Film thoughts: INCEPTION

I’m wary of calling this a “review”.

With a nearly-two-year-old at home, I don’t get to see many flicks in theaters. We’re pretty choosy, and we want to see films that warrant the big screen. Last night we saw Inception, which, according to my tweet stream over its opening weekend, was a film that nearly everyone I follow saw and loved, with the notable exception of my father, who tweeted, “INCEPTION is an insufferably smart-ass film. Watching it for 30 minutes was like doing penance but I’d rather be in purgatory so I left.”. (Yes, having my father tweet means I have a personal “shitmydadsays.”)

My dad is right that the first 30 minutes are quite weak — it takes a long time for the film to get going (did we really need that full scene with the original architect and the angry mob?). In fact, I felt that what Christopher Nolan (the writer-director) needed was an editor — not a film editor, but a story editor, someone who could have pared this down. This could have been a taut 90-minute mindfuck thriller, but instead it was a bloated 150-minute mindfuck thriller with an utterly unnecessary subplot having to do with a dead wife.

Which reminds me, I think “Cotillard” is French for “crazy chick.”

In terms of the response I’ve seen, I’m surprised that people found the movie perplexing, or warranting of additional viewing in order to understand it. Apart from the bloat, my other criticism of this film is that it was surprisingly literal and calculated. There is no mystery — everything is explained (and explained and explained, mostly to Ellen Page’s character, aka “The Audience Stand-in”). There’s one big supposed mystery (did I mention this would this post would have spoilers?) — “Was it all a dream?”, and it saddens me that most commentators I’ve found think that yes it is. I think they think that because it makes them feel clever, or at least, as clever as Nolan. The thing is, it doesn’t matter.

I know I’m coming across as harsh, but I basically enjoyed the film. It’s just that the enjoyable bits of the film aren’t as interesting to talk about — trippy dream states, fun action set pieces, some cerebrality to noodle on. I was surprised to find that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Arthur character was my favorite in the film, and his scenes in the hotel without gravity were easily the most fun and spellbinding bits. In fact, he nearly steals the film from Leo’s rather unengaging Don Cobb, but he doesn’t have quite enough screen time.

Racking my brain, I think my favorite movie that largely takes place in dreams is still Nightmare on Elm Street. Which, if you haven’t seen, because you’re not a fan of horror, well, you’re missing out on some fun, inventive, and truly clever filmmaking.