I have no idea what the public reaction to INCEPTION will be (we’ll find out in the next couple of days), but I’m happy to report that, while not a masterpiece of cinema or a great science fiction film, it is nonetheless a smart action adventure that will easily stand above most anything else you’re likely to see coming out of a Hollywood studio this summer.
Let’s be clear here. This is an action film first and foremost. Its concept, though thankfully thought-provoking, takes a back seat to the action sequences. But, unlike most films these days, this is an example of a healthy blending of the two. Director Christopher Nolan, after the smashing success of THE DARK KNIGHT, has clearly cashed in his creative studio token to bring us INCEPTION. While not a gritty indie film done on a studio budget, it is still smarter and more complex than anything one can imagine the Hollywood machine, in its current incarnation, allowing to get made unless huge favors were owed. The film doesn’t dumb itself down for the audience, nor does it pretend to be anything more than a smart summer film.
I’m one of the few people that wasn’t crazy about THE MATRIX. In fact, I would go so far as to say INCEPTION feels a bit like a “smart” MATRIX. That will confuse many as most folks found THE MATRIX to be smarter than your average action fare. And it was. But I still felt like it spent a lot of time over-explaining itself so that no one was left out or had to work very hard to keep up. And its concept felt a bit familiar to me from the sci-fi books of my childhood. INCEPTION also has a level of familiarity in that it’s not a completely unique notion, and its classic heist story-line is almost by the numbers, yet it maintains just enough intelligence to stand above the fray and it doesn’t seem to be afraid to let the audience do some mental lifting. Again, this isn’t 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY or Tarkovsky’s SOLARIS (or even Soderbergh’s), but it is a fun film with a somewhat challenging premise. And the cast works incredibly well together in pulling off the physical roller-coaster ride created for this film’s malleable world. Even when the dialogue dips into the somewhat informational.
What they don’t fully pull off is the emotional journey, but that is because INCEPTION is more a puzzle than a character study, even though it deals largely with the subconscious. But that subconscious is a tool, another piece in the puzzle, a ticking clock, if you will. But it is never directly connected to the hearts and souls of the audience. There are no personal revelations or insights for us. That said, who knows what was cut out to accommodate an already-long running-time?
Either way, the end result was two-fold for me. I found the film didn’t stick with me for very long after I’d left the theater, but what I did retain was how much fun I had while watching it and how appreciative I was that the movie didn’t seem to be talking down to me. For a summer blockbuster, that is a rare thing, indeed. Hell, for a film coming from a studio, that’s a rare thing, period!