Friday, August 13, 2010


I have friends and family who like this movie, INCEPTION, and ones who don't.

I was knocked out by Chris Nolan's first film, MOMENTO, feeling that in his direction and screenplay he had found a unique way to tell a story, and given over a century of movies it ain't easy to come up with an original story and way of putting it together, or even, as in the case of MOMENTO, if not totally original, close enough.

I couldn't wait to see what he'd do next. But, I was disappointed in his second movie, INSOMNIA, maybe because he didn't write it and I wasn't crazy about the casting (whereas MOMENTO had seemed brilliantly cast), but then I liked BATMAN BEGINS well enough, though Nolan didn't write it, and I didn't like THE DARK KNIGHT which he had more of a hand in.

So I didn't know what to expect from INCEPTION, which is his baby pretty much all the way. It's another MOMENTO-like script in which you get dizzy trying to keep all the elements of the plot in your head in order to "get" the eventual resolution. And it too is a story unlike almost any other movie you've ever seen.

Not that the basic plot points of MOMENTO and INCEPTION are totally original, but the way they're pieced together is. But another thing they have in common, as do all his movies is what's missing—a deep emotional connection with the characters and story.

His movies certainly make me feel the tension inherent in all of their pacing and plot lines, and intellectually INCEPTION satisfied my taste for original ideas no matter how far fetched or silly or gratuitously violent etc. I actually laughed out loud a few times because some plot twists were so satisfying, especially the way the terrific cast (underused in some cases, e.g. Michael Caine) made them believable despite their being often pretty silly in that fantasy/sci-fi way. But a spurt of delight at some fun story line surprise was about the only emotional connection I had with the film.

I was mentally engaged by the effort to follow the maze, or rather multiple mazes of the plot, and struck by the actors and set designers and CGI artists doing a great job of making that seem important but I had no emotional stake in the underlying relationship story and what was at stake in it.

And that's too bad. At least for me. Because otherwise it was a pretty good ride. But the attempt at some deep psychological insight and conclusion was more or less wasted because for my taste it never paid off on that level. Which may be why some lost interest in the multiple plot twists halfway through the movie and never regained it. I only lost interest when it was over.


Elisabeth said...

My sixteen year old daughter came home after seeing Inception, furious. She did not spell out what it was that bugged her about this movie, but she was bugged. I've yet to see it, but my daughter's response has put me off.

She's chronologically young but her taste in movies is generally fairly sophisticated.

Interesting the idea of losing interest after the event. I like to savor my movies, so I might be like my daughter if there's nothing after the event over which to mull.

Thanks, Michael.

Lally said...

Yeah, my older son didn't care for it either, was frustrated by the multiple diversions from an ordinary plotline etc. But there is definitely something to ponder afterwards, at least intellectually, because it is like a puzzle, and whether it was the theater I saw it in or just my ears the soundtrack kept getting in the way of some of the actors' lines so that added to the confusion of figuring out exactly what was going on.
But it's enormously ambitious and succeeds on many levels as a movie spectacle to my mind, and I felt it was worth seeing just to experience this phenomenon and to contemplate the implications which to some extent are based on recent discoveries about controlling dreams, etc. At the least it provokes discussion of some otherwise not usually discussed topics.

AlamedaTom said...

Haven't seen it yet, so I will withhold comment. However, I do want to put my two cents in for the original Norwegian version of "Insomnia," which was far, far better than the Nolan remake with Pacino and Swank. Stellan Skarsgard (played the professor in "Good Will Hunting) gives a great performance in the Pacino role. He plays a Swedish detective on assignment in Norway. I encourage you to check it out if you have a chance.

~ Willy

Lally said...

Thanks Tom, I will.

Anonymous said...

You know a movie is in trouble when there is exposition to start the scene with. When you then start the next scene with exposition it sinks deeper. When you have exposition in EVERY scene the movie reaches a level of boredom that is beyond belief. It forms the basis of religion: give people unprovable suppositions supported with elaborate verbage. Of course you will have converts. My favorite part was the James Bond From Russia With Love series: the snow troops on skis being endlessly pulled toward the castle, and the machine gunner in the tank turret who probably is still firing and hitting nothng as I write this...


Lally said...

You made me laugh out loud at that last line about the gunner still firing! I hear ya. But I went into it having had my oldest son Miles tell me how halfway through he gave up and decided it was too much trouble, so I expected it to be boring and way too convoluted etc. I find that going in with very low expectations almost always has me digging a movie more than I would have had I gone in expecting something as good as obviously a lot of people find INCEPTION. And I also have to admit that a lot of the movie tropes that they used to connect (and disconnect) the dots of the maze-wanna-be plot(s) (including the "bad guys" always missing the "good guys despite the "good guys" being outgunned and shot at with what always seems like a ratio of at least a hundred to one bullets-wise) were sometimes what made me laugh out loud at the film, but not in disdain or because it was what they used to call "low camp" but because I just found aspects of it pretty clever movie making despite the turgid unfolding (literally) of the story.

Miles said...


I didn't give up on the plot because it was too much trouble, I gave up on it because the rules set up during the endless exposition were broken again and again. The tension hissed out of the plot through all the holes, carrying my desire to care about the outcome of the story along with it.

Lally said...

Sorry I mischaracterized your response to the movie Miles, and thanks for clearing that up so excellently.