Saturday, 17 July 2010
You hear that? A distant rumble as if a raging torrent of liquid was suddenly released? That is the sound of millions of nerds wetting themselves in excitement about the release of Christopher Nolan's new film. "Nolanites" - as they are sometimes known - can be found in various corners of the internet, often in snarky web-combat with their natural enemy: the "Avatard", proclaiming Chris Nolan as the most important film-maker since the Lumiere Brothers and saying how his output is the best body of work since the dawn of movie-time.
The strange thing is that, judging by "Inception", they may be on to something.
"Inception" is the kind of film we need to see more of. It's a big, thrilling blockbuster ride with amazing special effects and stunts, great performances from a stellar cast, a relatable and compelling emotional core and a lot of interesting, memorable ideas that will generate much post-screening pub-convo.
Leonardo DiCaprio wears a slightly less crazy face than we have seen from him for a while as Dom Cobb, a man with a troubled past and a very unusual line of work. Cobb, along with Arthur, his right hand man (played by my latest man-crush, Joseph Gordon Levitt), steals secrets off people by James-Bonding his way through their sub-conscious via matrix-style constructed dreamscapes.
Get it? You will.
Nolan takes his high concept and lays it out in a way that seems fully organic, neither over-complicated or too simplistic, establishing the rules of the world along with character and plot almost simultaneously in dextrous and entertaining ways.
I will not say much about the plot as it is best to know as little as possible in advance, suffice to say that the film is brilliantly structured and paced to perfection. One of the key elements for suspense in drama is "The Ticking Clock", a deadline that must be met lest dire consequences be faced. "Inception" features deadlines within deadlines, piling up the suspense until the movie's "Ticking Clock" is more like Doc Brown's lab in "Back to the Future" with hundreds of alarms going off at once.
The cast work this complex material brilliantly, with DiCaprio skilfully shouldering the heavy lifting in terms of emotion and exposition with a subtly powerful performance. Another step forward on his journey to becoming the most compelling male actor working in Hollywood today.
JGL is brilliantly stoic and deadpan as Arthur, and he gets the film's best action scene in a zero-gravity punch-up that makes "The Matrix" look like a dated NES game. This should finally be the film that makes him the star he deserves to be.
Tom Hardy comes over all cynical and English, bringing a good portion of the comic relief with some snipey interplay with JGL, and kicking some serious arse in the later scenes. Ellen Page lends heart, wonder, a little arrogance and smarts-beyond-her-years to the role of the new-kid-on-the-team/audience's way in, Ken Watanabe is funny and strangely noble as the team's benefactor, Marion Cotillard is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS and bloody terrifying as a mysterious projection from DiCaprio's sub-conscious, Cillian Murphy starts out oily and pompous, before brilliantly seguing into heartbreak and determination as the object of the team's mission, Dileep Rao from "Drag Me to Hell" and "Avatar" is a breezy and amusing presence, Tom Freaking Berenger does a solid turn, and Mickey Caine pops in for a reliable two-scener. It could be the strongest ensemble in a summer blockbuster in most of forever.
The action is brilliantly handled, often juggling several dreamscapes and realities at the same time, and the editing rarely misses a beat as the tension ramps up. The effects are often spectacular, and there are those rare occasions when you will be looking at the screen in genuine awe and wonder, thinking "How the hell did they do THAT?!".
This is a meticulously constructed film, from the epic, bombastic and emotionally charged score, to the stark and practical photography presenting a plethora of indelible images, everything is designed to draw us in, tease our minds with thoughts, our hearts with feelings and our eyes with sights we could not imagine. Nolan has shown what can be done when a cerebral, yet commercially savvy film-maker is given a vast wad of cash to indulge his own sub-conscious. It could have very easily have resulted in Nolan disappearing up his own arse, but he has understood the importance of coating his brain-fuck pill in dramatic action-thriller sugar in order to make it go down smooth.
There is, of course, the danger of over-hyping this film. The rave-wave that it rode in on must break eventually, but, as it stands, this is very probably the best film I've seen so far this year. It's just a film, of course, but it's a damn fine one.