Inception; directed by Christopher Nolan, 2010
Yes, I am quite late in assessing my opinion on Inception, but you can't see everything right away. As I figured would be necessary, I watched it twice within a span of 24 hours, and my bottom line: brilliantly shot, mind-numbingly complex, and worth repeat viewings.
Nolan's concept of dreams and memories--and the differences between and intersections of the two--manages to be incredibly, humanly real despite the wonderment and fantasticalness of it all. The layers and lairs that lie within the mind and in the subconscious are vivid and peeled away in fragments that connect in a more direct lineage than Nolan's masterful Memento, and yet once it has all been revealed there is still much to be deciphered.
As Leonardo DiCaprio's character struggles with the death of his wife and the loss of his children, we see a man who has to come face to face with his memories within dreams, and realize that giving over completely to these images and worlds he has (re)created is holding him back from living in reality. Yet, as has been explored and analyzed throughout cinema and literature and culture, reality and our dreams and the physical state of our being can often blur and meld together, to the point where you know not where you truly are in that moment.
To make the dreams within dreams within dreams and the subconscious so real to the viewer, the director has to construct a world and story with many rules: how dying with a dream connects to your awakened state, the importance of the totem, "kick"-ing one's self out of the dream. And then, like DiCaprio's character, who rarely obeys his own rules, Nolan bends those structures within the story, proving that nothing is truly certain or concrete.
What I was left with was a film that I enjoyed thoroughly, and was emotionally moved and perplexed by. A few things still don't really add up for me, and I may have missed them even after the second viewing--if a totem is only meant for the person who chooses or creates it, why does Mal's work (or does it?) for Cobb?; does Cobb have his own totem?; etc. I also wasn't all that interested in Ellen Page's character, even though she was supposed to be the lighthouse leading us to the complexities of Mal and Cobb's relationship; she just seemed rather bland to me. While it is not my favorite film of last year (it would have to be a tie between Toy Story 3 and The Social Network), I do believe all the hype was not hype, but indeed well-deserved praise for such a fascinatingly executed work.