BAM Best Picture Profile: Inception (2010)


After my series of posts on Django Unchained which began with a translation and then spawned my own posts I wanted to have posts for all my Best Picture winners. Therefore, I decided to revisit those I’ve not written about here.

NOTE: 2009’s Best Picture Where the Wild Things Are was reviewed here, therefore skipped in this retrospective.

Inception (2010)

One theme that I can’t help but notice in my Best Picture winners is that in quite a few of them there’s been a sense of anticipation. Now, on the flip side there will be just as many, I wager, that took me completely by surprise, but quite a few I saw coming ahead of time.

On the Site That Must Not Be Named, in part because there was an impetus there to write about breaking news, I wrote a piece about Inception prior to its release.

Christopher Nolan’s upcoming movie Inception seems like it might be another mind-bender in very much the same vein, perhaps, of Memento and The Prestige but to the nth degree. It is described by its logline as: ““a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind.” The plot is still rumored at this point and is under a cloud of quasi-Spielbergian secrecy. There are clues to it complexity though, as Nolan has been quoted as saying that it is “the biggest challenge” he has faced.

The cast is not only studded with stars but with talent featuring the likes of: Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine and stars Leonardo DiCaprio who has the most telling quote about the film’s complexity saying in the Inquirer:

“The material and its complexity are what I’m attracted to…I’ve been lucky to work with people who want to tell stories that hit on different cylinders simultaneously. ‘Shutter Island’ is definitely that. ‘Inception’ is the same. It is Chris delving into dream psychoanalysis and, at the same time, making a high-octane, surreal film that came from his mind. He wrote the entire thing and it all made sense to him. It didn’t make sense to many of us when we were doing it. We had to do a lot of detective work (laughing) to figure out what the movie was about.”

Sounds like it should be one of the more intriguing summer releases and perhaps even more apropos for the fall.

One thing that that piece doesn’t mention is something that could only be realized when the film was released, and something that was only hammered home when I read the published version of the screenplay: in the introduction Christopher Nolan discussed how he wanted to do a film about dreams but what he needed was a recognizable mechanism to convey the story and make it accessible. So what he ended up finding was a heist film model. And the heist scene is one of my favorite parts no doubt, even though some of the parts fall into that new-age that’s-not-a-plothole style dialogue.

One thing that really impressed me was how small a film, how much less impressive this film was on blu-ray when I revisited it. It surely is a meant-to-be viewed on the big screen experience. In the end my thoughts from 2010 have not changed much in hindsight.

You will rarely if ever see such an audacious combination of high concept and highbrow. Typically, a film dealing in dreams is too busy being aloof to tell a coherent much less have an intelligent storyline. Nolan’s film is not, in my mind, overly-concerned with trying to confound quite on the contrary one of the few negatives you could say about it is that it is very concerned with making sure the audience is still holding on tight almost as if the subtext of certain lines of dialogue is “Are you still with me here?”

Yet it manages to impart its information in a way that is not overly-expository, we never learn what’s eating at Cobb all at once. In fact, we don’t know there is anything for some time. An important point is danced around in one scene and cleverly revealed later. A character unaccustomed to the world of dream espionage is the vessel through which we learn.

Inception takes a wild vision of the future and makes it seem mundane and doesn’t make a spectacle of itself but slowly builds a world and a narrative. It’s a blur slowly coming into focus and with each ratchet towards clarity more and more meaning can be inferred. It is a grandiose tale told in the intimacy of the psyche of its characters. It’s a tale that reduces large concepts into characters that dresses as a heist film only to shed that skin and reveal something even more appealing.

Yet through all its brashness, pomp and circumstance there is a deft hand at the controls of this tale too. It is a film that does hint at larger meanings that travels through the catacombs of the mind and makes you consider if you are reminded of someone… a man you met in a half-remembered dream.