“What did you think?”
I’ve never heard the question asked with such sincerity so often. People know I love movies more than almost anything. Also, I’ve been talking about this one for almost a full year. My anticipation for this film has been higher than it has since Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Return of the King.
The reason is Christopher Nolan. His record is perfect and inhumanly impressive: Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight. That lineup of films is an impressive life’s work, and he’s 40. It’s absurd. It’s also the only reason Inception had a chance.
This is the kind of movie that almost never gets made. Nolan worked on the script for 10 years and honed it into something that no studio would ever dream of adequately funding. It’s cerebral, complex and dauntingly unique. It’s not part of a franchise, or a remake, or anything else comfortingly familiar or easy to sell. And to produce it properly required hundreds of millions of dollars.
The only thing the distributors could sell was Christopher Nolan’s name, a name which The Dark Knight helpfully carved into cinema history. We have that film’s fantastic success to thank for the miracle of his next project. Like it or not, Inception is a rare gift to the world.
Before I answer the opening question, I must explain that it had to be great. My expectations were so without restraint in their ascent that it seemed a natural law for this film to be, not only good, but great. Of course, there was a possibility that it would fall flat, but that seemed about equivalent to the possibility of a stone falling up.
That I loved the film was almost a foregone conclusion; a prophecy fulfilled; a certainty that lacked only the triviality of observational proof. I didn’t care about whether or not I would enjoy it, because I was much more interested to find out how, specifically, it would end up being one of my favorite films ever.
If that doesn’t make much sense, it’s because it’s hard for me to talk intelligibly about this masterpiece. It was ten films rolled into one, which could have been terrible but was instead awe-inspiring. Watching it was like climbing a metaphorical mountain. It was sublimely difficult, a meaningful psychological exertion.
Nolan put together a film about dreams that is more resonant to me than any other cinematic illustration of dreaming. Movies, in a sense, are dreams — our stories, which are our interpretations of the world and our experiences in it. When we engage a film, or when it engages us, we are sharing dreams. Inception is remarkable because it is (perhaps unintentionally) fundamentally and universally meaningful. It explores the subconscious, as so many films do, but then pushes the ethereal subject of dreaming into the immediacy of pertinence. Dreams matter, as so many of us believe but find nearly impossible to express.
I won’t give one thing about this film away. I won’t tell you what it’s about, because it wouldn’t make any difference even if I tried, and I won’t tell you how it begins or ends. But I will tell you that the last shot suggests so much about the nature of reality that people will be talking about it far into the foreseeable future.
Don’t be afraid to go watch this movie. I’ve talked about it’s complexity and the mental exertion it demands of its audience, but it’s still crazy entertaining. I think almost everyone will enjoy this film. The cinematography is, quite literally, breathtaking; the action is intense and spectacular; and the cast is brilliant. Leonardo DiCaprio has stepped up and finally proven that he is one of film’s greatest living actors. Ellen Page has finally made it into a role as a real adult, and she’s lovely.
This is a pinnacle of filmmaking. It isn’t the pinnacle, as there are so many different kinds of movie, but it is filmmaking operating at its highest capacity. Inception is not the best film of all time, because such a film does not exist. It is also not perfect, because no film is. But it’s close enough.
Now, what do you think?
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