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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Case Against Inception

Christopher Nolan – there isn’t a director out there that I'd single out for over hyped fan-boy praise more than this guy.

I genuinely love him.

He’s made films that I attribute to my raging love of cinema. The very first time I watched Memento, I was so shocked and inspired by what I had just seen that I instantly replayed the film. The Prestige, a criminally underrated film, is one of my favourites of all time. And if anyone was to say that the Batman films had to be part of the conversation about the greatest trilogy of all time, next to the Toy Story and Godfather films, I wouldn’t laugh at them. He’s a hell of a director.

But for me, he has two black marks on his record. One is Insomnia; I don’t necessary think it’s a bad film, I just didn’t understand it and unlike most Nolan films, it left no impression on me.

The other black mark is the main subject of this post – Inception

I should really love Inception; In fact, the first time I watched it at the cinema, I really did. I remember telling my Mrs that it was the best film I’ve ever seen in my life. I went back the very next day to the cinema and my mind hadn’t changed.

What blew me away was the concept of hacking into other people’s dreams and how it was realised in the film. I can’t think of many introductory sequences that can top Inception's.

I also think Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in this film is outstanding. He, above all else, sells the concept of the film and that is no small feat.

The very best films stand well against the test of time. The Godfather is my favourite film of all time because every time I watch it, it feels like the first time. The problem with Inception is that the more I watch it, the worse it gets.

BBC’s Mark Kermode drove this idea that Inception is an intelligent film that treats the audience with respect. I really dispute this. Watching Inception feels like I’m being lectured to, being told how to think and babied through the rules of this world. Why the hell can’t I work it out for myself? Ellen Page, who I think is an extraordinarily gifted actress, is only in this film for the purpose of being lectured to. I feel sorry for her, because it gets tiresome real quick.

Speaking of Ellen Page, the other thing that disappoints about the film is the assemble cast, with the exception of Leo. There are a lot of ‘meh’ performances in this film. In fact, some performances boarder between ‘meh’ and just plain bad. This was the first film I'd ever seen Tom Hardy in and I really wasn’t impressed. Marion Cotillard, who I absolutely love as an actress, makes me cringe in this movie; she leaves all the hard work of selling their characters' experience in Limbo to Leo. If the hotel fight scene didn’t exist I would have found Joseph Gordon-Levitt forgettable in this film. Ken Watanabe is just bad.

All of this surprised me because Nolan’s track record suggests that there aren’t many better directors out there who can handle ensemble casts of this stature. What went wrong?

What I find most depressing about this film is the pace. I am not an impatient man; Once Upon A Time in America is close to 4 hours and I love it to bits.

The pacing in Inception is all wrong and, I’m afraid, that was Nolan’s job. Huge chunks of this film feel lethargic, especially when the dream concept is being explained.

Again, apart from the opening scenes and part of the hotel scene, the action sequences haven’t aged well at all. I particularly find the snow covered final sequence to be boring and predictable. Again, Nolan is at fault here.

I don’t feel great writing this post because I hold Nolan in such high regard. I’m still fuming that Warner Brothers were not brave enough to employ Nolan as the director of the next Superman film. I also think Sony should abandon their adventure with Sam Mendes and hire Nolan to direct the next lot of Bond films.

But Inception doesn’t deserve the praise it gets. People talk about this film like it's a modern classic and to my mind, its not. Nolan over-indulged in this film and might have let his ego run away from him because he can and has done so much better than Inception.