Thursday, July 29, 2010
FILM REVIEW: Christopher Nolan's "Inception"
If Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight was about the lengths a man would go to protect a society, his Inception was about the lengths a man would go to create one. Most hero tales are a fervent search for Utopia—spandex clad, cape-wearing messiahs arise to take down the criminals so the world will be at peace. But what if a Utopia-seeking protagonist didn't want peace? What if he wanted control? What if what he feared wasn't a never-ending barrage of villains? What if what he feared was a limit?
Inception introduces us to a world where advanced technology allows people to share dreams, and create worlds to exist in for what feels like decades, but translates into hours. In this world, what could easily be a pass-time or the equivalent of a spa treatment is actually exploited for profit. Companies pay to have thoughts and secrets stolen from the minds of their competitors. When we are introduced to Nolan's characters, we are presented with not only this concept, known as deception, but its polar opposite, inception, the act of planting an idea.
Through history, misinformation has wreaked havoc on our society. Spreading a falsehood, whether it's socially or politically, can not only destroy a life, but a nation. Manipulation is the idea of planting a seed of doubt and allowing the human inclination of paranoia and distrust to poison the mind into a hostile state of confusion.
While understandably a company may use this method to knock off their competition, Nolan presented us with the idea of a regular person using these drastic means to convince someone of something on a smaller scale. We saw not only the nefarious agenda of a giant company, but the innocent desires of a husband. Instead of just showing us the evolution of capitalism, he showed us the limitlessness of love. He asked the question: What if the manipulator was just a romantic with good intentions?
I liked that Nolan proposed this concept on a more human level and not with a completely capitalist agenda. It would've been easy to just make this an action thriller about the ultimate "long con," but he gave even weight to both the monetary benefits of this method and the personal.
My only qualm with the film's plot was its lack of motive. He didn't quite reveal why Leonardo DiCaprio's character Cobb was so obsessed with existing in this fabricated world with his wife. Granted, it is a way to spend several life times with her and essentially achieve a certain type of immortality, but you'd imagine such an effort would be due to a time limit in the real world, whether it be a fatal illness, a pending prison sentence, or old age. But it's never really emphasized as to why he insisted on living in this world and not the other. One must wonder what he was running from.
Of course, many are saying the real point of the film was to present the idea of inception and thus perform the process on the audience through the power of suggestion. In the last scene, we are left wondering if the world Cobb now exists in is real or a limbo dream state. In fact, some of us were left wondering if it was all a dream. It's suppose to make the viewer question the same about their world. Are we all dreaming or are we awake? Is everything we do free will or just our heart's desire? Is every coincidence happenstance or a subconscious wish fulfilled? Is deja vu a trick of the mind or a memory of the real world? Can we change it all? It's a total mindfuck!
While the process of dream-sharing was intriguing, I was mainly interested in the deepest level of dreaming: limbo. We normally hear about that word in reference to the spiritual plane you are relegated to when you belong in neither heaven nor hell. Some describe it as torturous and others just imply it's frustrating. I thought it was interesting that limbo basically looked like our world, sort of suggesting that we all just might be in it—that maybe our Earth, conscious or unconscious, is just a place we inhabit until it's determined whether we belong in heaven or hell. That theory was even more encouraged by how Cobb got there. If he died in a deep dream state, he'd lose his footing on how to get back. It seemed like a punishment for abusing the process.
When Adam and Eve tried to seek the knowledge only God knew, they were punished with self-awareness, which inflicted them with fear, sorrow, and insecurity. The true crime within that parable are the humans' attempt to acquire God's power. In the story of The Tower of Babel, humans tried to reach him physically. Once again, they were punished—scattered and left incapable of communicating due to an uncommon language. In Inception, Ellen Page's character Ariadne is hired to take over for Cobb as the architect, the person in charge of creating the dream worlds, a job that is normally performed by a God. What's the punishment for that? For creating several levels to burrow deeper into the mind and create a complicated maze of worlds? Limbo. Like I said, mindfuck!
If this film were nominated for an Oscar, I think it should be put in the directing and cinematography categories. You could say it's an original screenplay, but many have compared it to a cross between The Matrix and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. It's not so much an original idea, but an original aspect of previous ideas. The cinematography, set designs, art direction, and story-weaving, however, was truly impressive.
And in regards to acting, I would say there were no great characters, just tools to tell the story. However, DiCaprio is now officially a pro at carrying a film; Marion Cotillard played the suffering prisoner beautifully; Joseph Gordon Levitt is on his way to perfecting the art of being too cool; Ellen Page has successfully shed any resemblance to her Juno character, unlike her costar Michael Cera; and Tom Hardy is like poetry in motion—you just know he's going to be around for a while.