Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Inception - Movie Review

Watched 'Inception', Chritopher Nolan's much acclaimed movie at Prasad's I max yesterday with old chums Choudary and Sanjay. The excitement began at the ticket counter itself where they posted a warning that the movie will run for 2 hours and 28 minutes of packed excitement and that too without a break (so reload yourselves with as many goodies as you can from the highly expensive stalls, and of course visit the loo). As we waited in the lunge, we tried to figure out everything from what 'Inception' means to what the movie is about, we built up enough tempo by the time the movie got underway. And, oh, the warning poster said 'Don't miss the beginning' so we scrambled in soon as they opened the gates and settled down.

I will now try to honestly put down what I understood of the movie and my thoughts of it as well. Firstly, I must congratulate Christopher Nolan for keeping us glued to the seat for the entire 2 hours 28 minutes in stunned silence, most of which I spent leaning forward as I tried to piece together what was unfolding  at a very fast pace. The scale of the thought, the scale of everything - from the sets to the music to the stunts to the acting to the breathtakingly pacy screenplay - was incredible as the movie weaved its way from reality to dreams to sub dreams to sub sub dreams in a crazy rollercoaster ride as a team of idea extractors try to plant a new idea into a guys head. I loved the fact that someone could think of such an idea, develop it into a story that can hold attention, develop that into a screenplay and film of such a scale and actually pull it off. There are no condescending apologies, no treating the audience like someone who may not understand - Nolan went ahead as if it would be the most natural thing for the audiences to figure out all that was happening in all these layers and levels and a stories within stories. I loved the premise, the audacity and the understanding that somehow the genius of the director would connect with the genius within the audience (at least some part would). And, Chistopher Nolan draws us into his dream very succesfully indeed. At least he drew me and that is saying much, because I like my stories simple and honest. Boy meets girl and falls in love is fine with me. Inception is not simple, but its honest.

Let me get to the movie the way I saw it. This chap Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) is an extractor who has the ability to extract thoughts from people's minds with the help of a suitcase like device. He seems to have made that a profession since he has a good team working on it for a while now. But what we don't know is that he has tinkered around with the process of going into thoughts - his own and others - that he has messed up a bit, notably with his meddlesome wife who keeps popping up as his projection in his dreams (not real obviously) and in the most awkward moments when he (and the audience) does not want her around. Turns out that the two have been building entire universes of their own, peppered with unpleasant memories of their childhood and youth (going by the houses they built). Anyway, Mr. Extractor is wanted for murder and cannot return to his home and his kids because he is facing a murder charge. And all he wants to do, this one last job that he wants to attempt, is to get home to his kids (real ones and not the many dream ones that keep appearing). One doubt that  I had was why he wants to get home to his real kids when he can happily live with them and whoever he wants in his dream. I am sure that must have been explained somewhere in the movie and I must have missed it.

The extractor (sure Nolan thought of that as an idea for the title but it sounds like a dentist) is tested by a tough, unshaven Japanese businessman to extract his thoughts. The Japanese businessman is kind of satisfied with the extractor's performance which has crashing and bombing and flooding! Though it all happens in their dream, the sets and action must have been real so it was awesome to watch. Anyway Mr. Japanese Businessman makes him an offer he cannot refuse, he will grant access to the USA which is home to Leonardo and his kids, if he can plant a simple idea in his biggest business rivals son's head to dissolve his businesses. (Question was how could this businessman do such stuff to the USA when Leonardo himself cannot?)

Now the rival businessman of the Japanese businessman is ready to die and the son is ready to inherit his properties. This is perfect time to mess with his already unsteady head (filled with father-son memories when they flew a paper plane together), if Cobb can plant the idea or do an 'inception'. Sounds very sexy and all that it is not, I assure you, this inception process. Cob loves the idea of going back home so he agrees. (I had another doubt here, if this business guy was so powerful, why couldn't he just buy over the business or something like that instead of relying on all these unreliable stuff and not know finally whether he is alive or dead or real or illusionary?)

Anyways, there is a reason now for the hero to attempt the untried and I did not let my petty thoughts spoil the movie for me. Cobb starts his mission by picking his team - a young female college student studying architecture with Michael Caine, an expert British forger who lives in Mombasa, an expert at chemicals or sedatives and Cobb's partner who handles crises very well indeed apart from fighting in zero gravity situations. The forger is funny and the partner is terrific in his stunts. Anyway, they figure that to plant the idea into businessman son's head they need to go into his dreams - three levels deep - a dream within a dream within a dream. At each level apparently, something like five minutes of real time translates to one hour dream time and multiples of that as one goes deeper and deeper. So an hour here could go to some hundreds of years two levels down in a dream or something like that. And sometime, someplace, somehow they must plant the idea in the son's head that it is a good idea to break up his father's business. For which we need to know whether the son likes his father and whether the father likes the son and whether anyone likes anyone at all and based on this premise we dive into dreams, suspicious Japanese businessman and all. But not before Ms. Nosy Parker Architect pokes her pretty nose into Mr. Cobb's private dreams and discovers that a constant feature in all his dreams is his meddling wife who is mucking up all his dreams and now the whole team's. So we need to figure out Mr. Messed Up Cobb's head as well as Businessman's son's head for the movie to end.

Anyway everyone dives in, on a ten hour flight from Japan to the USA, into one level (where they get shot by a whole bunch of guys and get run over by a freight train almost), and then to second level (in some hotel kind of a place where there is no gravity after some time and a million security guys who cannot shoot straight) and then the third level (in some really snowy place with an old building guarded by a bunch of  useless security guards who do not even scratch even one of these guys). By the time we are all gasping for breath to return from these serial dreams, Cobb and Ms. Nosy Parker architect delve into another level to figure out his story and end it hopefully. So while vans with dreamy people are falling over the bridge, while zero gravity fights are being fought while bundling out another bunch of dreamy extractors, while businessman's son figures out his father really had no time for him even to say his last words, worlds collapse, collide, break, smash, morph, change until no one really knows whether its a dream or reality. But one thing we know in the end, is that if the totem falls, it is reality and if it does not, it is a dream. The totem totters, the audience gushes. Is it a dream, is it reality? Aah! The dreams looked pretty good to me actually and seemed to have more drama.

I cannot hold myself back but I have two suggestions - one to the Japanese businessman and the other to Cobb. Firstly the Japanese businessman could have simply let loose a few management consultants on his rival and they would have planted not one crazy idea that does not make any sense but a hundred (only thing they may have been more expensive than making this movie). Secondly Cobb could have planted the idea in the Japanese businessman's head that he should let him go with free entry to the US when he had his chance or plant it in the immigration chaps head or something more direct like that. Again, I am sure that there is some explanation to why he does not so forgive my ignorance.
But seriously, everything about the movie is awesome. His attention to detail is unbelievable - he must have had backup research for everything he put forward in the movie - from guilt to forgiveness, futuristic architecture to dream state, sedation to gravity. And it certainly warrants another look to figure out things I missed the first time round. For people like me, I guess I will have to go to the theatre several times to get it right. Which means that this review may undergo a complete change by the time I have viewed it the next time. Only thing is, you won't catch me complaining. And Mr. Nolan, Bravo!

PS. One thing about the audiences at IMAX  is strange. They always clap at the end of the show. I don't know why they do it. Are these guys planted by the IMAX guys? Every movie I saw, there is a clapping brigade. Or have they seen a poster which says clapping is a must. Or do they get discounts.

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