17 February 2011

"Inception" Rental Blu-ray

Shown here is the Blu-ray Combo Pack.
Inception
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger and Michael Caine
Written & Directed by Christopher Nolan
Rental Blu-ray Disc Release Date: 1 January 2011
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All I needed to know about Inception was that it was the next movie from Christopher Nolan and I wanted to see it.  My wife, however, waited until it was out of theaters to confess that she did not, in fact, want to see it.  Had I known this tidbit of information, I would have simply gone to see it on a day she was working or otherwise engaged.  Alas, I had to wait until it hit Blu-ray.  There's a valuable lesson in here somewhere for you couples about communicating honest levels of interest in movies.

The marketing of Inception presented it as a cerebral head trip the likes of which we have never before seen.  Remember when James Bond realized that Goldfinger's elaborate plan was nothing more than a simple heist?  I had the same epiphany watching Inception.  Just like Goldfinger, the plan here isn't to steal a thing; rather, Cobb (DiCaprio) and his team have been hired to implant an idea in the mind of Robert Fischer (Murphy).  This will be accomplished by entering into a dream state in which Cobb and his team will engage Fischer and sneak the idea into a level of his brain so deep that he will accept the idea as his own.

It's a lot like Ocean's Eleven, except that it forgets to have fun.  A subplot involving Cobb and his wife (Cotillard) should resonate with us as viewers.  We know this because DiCaprio becomes demonstrably upset, even crying.  And yet, at no point was I upset, or emotionally invested in any of these characters.  I admire Christopher Nolan for his skill at crafting large scale stories, but his Achilles heel as a storyteller is that he's all head and no heart.  Once I realized the simplicity of Inception's premise, I was hopeful for at least some of the provocative social allegories that made The Dark Knight so brilliant.  There was, unfortunately, none to found save a bluntly delivered message about how escapism is unhealthy.

I wanted to respond favorably to Inception, I really did.  The best I can say is that it's a competent film that looks great.  The cast is great, in consideration of the fact that none of them were really given characters designed to show much growth over the course of the film and that they aren't used to reach us emotionally.  Hans Zimmer's score is serviceable, but its monotony only contributes to the sterile aesthetic of the film.

Many were surprised--even angered--by Nolan not being nominated for Directing while Inception is among the ten Best Picture nominees.  I don't know what Nolan's thoughts about this are, but if it matters to him at all, my advice would be to make an effort next time to reach our hearts.  Art can be cerebral, but it's only when we care about it that it matters.

The rental version, released by Warner Bros. after the retail version, includes no bonus content so I cannot speak to any of the supplemental material that you will find should you purchase Inception to add to your library.

3 comments:

  1. I fully concur with your appraisal of Nolan specifically in relation to this movie. The experience of watching it leaves you incredibly detached from any feeling of consequence as related to the characters. Brainy, but cold.
    You often hear Hollywood types say that they don't watch their own stuff, save for the experience of watching it in a theater to gauge an audience's response. I would hope Nolan might sit down with his own work and figure out where he strays from his strengths. I think about the Prestige and how I felt sympathy and empathy for both of the leads at different times. This indicates to me that Nolan does not lack heart, but perhaps sometimes he is too quick to move plot along over advancing the characters in the plot. It would be incorrect to lay this burden on the actors as one should not doubt that Jackman, DiCaprio and Bale are all entirely capable as leads. The Dark Knight is thus far Nolan's best in my mind, but I must admit to being jaded. To see my hopes for the comic movie genre finally realized and to be realized specifically by a Batman film tugged my heartstrings. I'll see any movie Nolan puts out because he's smart, and smart directors often develop a stable of smart actors. I think of the Wes Anderson players and see Nolan developing the exact same sort of talent pool.
    On an unrelated related note, I love Michael Caine's Alfred. The character in The Dark Knight was written to finally give us a glimpse of the other man hidden by a suit in the Batman franchise; The mercenary who you could now buy into as the sort of foster parent who would not only go along with his foster son's "alternative" career plan but also understand the importance of it, the sacrifices and the accomplishments to be made by it, much more astutely than the plan's originator. Damn I love that movie.

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  2. It was really the simplicity of the whole thing that greatly disappointed me. There was one scene where I felt it was on the verge of becoming a great film, and that was where Ariadne is first introduced to how the dream state works. Ellen Page played it with such curiosity, and then she starts tinkering with the dream state--even turning the city atop itself--that I thought this had the potential to really be something. Then Cobb interrupts her, telling us that that kind of imagination is a bad thing, that it calls too much attention to the dreamer.

    Not only did it disappoint me because nothing in the rest of the movie came close to the sense of wonder of that one scene, but I thought it was a dubious message to send.

    I've since learned that the Edith Piaf recording of "Non, je ne regrette rien" was a major source of inspiration for both Nolan's story and Zimmer's score. The run time of the film (2:28) was intended to mirror the run time of the Piaf recording, for instance, and Zimmer slowed down the instrumentation of the song as the basis for his theme. The problem is that making a movie run two hours and twenty eight minutes just to reflect the run time of a song is a horrible idea. A story should run however long it takes to be told. It's hard to say there's much fat to Inception, but I had the sense while watching it that it was entirely too long for a story that simple.

    As for Zimmer's score, it may have been a clever idea but it resulted in something generic that essentially added bass heavy percussion to the movie. I'm sure it was just as intricate to work out as when John Williams designed the music for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but the difference is that Williams's music actually sounded like something. You learn later that it was researched with a mathematician and think, "Wow; that's neat." With Zimmer's score to Inception, I learn about it being based on Piaf and I think, "Only a German would think it's a good thing to reduce art like that."

    ReplyDelete
  3. It was really the simplicity of the whole thing that greatly disappointed me. There was one scene where I felt it was on the verge of becoming a great film, and that was where Ariadne is first introduced to how the dream state works. Ellen Page played it with such curiosity, and then she starts tinkering with the dream state--even turning the city atop itself--that I thought this had the potential to really be something. Then Cobb interrupts her, telling us that that kind of imagination is a bad thing, that it calls too much attention to the dreamer.

    Not only did it disappoint me because nothing in the rest of the movie came close to the sense of wonder of that one scene, but I thought it was a dubious message to send.

    I've since learned that the Edith Piaf recording of "Non, je ne regrette rien" was a major source of inspiration for both Nolan's story and Zimmer's score. The run time of the film (2:28) was intended to mirror the run time of the Piaf recording, for instance, and Zimmer slowed down the instrumentation of the song as the basis for his theme. The problem is that making a movie run two hours and twenty eight minutes just to reflect the run time of a song is a horrible idea. A story should run however long it takes to be told. It's hard to say there's much fat to Inception, but I had the sense while watching it that it was entirely too long for a story that simple.

    As for Zimmer's score, it may have been a clever idea but it resulted in something generic that essentially added bass heavy percussion to the movie. I'm sure it was just as intricate to work out as when John Williams designed the music for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but the difference is that Williams's music actually sounded like something. You learn later that it was researched with a mathematician and think, "Wow; that's neat." With Zimmer's score to Inception, I learn about it being based on Piaf and I think, "Only a German would think it's a good thing to reduce art like that."

    ReplyDelete