original outside of sci-fi geek circles.
Inception is my Matrix. This film blew my mind. It’s not even that it’s original – the concepts have been done before – but it takes an idea and then multiplies it. Several times. To stunning effect.
This is an incredible movie. It’s so good that I’m not going to mention anything about the plot – I came to this movie blank after a complete self-imposed media ban and I think I’m better off for it. Nolan has crafted a film as meticulous as The Prestige, but without the disappointing twists that let that film down. This heist flick is a puzzle box of dreams brought to the screen with an urgency and vibrancy that is truly wondrous. As with his last four films, Nolan has filled the screen time with a sense of urgency, so much so that I didn’t even realise I had just sat through a two and a half hour movie.
Practically the only problem I had with Inception was that DiCaprio was a bit dull. In recent years, it has only been his turn in The Departed that really impressed, and yet it was Blood Diamond for which he got all the kudos. Here he plays a character uncomfortably similar to his from Shutter Island, and unfortunately he has persisted with trying to grow facial hair like a grown up. Take it from me, Leo: It. Doesn’t. Work.
In a strange way, this casting decision reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan. When doing publicity rounds for Signs, he was asked why he choose Mel Gibson for the lead role. Shyamalan’s response was along the lines of “I can’t cast Bruce Willis in all my films”. It feels like a similar story here – Christian Bale would have been better suited to the role, however we’ve seen him enough already in Nolan’s work.
Fortunately, DiCaprio is surrounded by a fantastic cast, not the least of which is Ellen Page. As Ariadne, she effectively steps in for the audience, being a newcomer to the outlandish concepts that Cobb (DiCaprio) and the others are so comfortable with. At the same time, however, she has a tenacity and brilliance that makes her more than just a wide-eyed innocent. In fact, coupled with Marion Cotillard’s performance as Mal (I’ve never seen this woman so terrifying), this would have to be the first Nolan-directed film in years that’s featured some strong female characters. As brilliant as the Batman movies were, that was one department in which they failed.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes up for the sin of appearing in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra by being a kick-arse action star who isn’t the least bit flashy, whilst Tom Hardy regularly steals the show as the smart aleck Eames. Cillian Murphy has the unenviable task of being both the target of the sting yet also soliciting our sympathy, something which he does with extraordinary skill.
Inception is thrilling from beginning to end. The ease with which Nolan manages to navigate us through quite a mindfuck is remarkable. There is a lot of exposition going on, but its delivered with such urgency that it doesn’t feel patronising.
The special effects are wonderful, and the art design extraordinary. This film has fun with reappropriating the metropolises we regularly move about in, and Inception has the best skyscraper-related special effects since Dark City. On a side note, it’s depressing that make-up effects gurus still can’t get aging makeup to work. I don’t remember it ever being successful, and when requiring an older version of a character, simply hiring an older actor should always be preferable.
Hans Zimmer’s score is excellent. Even so, it’s easy to see that Nolan seems to ask of him the same thing for every job – the music is clearly in the same vein as the Batman films – bombastic without having any distracting themes. It’ll certainly be on my soundtrack to-buy list.
Admittedly, this film probably wouldn’t have been given the green light if The Matrix hadn’t been such a success, even in the wake of the stupendously successful The Dark Knight. But Inception is a much better film than the Wachowskis delivered. This easily sits alongside Batman Begins as my equal-favourite Nolan film.Rating: