Home Movies Inception: Leonardo DiCaprio in Chris Nolan’s Brilliant Film

“Is it okay to like a film but not really understand it?”

That’s what someone asked yesterday after the afternoon screening of Chris Nolan‘s “Inception.”

The answer is yes, of course. And “Inception” is a movie you will have to see at least twice. It’s “Memento” meets Kubrick, and not easy to navigate under the best of circumstances. But this much is clear: “Inception,” which evolves at one point into three simultaneous films, is gorgeous, provocative, and mesmerizing. Does it make sense? Hard to say. Is it fascinating to watch? Definitely. You will leave the theater totally captivate and throttled by it.

First of all, it’s a film with a lot of inside jokes. Here are a couple: in the first 20 minutes, which are really nuts, Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Cobb propels out a window on a bungee cord and then repels up the side of the building. I am not sure whether this is intentional, but the whole sequence looks like it’s borrowed from the “Batman” TV series of the 1960s. Nolan, of course, directed the hit film, “Batman Begins.”

And: Marion Cotillard plays Leo’s dead wife in the movie. Cotillard also won an Oscar for playing Edith Piaf. In “Inception,” every time Joseph Gordon Levitt puts his Walkman or IPod on, it’s playing Piaf. Loudly.

The plot of “Inception” also involves something that looks like what Michael Jackson used to do with Propofol. Leo and co. knock people out with IV drugs, then explore their subconscious. It’s about dreams, and their layers. “Avatar” looks like it was made with Crayolas compared to the oil painting going on in “Inception.” Talk about 3D–the characters in “Inception” are constantly diving three dreams deep into consciousness to untangle their problems.

Early reviews of “Inception” called it genius. Then the backlash started, with some weekly reviewers ready to pounce all over it. I have to say, during the first 20 minute sequence, “Inception” requires more attention than any other film of the last 20 years. More even than “Memento,” Nolan’s masterwork. Like “Memento,” “Inception” is a puzzle, and needs time to ponder before solving. It gets so involved and complex that when Ellen Page asks DiCaprio for a plot recap–“Wait? Whose subconscious are going into?”–that the audience breaks out in a knowing laugh.

Set aside the plot, and the story for a minute: there is much glorious staging and cinematography here, it’s more than you can expect in any sci-fi thriller. The two best sequences: one in which Gordon-Levitt shepherds a bunch of sleeping characters through weightlessness is just mind blowing. And you will love it the first time DiCaprio shows Page how to manipulate the architecture of her dreams, and she turns a city block upside down.

I hope after Friday there’s lots of discussion here about “Inception.” Add it to a list with “Shutter Island” and “The Ghost Writer” for the best films so far of 2010. It’s also the only interesting film of this summer. Get set to leave your local theater rattled. But in a good way.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
12 replies to this post
  1. lol, Dicaprio is pretty cool in his latest movie. I wish I’d never seen Inception! It’s such a mind bending movie that I think it killed the chances for me to enjoy any other movie!

  2. I just saw Inception tonight and this is the first time I have ever had this response to a movie. It was BRILLIANT!!!! I would see it again not because I did not understand it the first time but because it was absolutely fantastic. I wish I could have called the director and the cast to tell them what a great job they all did.

  3. Well, I haven’t seen Shutter Island….but Inception sounds like the Matrix…it too was a movie I had to see 3-4 times because I enjoyed it….didn’t understand it the first time, but the 2nd time I did and then see it every chance I can. I hope Inception is the same way.

    As for best movies of the year: Joan Rivers, a Piece of Work is right up near the top.

  4. I cant wait to see it! It sounds like the best of The Dark Knight and Memento.

    I have to say though, Toy Story 3 is a very interesting film. One of the most amazing theater experiences I have had.

  5. “Add it to a list with “Shutter Island” and “The Ghost Writer” for the best films so far of 2010.”

    Roger, If Shutter Island is one of the best films of the year so far than that is pathetic.

    I also take it you haven’t see The Kids Are All Right which is better than all the movies you named.

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