Sunday, February 13, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Inception

Inception
Number of Nominations: 8
Categories: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects
Availability in US: DVD, Blu-ray
Trailer: Click for Trailer
I've spent the last year anxiously looking over my shoulder at every turn, expecting sci-fi geeks to jump out of nowhere and throttle me. Last February, I posted not very favorable reviews of two very popular science fiction films: Avatar and District 9. The resulting comments on this blog were extremely unfriendly and called into question my entire taste in films. It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I sat down a couple weeks ago to watch Inception, one of the most popular, most talked about, and highest-grossing sci-fi films in years. "What if I don't like it," I worried, "will everyone get up in arms over it again?" As it turns out, I needn't have worried.

Inception tells the story of a band of outlaws, led by a man named Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), who break into people's dreams to steal their secrets. One of their victims, Saito (Ken Watanabe), catches up to them in real life and makes Cobb an offer he can't refuse—plant an idea, instead of stealing one, in the brain of a business rival of his, and he will see that Cobb can finally return home to his children. The process of inception has apparently never been tried before, and is very dangerous. As you can imagine, lots of cool effects and trippy plot points ensue (I hate giving spoilers beyond what's absolutely necessary).

Inception succeeds where Avatar and District 9 failed; it has likable characters, a complex and original plot, and realistic human emotion. Though the film failed to earn any acting nominations, Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard gives one of the better performances I've seen this year as Cobb's wife. At various turns conniving, loving, desperate, and despondent, Cotillard helps provide the emotional punch that makes this film work so well.

Artistically, the film gets everything right. From the cool visuals of streets folding in on themselves, to the multi-layered dream states which affect each other, the effects (both sound and visual) and photography feel authentic. The complex sets and visual style make Inception a serious contender in the art direction category as well.

The only complaint I've heard about this movie, and I believe it is wrong, is that the film is too hard to follow. While the various layers of the dream world may force some viewers to scratch their heads occasionally, most modern film viewers should be used to fractured storytelling by now (wasn't Memento like 10 years ago already?) and should have little trouble at least getting most of the plot on the first go-round. At any rate, now that the film is out on DVD, there's little excuse not to rewind a bit if one gets lost a little. That said, Academy voters tend to skew older and may not have the patience for a complex science fiction plot, so that could potentially hurt Inception in the screenplay category. Overall, Inception is an excellent film, and should expect to run away with at least a few, if not all, of the technical awards for which it is nominated. Look for it to have a bit more trouble in the score and screenplay categories. Conventional wisdom says that any film not nominated for Best Director is unlikely to take home Best Picture (it has only happened three times in Oscar history, and only once since 1932), but I imagine the 260 million dollars it has taken home at the box office is enough to keep Christopher Nolan happy.
Grade: A

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