Review: Nolan’s “Deception” (Inception)

References: Dreamscape (Dennis Quaid -1984) and The Thirteenth Floor (Craig Bierko -1999)

Alright. I love Chris Nolan.  His wry wit and visionary eye have created some of the best reasons in recent years, to actually get up off   your ass and get to the movies. “Following”, “Memento”,  “Insomnia” the “Batman series” and “The Prestige”, are all haunting and thought provoking films done with taste, wit and a bit of tongue in cheek humor.

And now “Inception”. Hmmm. Without giving anything away (that already hasn’t been revealed in trailers) the story follows Dom Cobb (Leo DiCaprio) a man with a past, who’s “Day Job” involves entering the sleeping minds of unsuspecting victims and stealing their ideas and dreams.  Sounds like a great premise for a summer blockbuster, right? Except this NEVER happens in the movie.

Cobb and his “crack team” (a surprisingly good Gordon Joseph Levitt, Ellen Page, scene stealing Tom Hardy, an underutilized Sir Michael Cain and an indecipherable Ken Watanabe) muddle through a type of reverse heist plot.

Instead of stealing ideas, they are implanting ideas into the head of Robert Fischer. Jr. (Cillian Murphy – who after his last film “Sunshine”, may have benefited by this procedure  much sooner) via a “dangerous” process called (you guessed it) “Inception”.  All crystal?  Despite all the hype, the “A” plot for Inception is quite simple.

The problem lies in the execution of the story, which Nolan has made unnecessarily complex and convoluted (possibly to justify the huge budget to muddled headed, twenty something studio execs who paid for this).

In Memento, he cleverly reversed the story action from the main character’s POV; a brilliant and necessary twist that actually enhanced the experience. In the Prestige, he brought us behind the curtain into “slight of hand” world of magic. In Insomnia he had the audacity to cast Robin Williams as a brilliant, psychotic murder. We’ve come to expect and even depend on Nolan to bring us UP a rung in the ladder each time around.

Sadly, in what I believe is Nolan’s attempt to re-create the sense of disorientation and confusion we all experience in our dreams, he’s taken a relatively simple story and purposefully made it complicated and confusing. Much like cutting the Mona Lisa into a 1,000 piece jig saw puzzle and then shaking up the box.  Good Luck!

Of course this may also be a clever ploy, knowing full well that the over intellectualized fan boys and girls will spend endless hours, sipping their Lattes  and expensive wines, in pointless debate and reconstruction.  Those of us that still have discretionary cash, may even be compelled to see the movie several times. Trust me. It WON’T get any clearer with repeated viewings.

Nolan, known for breaking the rules, has done it again with Inception, but not always in a good way. First, necessary to all great thrillers,  there is no real “threat to life” for the protagonists. Second, there is no strong, worthy antagonist to challenge DiCaprio and his team (even James Bond had Dr. No and Goldfinger!).  With a weak antagonist and no threat to life there is no strong conflict to pull us in and suspend belief.

What’s left? Nolan has covered the plot holes and lack of basic structural integrity with a glossy, fast moving series of mind bending explosions, stunning vistas and special effects that will enthrall the video game set but leave the rest of us feeling empty and hungry like  sizzle without the steak.

Out of 4 Stars ScreenPens gives “Inception” 2.5 Stars (add a half a star if your primary source of entertainment is shoot ’em up video games)

-MP

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