Quick Flics: Reality Check?
By Ethan Gates '12, Staff Writer
As the most hotly-anticipated film of the summer, Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” had a unique strategy to deal with the absurdly high expectations heaped upon it by eager audiences and the media alike: unravel a plot so confusing that no one could tell whether the film was actually good or not. Not entirely sold on Nolan’s latest offering but desperate to avoid assault from rabid “Dark Knight” fans, most critics declared the film a masterpiece and hurriedly moved on to detailing exactly why “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was a piece of crap.

I’m only slightly kidding here. Like most of Nolan’s films, the convoluted crime caper demands an inordinate amount of time and attention (in the form of many, many viewings) to cut through the tricks-y narrative and decipher the director’s true purpose; time that many critics and viewers simply don’t have. So, where on the spectrum of Nolan’s work does “Inception” truly lie? Is it on par with “Memento” or “Following,” his sparkling, supremely witty and thoughtful time-bending dramas? Or is it more comparable to “The Prestige,” a beautiful, expertly- crafted piece of entertainment with ultimately little there?

My vote is for somewhere in the middle. Nolan is a marvelous storyteller — it is his firm grasp on how character and plot interact which allows him to consistently weave films of such engaging complexity. With “Inception,” he has taken one of cinema’s staple genres — the heist film — tacked on a bit of sci-fi, and challenged his audience to keep up as he pushes the limits of comprehension. While I don’t believe the web of the film’s logic holds up all that well under scrutiny, I give Nolan serious points for refusing to insult the audience’s intelligence, instead holding firm to his boldest, most daring vision yet.

So, when idea-thief Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his merry gang descend somewhere into the fourth or fifth dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream to perform their inception (the fantastical concept of planting an idea inside someone else’s mind, if you’ve somehow stayed in the dark this long), the film loses some of its credibility in claiming philosophical grandeur. But, even if “Inception” deserves most of the affectionate ribbing it has received on the Internet for its narrative absurdities, it can and should be praised on numerous other levels. The ensemble cast admirably keeps a straight face through all the slightly absurd mumbo-jumbo, with DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy worthy of being singled out for their aplomb. And the film is certainly a technical wonder, with any number of images that will burn themselves into your brain. If you’ve got the time, go see it; then see it again.

— Ethan Gates ’12

Issue 11, Submitted 2010-12-08 21:07:05