This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Dennis’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
So, this is probably gonna take a minute…or two!
First off, I like the film. I really do! I appreciate a lot about it and a lot of the ideas in it. To be precise I’m talking about the world building ideas and not the thematic ones. But first things first! During the first half of 2010 there was no movie-release I longed for more, than the one of Chrissy Nolans upcoming sci-fi actioner. I devoured the trailers, watched them again and again and hyped myself into oblivion. I was so sure that this was going to blow my mind. This was the magnum opus I already declared it to be. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. When I sat down on opening day and the film started, I was expecting a masterpiece. *add in thinkpiece about expectations*
I did not get my masterpiece! Instead I got a film that “just” entertained me. A film that was neat but left me somewhat unsure of my opinion. There was nothing obviously bad about it. At least nothing I could make out. But I wasn’t blown away. My mind was still intact and my cinematic world had not been turned upside down. Did I do something wrong?
Since then I have revisited this film a couple of times. Each viewing expecting (not hoping!) to maybe like it a little bit more. To see something I missed before or just didn’t get/connect with. That did not happen. There are a few movies I’m kind of obsessed with. Movies I like but don’t love. Movies I think I should love but don’t. Inception is one of them.
There is of course a lot to like about it. The world-building is neat and keeps you invested. Especially for the first time. Sure, a good amount of it is simply exposition thrown at the audience but I think it works very well. I may be one of the few people who like the first half of Inception better than the latter. The whole world introduction and -building is just very entertaining to me. It should be a testament for Chris Noland (who I like but don’t love #importantnote) to put so many ideas in one movie. There is a tendency to take this film apart but I have zero patience for nitpickers so those guys can fuck right off! (sry for swearing! won’t do it again). Anyway, a big summer blockbuster with that much cool stuff in it; that’s something you have to appreciate on some level, right? Right?
This is also the film where Nolan showed off his love for Bond films, some of the films greatest strength I’d argue! The trip to Mombasa aka exotic places, ski-action, the “lose your trail”-scene, secret agent shit etc. It’s the Bond-esque, adventurous stuff that makes for a very thrilling experience. I only wish that the magnificent opening scene from the tedious The Dark Knight Rises (an homage/stolen from “License to Kill”) could have been in here.
I like the cast and all the supporting players. Hardy especially is fun as hell. The moment where he demonstrates the kick by tipping JGL’s chair might be my favorite moment in the film. Nolan, much like Tarantino, likes to cast some old faces who don’t get as much work nowadays as they used to. Seeing Tom Berenger again was therefore a real pleasure and I appreciate Nolan for continuing with his casting choices.
Now, we come to the nitty-gritty. The parts that don’t work well or bother me in some respect. Allright, I’ll just say it: I don’t like the action. I’m a big action guy (probably my favorite genre) but Nolan is not good at staging it. There is not much impact, the geography is all over the place and it’s not as gripping as some his screenplays. There are cool ideas within those scenes but they give me no visceral reaction at all. He is good with spectacle but not as well versed when it comes to gunfights or car chases.
Which brings us the emotional core of the film. DiCaprio’s relationship with his dead wife. This probably looks good on the page. One could argue that it’s the emotional crux of the film: It serves as a genuine suspense element during the dream as well as the one thing our main protagonist is haunted by and needs to overcome at the end. For me, this would have been so much better if only hinted at. Cut all stuff out. Let some of it shine through as subtext but erase those scenes. Most of it is explained anyway because Mal is already dead at the beginning of the film and therefore lacks any emotional impact. I hope I’m not being misunderstood here. I’m not advocating to dumb films down and erase emotional arcs. I’m just saying that THIS film would have been better off without all that literal (!) emotional baggage. Especially the end drags quite a bit because of that. It’s about 20 minutes too long. The limbo stuff bores me to be honest because it distracts me from the real emotional finale: Scarecrowe opening that safe. This could have been a much tighter experience without completely abandoning the “I inceptioned my wife”-plot. It’s juuust a little too much. Nolan wanted to have his cake, eat it too and then some. But that’s his thing. With everything: aim high!
I hope you remember when I said something about my expatiations at the beginning?! Since my somewhat initial disappointment with Inception I’m much more careful now. Sure I still get excited for films and let myself manipulate by beautifully cut trailers but I’m much more aware of the hype machine that is called my movie loving heart. I try to contain my excitement but of course, it doesn’t work as well as I want it to. For most of you this lesson may be as obvious as Donald Trumps’ hairpiece but for me it was a great experience concerning expatiations and how to manage them.
Oh, and I promised I would not swear again. I lied! FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK. Okay, bye!