Last week saw the release of The Last Airbender, which has since become one of the worst-rated movies in recent memory. At the other end of the spectrum lies Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which won’t be in theaters until July 16 but has already racked up some extremely positive reviews.
Inception is a masterpiece. Making a huge film with big ambitions, Christopher Nolan never missteps and manages to create a movie that, at times, feels like a miracle. And sometimes it doesn’t even feel like a movie; while presented in woefully retro 2D, Inception creates a complete sense of immersion in another world. The screen before you is just another layer of the dream.
I don’t even know what’s the most remarkable aspect of Inception. It’s huge-budget filmmaking harnessed to tell a personal story that’s smart and uncompromising. That’s certainly remarkable in this age of Hollywood. It’s a production that brought its cameras to six countries, never allowing a backlot to do when a shot could be achieved in a real location. That’s starting to feel unheard of in this day and age. It’s a movie where Christopher Nolan manages to bring together all of his obsessions and quirks, where his personal issues are the life and death issues at the center of the story, and where he has managed to turn every single one of his directorial weaknesses into massive strengths. That, perhaps, is the truest miracle — the auteur finally completed before our eyes.
Inception is Christopher Nolan’s reward for a commercial assignment profitably executed: the opportunity to realize on a grand scale an idea that has intrigued him for the better part of a decade. In the studio tit-for-tat equation, this is the “one for me”. It’s the reason you start making movies in the first place. It’s Lawrence Of Arabia. Apocalypse Now. Gangs Of New York. It’s the the movie you stake your career on. It’s the movie you make now.
…What’s most exciting about Inception is that it finds Nolan peaking as a visual artist; he’s using the extravagantly cinematic tropes of other genres to connect with the viewer intellectually. With Inception, Nolan joins the company of Coppola, Lean and not too many others as a filmmaker who treats the big canvas with the respect it deserves — but with the steely verve of a chess player who can see dozens of moves ahead.
Pure cinema at its best feels like dreaming with your eyes wide open. Cinema doesn’t get much purer than Inception.
Following up on such ingenious and intriguing films as The Dark Knight and Memento, Nolan has outdone himself. Inception puts him not only at the top of the heap of sci-fi all-stars, but it also should put this Warner Bros. release near or at the top of the summer movies. It’s very hard to see how a film that plays so winningly to so many demographics would not be a worldwide hit.
As much as I want to describe in meticulous detail the ways upon ways that I loved Christopher Nolan’s Inception, there’s a part of me that almost wants you to not read this until you’ve seen the film itself. Not unlike Warner Brothers’ marketing campaign has suggested, it’s a film that benefits from knowing as little as possible about it before seeing it, because its individual twists and turns are almost as exciting to discover as their cumulative visceral, intellectual and emotional impact. In which case, I will do my best for those continuing to read further to avoid too many spoilers or specifics in the service of proclaiming Inception a stunning achievement and the most completely entertaining film I’ve seen in years.
You can find a more complete list of raves over at Hollywood Elsewhere.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.