Wednesday, August 18, 2010

For the first time in months and months and months O and I went to a picture show - they have sound and everything nowadays. The film that was honoured by our presence was Christopher Nolan's sci-fi epic INCEPTION.I must say although I was initially thrown and floundered for about 20 minutes I soon found my dreamscape feet and was hooked throughout the film's lengthy running time.

The screen it was showing in was one of the Odeon's smallest and there were only a handful of us there until just as the lights went down for the obligatory ads when a constant stream of punters appeared and by the the time the film proper started it was full! Luckily they were very quiet.
The convoluted plot involves Leonardo di Caprio (filling out with every new film) as Cobb, the best man you can employ to enter someone's dreams and generally move things about in there for corporate gain. But Cobb and his sidekick Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) have their most challenging job yet when the shadowy - aren't they always? - businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) wants them to infiltrate the dreamworlds of a rival Fischer (the oddly featured Cillian Murphy).

As Saito wants an untried action, a thought to be implanted in deep sub-consciousness, Cobb gathers together a team to help him - the cocky impersonator Eames (Tom Hardy), the King of sedatives Yusuf (Dileep Rao) and Ariadne (Ellen Page) a young architecture student to design the landscape the dream will take place in.However Ariadne discovers a secret Cobb has kept from the others - his dreams are haunted by his dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) who appears to be bent on revenge for him living on without her. But once inside the rival's head they find that they are all in danger as Fischer has previously been treated for such intrusions and has a personal army to thwart any attempt to interfere with his dreams.

A race against time ensues - can the team manage to implant doubt in his mind? Can they escape the businessman's dream army? Can Cobb escape from his tortured memories of Mal - or will she get her revenge? Ahh go and see the film and find out!As I said while I was there I has hooked on the journey our intrepid band take but since then I have had a few doubts about it. I read an interesting review where a female critic took several swipes at Christopher Nolan's vision. I have to agree that the dreamscapes are remarkably prosaic - rainy NY streets, hotel, an empty city of lakes and high-rises and, most boring of all, an arctic bunker a la James Bond.

I am hoping Nolan would respond by saying that the visions are the boring businessman not his. But where was the surrealism that makes dreams such a challenge usually in film? Where was the wondrous colour and strange juxtaposition? Dreams should be something unlike life - not like so many dull action films. I fear also the lengthy dream level set in the arctic had the film loosening it's grip on me.Also, while it was good that the Cobb - Ariadne relationship doesn't devolve into a standard love story, I have the sneaking suspicion that this could be because Nolan really has no idea how to write a credible female character. The potentially fascinating character of Mal is written rather large as a man's nightmare woman - it is thanks to the hypnotic Cotillard that she emerges as a haunting creation. It's very much a Boy Film - it's very father-based, mothers are never referred to. I also found it rather irksome that the whole film was ultimately resolved by a daddy and kids Happy Ending.The performances are all luckily from the same dictionary of dreams page. Leo has a role which is surprisingly an echo of his last one in SHUTTER ISLAND - husband haunted by the death of his wife having flashbacks to his boy and girl playing in the garden! Like, Leo... let it go lover! Actually he gives another fine performance. He is nicely partnered by fellow former child-actor Gordon-Levitt who gets the best of the hotel sequence.Tom Hardy steals every scene he's in as Eames the laconic forger who can change into any likeness in any dream, his sardonic lines give the film a much needed dash of humour. Ellen Page is fine as the architecture student who realises Cobb's obsession will jeopardise the job and Ken Watanabe is fine although sometimes incoherent as Saito while Michael Caine and Pete Postlethwaite give telling cameos as the fathers of Cobb and Fischer.

Constant Reader, you will know I have rated Marion Cotillard's performances in LA VIE EN ROSE and NINE and here again she gives a film a vibrant shot of genuine pain and febrile intensity as Mal, so you yearn for her next appearance. I just wish Nolan had given her more screen time.I am sure the film will intrigue and have filmsites a-buzz for a while, how long it lives in the memory though will have to be seen. I would however recommend you see it on the big screen while you can as the film will diminish if seen on a smaller screen.

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