below is the unedited, correction appended version of the review published in MKJ and Farheen Jawaid’s column Animadversion in iMAGES on the 8th of August 2010
When Reality Bending, Keep the Rule Book Handy
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
"Never recreate places from your memory. Always imagine new places" says Dom Cobb, the leading mind–miner in Christopher "Dark Knight" Nolan’s "Inception". Cobb is a hypocrite. He’s also a distraught, conflict-ridden wreck; and he also sees dead people (in the form of wife Marion Cotillard). Just the way Leonardo DiCaprio likes to play his characters these days. But never mind that. "Inception" is about grander things than self-deprecating leading men. It is about purposely entering dreamscapes, evading gun-trotting consciousnesses, by–passing inscrutable physical laws and committing corporate espionage by a Mission: Impossible–like group wearing three-piece suits.
The dream thieves are called "Extractors" and the way everyone talks about it, it sounds like a perfected (shady) business. As writer and director, Nolan doesn’t go into technical specifics of the device used to put people in synchronized sleep. But as a tutor, he helps navigate the technicalities of dream–invasion with an apt stock character Ariadne (Ellen Page) – her name may, or may not be, a direct reference to the Greek mistress of the labyrinth who helped Theseus escape the Minotaur. Here, she has a somewhat similar job. She "architects" – shapes – dreams into working spaces for Cobb and co. to buffer through.
Enter other stock characters: Eames (Tom Hardy), Yusuf (Dileep Rao) and second-in-command Arthur – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who gets the spectacular zero–gravity/spinning corridor fight sequence (it reminded me of the Fred Astaire dance number "You’re All the World to Me" from Royal Wedding). Others in stock are Michael Caine and Tom Berenger.
Even as it fold’s cities over each other, crumbles gray–scaled buildings and bend’s multiple instances of time, Nolan’s dream–caper–flick sometimes feels like it has a stylized primer attached to a multi-layered screenplay with a basic story.
Film critic Roger Ebert nails it: "The story can either be told in a few sentences, or not told at all. Here is a movie immune to spoilers: If you knew how it ended, that would tell you nothing unless you knew how it got there. And telling you how it got there would produce bafflement".
How true. Still, the basics are this: Rather than pluck–out corporate secrets Saito (the always becharming Ken Watanabe) wants Cobb to infiltrate and imbed an "idea" in Robert Fischer’s (Cillian Murphy) mind (Fisher is a fleeceable business rival whose tycoon daddy (Pete Postlethwaite) is about to bite the big one).
"Inception" – the process of planting the idea – gets cries of "impossible" from the team, but Cobb believes it can be done. If one goes deep enough. To the layman, that means, going to sleep, and in that dream, enter another, fresh, dream, and so on. By the attention-grabbing, big-budget, co–occurring climax, I think I counted four.
Almost everyone is hailing Christopher Nolan as a visionary master, almost near the pantheon of great filmmakers (he still has a few more films to go). Notwithstanding the depth of originality, sophisticated complexity and solid filmmaking, Nolan’s dream worlds are too over–thought and logical to be dream–like. Often pure imagination takes backseat to rule–bound extravagance. It will, undoubtedly, get better with each viewing. Second. Third or Fifteenth.
(Tip: Just keep an eye out for the spin-cycles of Cobb’s top, and you’ll understand most of it).
Released by Warner Bros. "Inception" is rated PG-13. Like an addictive videogame, it plays you, tirelessly, during its 148 minute run.
By Farheen Jawaid
An inventive physiological puzzle that keeps its punches rolling and, we, as the viewer, should learn to roll with them in this bundle of surprises that is Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”.
Nolan as writer and director already has a fair share of well made psychological thrillers in his filmography (“Memento”, “Prestige” and “Dark Knight”). “Inception” is a classic example of the Nolan–brand: 1 – it has its conflicted hero; 2 – multiple characters threads move in perfect unison without getting tangled in each other and 3 – by the end of the movie we understand what has been going on, even if its seems bizarre while running.
The “extractors” are the new weapon in the corporate espionage artillery. Their weapon of choice is a high dosage of sedatives that sends their target to sleep. In the dream state (in a Matrix–like way) they steal ideas out of a person’s mind. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an extraction expert, steered by corporate mogul – Saito (Ken Watanabe) – to imbed an idea in the mind of his business rival (Cillian Murphy).
“Inception” is a complex mind game at one hand. On the other, it’s a straightforward heist movie on the canvas of multiple layers. What makes it enjoyable is a well defined script that explains everything before any complex dream delving starts.
In fact, it is so well defined and so logical that it bothers me. “Inception” didn’t blow me away. Neither did it leave me cold as most blockbusters do. “Inception” makes you flex your brain muscles. Something that more blockbusters should do.
The published version can be found at: