Given Christopher Nolan’s solid treatment of The Dark Knight, one might think that his artistic intent could translate into something bold and original. That certainly seems to have been the intention behind Inception, and the mainstream critics ate up the hype even as they were building it up. Of course, I’m always sceptical of films that got a lot of hype. Even when I was 16 and Inception was new, I got the feeling that they were overselling it, and watching the film again I felt I was right. Overhyped, overrated, and astoundingly pretentious, Inception is a textbook example of a film that got a lot of hype when it was new, did well in the box office, but when the hype was over nobody cared, probably because Inception wasn’t very good in the first place.
The story is perhaps the most immediate gripe I have with the film, but before I go into why, I’ll try and explain it. The premise revolves around a Dominick Cobb, a professional thief who steals people’s information by infiltrating their dreams (the film tries to explain it, but does a poor job of it). His job involves projecting himself into people’s minds, and by doing so, he can obtain information that even the most skilled computer hackers can’t. When Cobb fails an assignment, he is offered the chance to have his criminal history erased as payment for a task that seems impossible – planting a new idea into a target’s mind. Cobb and his crew have everything they need to carry out the task, but the only thing complicating matters is a projection of Cobb’s dead wife, emerging from his subconscious.
That’s about a simple as I can describe a plot as insanely muddled as Inception’s plot is. I remembering hearing that the film’s plot is so complicated that you can’t even take a bathroom break if you want to understand what’s going on. I’m sure that sounds exaggerated, but the film certainly has an extremely complicated plot. It’s the kind of film that tries to sound intelligent, but just because the premise of a film is ludicrously complicated doesn’t make a film intelligent. In fact, much of the film’s 148-minute length is spent explaining the film. I would argue that any film that has to spend much of its runtime explaining itself is hardly intelligent. To be fair, I think the film could have implemented its ideas well had Christopher Nolan stuck with his plan to make it as a horror film about dream thieves. The film’s cerebral ideas find themselves wasted in a heist film, and a very pretentious one too.
Believe it or not, the film’s ensemble cast isn’t that effective. The performances weren’t bad, but I wasn’t very impressed, mainly because I see it as typical Hollywood overacting. Leonardo diCaprio is perhaps the most obvious example. Throughout his career diCaprio has depended his looks for success, and I’m pretty sure the same applies here because diCaprio isn’t a very convincing actor. Maybe I’m just too much of a demanding viewer, or more likely, I simply don’t like him, but whatever the reason, I can’t find myself getting invested in his character, and maybe that’s because his character was never really likeable in the first place.
Of course, the film did have incredibly high production values on its side, and with its massive $160 million budget that’s understandable, but I find that the film looks and sounds inescapably hollow. Perhaps the only part of the film most people got (and the most heavily promoted scene) was the scene where part of a road folds. It is a rather impressive display of CGI, but the problem is that most of the film feels inorganic, perhaps because the film is loaded with CGI. Even some of the fight scenes were done with CGI. It almost feels like a glossier version of The Matrix, but loaded with explanations that make no sense no matter how hard Leonardo diCaprio tries to convince you of it.
Though not a completely terrible film, Inception is what happens when film directors get too full of themselves. They lose grasp of what makes sense on screen and the resulting film is very big, bloated and pompous. Of course, the more popular a director becomes, the more mainstream that director’s work becomes, and clearly Inception was Nolan’s attempt at a boldly avant-garde thriller film, but it winds up being such a painfully mainstream Hollywood film that its a mirror image of the very character of Hollywood, with its head stuck firmly up in the clouds.
- Score: 56%
- Grade: D