the better truth

the better truth

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inception (2010)


The great untold truth about most “action” films is: they are dull. This is especially true in an age where advances in computerized special effects can render movies primitively obsolete in less than a decade. Whereas I might have found the car chase in Steve McQueen’s “Bullit” dazzling decades after the premiere; most audiences would find the 2007 film “Transformers” quaint when compared with “Avatar”. In order to retain an interest in this genre the script need to rise above the spectacle. Unfortunately most blockbusters focus and the fireworks resulting in mind-numbing sequences of explosions, fire-balls, carnage, tidal waves, meteors, volcanoes… Don’t get me wrong – I love a good car chase or Armageddon sequence – but I don’t think it should be the main entrée… just as I wouldn’t go to a restaurant and order a stick of butter with some salt and sugar. In this light I was really looking forward to “Inception”. Here is someone who mixes the mental with the physical. Christopher Nolan’s debut was the cult hit “Memento” – an action film predicated on the protagonist debilitating brain injury (no short term memory). His blockbuster debut, “the Dark Knight”, tried to lend some gravitas to the Batman franchise. I thought there were a few too many explosions. I had visual indigestion etc… but I loved the Joker. But who am I to judge anyway: it was the highest grossing film of the decade! Chacun son gout. But hey I didn’t hate it. What’s a good Indie to do once he’s joined the “real” world of Hollywood anyway.

I had high hopes. Nolan directing an action blockbuster of his own choosing and returning to the realm of the mind: Would it be an update of Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” or an action version of “Enternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind”? Well… yes and no. The film is centered around dreaming and memory but, well, ah, I don’t think I’d call it an “action film”. Call me old-fashioned but I think most summer fun shouldn’t feel like homework. I haven’t been so confused in a movie theater since Jack Nicholson worked his directorial magic in the sequel to “Chinatown”. Oh I “got it”: Leonardo DiCaprio is working in commercial espionage that focus on harnessing secrets of the mind… he is on the run for supposedly murdering his wife – he didn’t do it, sort of, but she blamed him in an attempt to get him to return to their sojourn in a deep sleep netherworld where they had spent a life-time together… meanwhile he needs to return to see his children – apparently they are unable to take an airplane to visit him – which is odd as I thought there were commercial flights to Hong Kong and Africa – back to the plot: DiCaprio decides to work for an Asian mogul, whom he initially was spying against. Mogul promises him he will get all the charges dropped in the U.S. if DiCaprio decides to plant an idea in the head of the son of another Mogul who controls the worlds energy supply. DiCaprio goes and locates his former mentor/father-in-law, Michael Caine, who introduces him to the girl who was the star of “Juno”. That actress appears looks even younger than she did in “Juno”. I thought I had been transported to an Episode of Blues Clues. Back to the plot: she discovers that his DiCaprio’s ex-wife is stalking him in his sub-conscious so she is scared of “what will happen”. Of course it doesn’t stop her from taking the job. Now they have to dive down to the three levels of consciousness and each level there is an exponential shift in time so if something… I can’t go on.

The problem with “Inception” is that it isn’t a movie: it’s a logic game – the kind of brain-teasing nonsense that haunts law school applicants on the LSAT or is the pastime of commuters with obsessive compulsive disorder. There are some people who enjoy these exercises… and there are people who willingly expose themselves to Sudoku and word cross – I’ve considered these activities to have their food equivalents in olive loaf and vegemite. An acquired taste that is, fortunately/unfortunately, not my thing. Now the special effects are fun and the acting is professional so… dream on.

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