#14: Inception (2010)

When and how did I watch this?

May 23rd, 2017, on a friend’s flash drive.

Had I seen this film already?

Yes — ironically, I don’t remember when, but I’m fairly certain it was at home at the suggestion of a friend.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Let’s face it: the first time you watch this film, you’re different levels of confused by the end.  I certainly was, and I was fully engaged in the film throughout.  After a few more viewings, many of the details are hammered in and you start to feel like an expert on the material.  Memento sort of has the same effect; you acquire a superiority complex over your peers. That said, Inception is one of the more thrilling and profoundly imaginative films I’ve ever seen.

What do I know about it now?

The glaring problem with this film is its lack of order and how muddled the viewer can become within the first ten minutes. But we are enamored by the little nuances: where are they, really? What is a kick? Who’s really running this dream? The answers are revealed to us, thankfully.  The vast majority of the remainder involves Cobb (DiCaprio) and his team, at the behest of Saito (Watanbe), entering the dreams of a wealthy corporate competitor of Saito to plant an idea into his head regarding his late father. The task proves difficult, and the complication increases as the team dives into lower “levels” of dreaming, which are increasingly chaotic and risky in nature. Even on likely my fourth viewing, the intensity remains high and I’m still wowed by the effects.  I’m not sure how it will look in 20 years, but fortunately the bending and twisting and manipulating going on is useful to the plot and not implemented just for a moment of awe. In all of it, the film remains visceral as we discover more about Cobb’s late wife (Cotilliard) and how he has dealt with his memories of her. Most of the acting is solid — I felt that Page was a little bit rigid, but her role is basically the explainer for the viewer. Of course, the runaway winners are the effects and sound. This is clearly a film for the theater, and I’m very sorry I missed it.

What are some themes in the film?

Dreams, memory, redemption, pride, perception, family

Did this affect me personally?

Yes indeed.  A haunting scene involves Ariadne (Page) and an elevator construct in Cobb’s subconscious that doesn’t leave your memory.  The emotional push and pull between Cobb and his projection of Mal is both enrapturing and disturbing. The most powerful situation for me involves Fischer (Murphy) and his mended relationship with his late father.

Why is this ranked #14?

I read after watching this film that Christopher Nolan spent ten years on this script.  In the meantime, he wrote and directed Memento (#44), The Prestige (#51) and Dark Knight (#4), all quality pieces of work.  His reason for not putting out Inception sooner?  He felt he wasn’t ready to do it properly. Well, it’s done properly, and people love it.  The online Nolan fanboy community bolsters this near-convoluted plot into a top 20 ranking; it probably belongs in the top 50, but we’re splitting hairs. DiCaprio and a rising star in Ellen Page are also factors.

Did my wife watch/like it?

A few days before watching it, she hopped on Amazon and purchased two physical copies of films: Forrest Gump and this one. In short, this might be her favorite film on the IMDb Top 250.

Would I watch it again?

Whether or not I want to (which I do), I’m afraid I have little choice!

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Like The Matrix, this is a generation defining film, and possibly Nolan’s finest.  Yes, Dark Knight ranks higher, but I associate that one with the subsequent superhero craze still driving the box office today. If you haven’t yet, step away from the next Avengers-related film and take a look at this one.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

The last several films, and likely the remainder, can all be considered great, as this question gradually becomes moot. True greatness in cinema requires several factors to be involved, one of them being longevity.  Inception is only seven years old as I write this. Its strength as a screenplay forces us to question this standard, and it continues to steamroll subsequent film releases as a monument of quality filmmaking. While hyperdependency on effects becomes the modern staple, Nolan’s magnum opus to date reminds other writers and directors how to use effects correctly.

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