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[personal profile] liv
Reasons for watching it: Lots of the reviews I'd seen made it sound as if it would be a film that would appeal to me. I particularly enjoyed [livejournal.com profile] siderea's write-up, which has psychological insight as well as film crit. Also, I saw a mention that there was a lot of Piaf music in the soundtrack, which attracted me; this turned out not to be true, it's just that Je ne regrette rien is a big thematic thing. But never mind.

Circumstances of watching it: [personal profile] jack was visiting and we felt like going out to a film, and Inception was without any hesitation the best of what was available at the local chain cinema. Actually it took us two attempts to get in; we didn't expect that the film would be completely booked out on a random mid-week night (and in fact the first several places we tried to get a meal instead were completely full too; we ended up in La Favorita, an Italian place which does big portions of hearty but fairly unremarkable food; no idea what was going on that Newcastle was so packed early on Wednesday evening). So the second time we booked a ticket in advance.

Verdict: Inception is an original and absorbing film. It doesn't hold together once you start to think about it, but it does a great job of drawing you into the story.

For me, Inception held just exactly the right balance between thinky and action. It's reasonably intelligent, it's twisty, it doesn't just run along the obvious action movie grooves, but the ideas involved are not so complex that it's hard for me to follow on the screen (I like complex stories in text, but when it's visual I'm just too distracted to disentangle a truly sophisticated plot). I'm not surprised that many reviews I read, by people who are much more regular cinema-goers than I am, described it as simplistic and even boring. The action stuff isn't particularly special; there's lots of fights and explosions, none of which I was really able to follow, but which provided pleasant jolts of adrenaline to break up the exposition. It's not violence porn, though, it doesn't dwell particularly on grisly injuries.

I liked the worldbuilding, it's a fairly novel take on the hackneyed (it's all in Plato!) idea of not being sure what's real and what's a projection of your mind. However, it isn't actually at all consistent, so there's no real room to examine exactly how it works. It's very good at creating a superficial impression of a deep, complex SF setting, without actually providing any of the details. Because it's inconsistent, it's impossible to make inferences about how things work or what's going to happen; you only have Cobb's word for how dreaming works, and he's a deeply unreliable narrator. This meant that I was a bit impatient with many of the twists, because a lot of them consisted of Cobb solemnly telling you that X is impossible, and then X turning out to be possible after all. Or some deus ex machina solution to a hopeless situation, that nobody had previously hinted was an option. There's no dramatic tension if there's no real causality. I proposed a theory that this is deliberate, that it is a way of making the film dreamlike, even though as [livejournal.com profile] siderea points out, it isn't visually so at all. There's a big theme of gaslighting running through the film, and a big part of the plot is discovering that Cobb is hiding a lot of secrets, so his misleading the audience fits in with that. [personal profile] jack says that I'm giving the film too much credit, though, and I can see his point; a lot of the rest of the time it kind of beats you over the head with how clever it is, so it would be surprising if this element were handled so subtly.

The main driving storyline makes absolutely no sense. The characters try to pull off something which the film has set up as being extremely difficult and dangerous, for basically no reason. I was surprisingly prepared to forgive this, though, because I cared enough about the characters that I wanted their mission to succeed, even if the mission itself seemed entirely pointless. Also, I had a hard time believing that anyone was actually in danger of not waking up, even though there was a lot of spinning out of the crucial timing stuff and dramatic drumbeats and all kinds of multiple sources of jeopardy. For me, discovering the back-story between Cobb and Mal was a lot more interesting than whether the fellowship would succeed in their stupid mission. I hated the suicide stuff, but that's just me; it's a standard film cliche to have a character trying to talk another down from jumping from a high window, and the fact that's close to being a trigger for me isn't the film's fault.

Minor annoying things: I don't like DiCaprio, and I really don't think his extremely elementary acting skills did justice to a character as complex and dark as Cobb. Lots of really atrocious accents, whether supposedly "British", or Ariadne's French accent completely disappearing after her first three lines, or Mal, who sounded vaguely Hispanic or just generic Hollywood foreign, or Saito with a sort of "oriental" lisp. Also, medical grump: a defibrillator is not a magic resurrection machine, damnit! However, the fact that the film completely sidestepped the standard romantic subplot makes up for a lot. Nobody falls in love with Ariadne, and nobody rescues her, and that earns the film a lot of credit with me.

I absolutely adored the ending. I think it makes the whole film; I'd spent the last ten minutes feeling faintly annoyed at the drawing out of the happy / shmaltzy ending, which is both sentimental and anticlimactic. And then there's the final few frames, which make the whole film ten times more awesome. I was sort of hoping for something about as cool as The Matrix, and Inception pretty much hits that spot. I've tried to avoid spoilers in the main body of the review, but there might well be some in comments, and I think this is a worthwhile film to see unspoiled if you can.

([personal profile] jack's review, for comparison.)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-13 11:44 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
FWIW, I may have changed my mind a bit since my first reactions, I'm not sure, but my review may not be 100% still valid

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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