Inception – 2010 – dir. Christopher Nolan
I was very impressed with the world of Nolan’s film. It seemed as though so much was possible, even though we only see a small piece of it. The audience is along for the ride from the very first shot. A world where you can explore other people’s dreams? We buy it seamlessly. Heck, it’s fun to imagine, similar to how a world without murder is fun to imagine in Spielberg’s Minority Report.
What I really liked about Inception was that I could actually imagine Christopher Nolan handing me the film and saying, “I know there’s a lot going on, and it’s a lot around which to wrap your mind. But you know what? I think you can handle it.”
Giving audiences credit is, sadly, almost a novel concept in contemporary filmmaking. For a contrast point, I can offer you no less than Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. She’s a good girl who goes bad. We can figure that out from looking at the poster. Why, then, does every scene have to be so filled with symbolism as to render viewers unconscious with the weight of it? She sprouts feathers, for crying out loud!
It’s always best to give your audience the benefit of the doubt. “Audiences are smart. They make connections,” they told me in screenwriting school, and they were right.
Interesting tidbit: it reportedly took Nolan eight years to complete the screenplay. Of course, he was busy with other projects, but he did state that he didn’t think that the script would take more than “a couple of months” to put together.
Of course, Nolan isn’t immune to connecting a few dots for his audience. Ariadne (Ellen Page), as an example, is the audience’s representative in the film, and is named for the maiden who gave Theseus the thread to help him find his way in and out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth. Of course, in Nolan’s film, as in the myth itself, “Theseus” (Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb) and the “Minotaur” (Marion Cotillard as Mal) are both two aspects of one enigma – they await each other in the very center.
The film’s characters need no sequel: Inception is a complete story. However, the world of the film is one that I would love to see again. Invading other people’s dreams? What couldn’t you do with such a premise?
Another impressive element of Inception is that Nolan gives us easy-to-digest rules in a world that, by definition, shouldn’t have any. There are no dinosaurs in party hats, no talking squids, and no break-dancing robots. These are carefully controlled dreams, and what’s more, you’re given solid, believable reasons behind this level of control. You’re left free to enjoy the film’s astonishing suspense.
It may not be the best film of the year (characterization, at times, still takes a backseat to its special effects) but it’s arguably one of the smartest and most cerebral.
Does the top stop spinning in the end? Yes. First of all, it wobbles. Second of all, if it doesn’t stop, then it completely invalidates everything that the film has been about, and Nolan is too shrewd a filmmaker to trip at the finish line.
The difference, then, between Nolan and the filmmakers behind most everything else you saw last year is that he thinks that you’re shrewd, too.
And, most importantly, awake.