Saturday, 17 July 2010
Protecting your sub-conscious with a steam train. 24 hours a day.
No-one does better press for control freaks then Christopher Nolan. Not only is he a prime example of why sometimes it can be a good thing to trust no-one else, because they just don't do it quite like you do. But its right down deep to the core of his films, what motivates them almost, is an almost innate fear of the loss of control and order. In each film he makes, Nolan throws a brutal spanner in the works of the ritual of meticulousness and sees how it can function as chaos closes around it. The most literal of these anarchic forces is obviously The Joker, irrationality incarnate, out to destroy the sense of order established by Batman in Gotham City. But it runs deeper then that for Nolan. There's Leonard Shelby's short-term memory deficiency in Memento, thrusting him into almost everlasting anarchy, never allowed to be coherent or rational, the poor man living Nolan's worst nightmare so he doesn't have to. There's Al Pacino's insomnia in Insomnia, The Magician's rivalry in The Prestige, both stop otherwise meticulous characters living out their respective lives in glorious organization.
Inception sees Nolan deal with anarchy on its home turf, the dream state, in which whatever happens happens, not allowing you to prepare or control, simply to vulnerably experience. Particularly to student of psycho-analysis, which Nolan most certainly is, its powerlessness pure and simple. So of course Nolan makes a film of characters attempting to process and install order to the dream state, what else would he do. Its a film that is fleetingly outstanding, but on a more consistent basis just very good. Graded against Nolan's previous work like The Dark Knight or Memento it falls short, but stopping and bailing at that is to do a disservice to a fascinating, involving and deeply intelligent movie with a deceptive amount of humanity.
What it does so fantastically well is that conversion of intellectualism that nothing in recent memory has achieved to such a high standard, short of The Matrix. Its a specific compliment, but there's a part of this film that I personally think is the best 10 minute sequence in a film I've seen since Up. To try and explain it is to be ridiculous, but in the interest of blanket labeling, we'll call it the zero gravity fight scene. The elegance of the execution, with a three dream narrative all impacting on each other just worked so fucking awesomely that it leaves with you with the kind of pure, fuck yeah joy you get to experience so rarely at the movies. Unfortunately these moments of cinematic ascension came a tad too rarely, and a slow-build start that was perhaps a little too slow, and generally you just have to settle with a very good movie, that's strengths severely outweigh its weaknesses.
Sure its supporting cast is full to the brim with heist movie stock characters (which this movie is at its core, with the idea of breaking into someone's meticulously protected sub-conscious.) and Nolan's analytical approach to emotions and character can be a little distancing at times. But I think that Leonardo Di Caprio and Marion Cotillard between them made me invest in this movie, with performances that superseded Nolan's difficulty with emotional nuance. Particularly the former, who gives a star's performance here with more difficult material. Cotillard too, playing a character that may as well be a hypothesis on a blackboard. I also enjoyed Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance as no nonsense badass, and deeply resent a fellow viewer's assertion that he gave a Keanu Reeves performance in this film. It was smart and simple, rather then vacuous and dull a la Reeves. Crazy. I think Ellen Page deserves a lot of praise for doing a lot in a difficult role. I can think of few actresses who come across as intelligently as she does on screen. Credit to goes to Cillian Murphy, who demonstrates an impressive amount of range in comparison to what we've seen him do before.
Perhaps you could throw at the film that Nolan doesn't have the pure sense of creation that say, a Guillermo Del Toro or a David Lynch would have had making the same film, but fuck it, neither of those guys can make a film about ideas as well as Nolan can. He's brought intelligence to the masses and they love him for it, and more importantly Inception is as classy, original and personal as summer movies can be and has the quality to match. Not quite a masterpiece then, but I refuse to be negative about a film this good. My expectations were and are my own problem and are, frankly, irrelevant.