Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is Inception the Movie of the Decade?

By Tom Kando

The new movie Inception is the talk of the town. It gets rave reviews. Richard Roeper gives it an A+. Others put it on a par with Blade Runner and 2001.

First the synopsis: The movie is about dream inception, i.e. the implanting of ideas into someone else’s mind, so as to make him do something you want him to do. Leonardo DiCaprio accepts the job of “incepting” (implanting) the mind of a rival Japanese businessman. The team of inceptors and the target recipient must all be hooked up together electronically so they can make the recipient do what they want.

But here are just a few of the challenges:

1) The target recipient is actually the son of the rival tycoon. It is this son who will have to dismantle his father’s (evil) monopolistic empire, and he must somehow be convinced that this is a good thing to do.

2) Dreamers do not control their subconscious. Once the collective and interactive dreaming gets under way, all sorts of horrible, out-of-control characters and events can pop up. Leonardo DiCaprio, the “dream team” leader, is plagued by guilt for his beloved wife’s death. Coming out of Leonardo’s subconscious guilt, his dead wife aims at sabotaging the operation. In the end, he will have no other choice but to kill his dream wife.

3) The inception into Fischer’s mind requires building dreams within dreams. Eventually, the team goes through four such ever deeper dream levels, each nested in the previous one.

4) Dying in a dream is okay, because that just wakes you up. But in an emergency there has to be a kick. Coming back to reality together and not leaving anyone behind in what is called “limbo” requires the synchronization of the “kicks,” which is nightmarishly complicated.

5) Time slows down factorially each time that you move from one dream into the dream within it. In the first-level dream, the team is in a van which crashes and falls from a bridge into New York’s East River. This takes, say, 20 seconds. In the second-level dream within this dream, the team manipulates Fisher in a fancy New York hotel. For this they have 20 minutes or so. This requires entering into a third-level dream, in which the team has several hours to achieve its objectives.

So the plot is dynamite. It’s tight, complex, sophisticated, creative. But there is a problem with the execution. The movie goes on for another hour and a half. As the protagonists descend from one dream level to the next, things become a bit tedious.

Tedious, not because of the complexity, but because of reliance, as almost always in Hollywood in the age of the computer, on (1) special effects, (2) car chases, (3) explosions and (4) gun battles. When the dream team spent 10 or 15 minutes blowing up a mountain redoubt in the snow, I got bored. Sorry. James Bond did it better.

True, many scenes are spectacular and on-location. Tokyo, Paris, Mombasa, glacial peaks. But in the end, there were just too many explosions, too many shoot-outs, too many deja-vus.
Take for example the 1984 movie Dreamscape (with Dennis Quaid), an earlier film about infiltrating other people’s dreams. Less ambitious, fewer special effects, no explosions and shoot-outs, but fun.

I won’t reveal the end of Inception. It’s satisfying and not too surprising. All in all, the Professor gives the first half of this film an A, the second half a B- , and overall a B+. leave comment here