Is this the best movie I’ve ever seen about dreaming? No. That’s still Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Is this the best heist movie I’ve ever seen? No. That’s still Heat. Is this even the best movie I’ve seen this year? Nope. Toy Story 3 is still number one in my book. But this is easily the most ambitious movie I’ve seen in the last few years and for that, I loved it.
Actually, as I sat down to write this, I found myself in two places: how I felt as the credits rolled and how I feel now that I’ve slept on it and have thought about it.
When the credits started to roll and I ungripped the arm rest, the first word that came to mind was “awesome.” I was totally engaged and thrilled for 98% of the 148 minute running time. At no point did I think the movie was too expository (as I’ve heard in a few reviews) or too cold (although I didn’t feel very attached to any of the characters or consequences). I was never confused (I still have doubts about my own theories). My only qualm with the movie within 15 minutes of seeing it was that Leonardo DiCaprio essentially played the same character in Shutter Island (sans the horrible Boston accent making this the better of the two performances) but it didn’t bother me too much because Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy stole the movie from him.
When I woke up this morning and started to contemplate what I would write about this movie, I started tearing it apart layer by layer (much like getting kicked out of each layer of a dream in the film). The movie did, in fact, seem colder to me. It feels like Christopher Nolan spent all these years (he allegedly spent 10 years writing the script) creating the dream landscapes and rules and then writing a story around them (like level-building in a video game and then seeing if it’s playable…maybe that’s why it took so long to write). The nature of how the totems work (not Mal/Cobb’s top, but the loaded die and chess piece) for everyone and limbo seemed kind of flaky (it may play better on a second viewing). I was disappointed how Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard were kind of wasted or, at least, not used to the best of their abilities.
So what’s more important: how I viewed Inception as a piece of entertainment or how it holds up as a movie? This is similar to my feelings about Avatar. After I finished watching Avatar in IMAX 3D, I immediately thought that it was essentially Ferngully The Last Rainforest by James Cameron but still gave it Four Seans because I thought the 3D experience was amazing and I was happy to have been thrilled by a movie for once despite having more plot holes than pasta strainer.
Ultimately, I found Inception incredibly entertaining and can’t wait to see it again. It should be seen for Nolan’s ambition alone. It’s good to see an original, large-scale film which is rare these days. By no means do I think this is a perfect film but I do think it is worth seeing.