Is this a mind-blowing marvel or a Memento revival?
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cottilard, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy
Genre: Sci-fi Action Drama
Memento is not the last. We have an even more confusing film – Inception. None could actually realize the movie was in In Media Res mode. But, it certainly needs to be watched a second time or maybe, even a third time. I believe that Inception is a commercial sci-fi entertainer despite all those dark moments. Nolan tries his best to mix both, but inadvertently fails to do so.
Stuck in film-noir mode, Nolan’s dark sentimentality may seem classical to naive filmgoers. But the way his clichés manipulate viewers’ perception of the world and human behavior is merely timely, not profound. Inception manipulates the digital audience’s delectation for relentless subterfuge. Nolan’s CGI set pieces are all large-scale fight scenes, like Gordon-Levitt levitating/grappling with anonymous henchmen or Page and DiCaprio observing various apocalyptic destruction scenarios.
“I am the most skilled extractor,” Cobb announces. “I have to know your mind better than your wife or your therapist.” Mind rape, Nolan’s specialty, is a perfect conman’s scheme that involves undermining a mark’s confidence. As Cobb’s dream warriors battle inside the heads of industrialists, Nolan’s narrative goes from reality to dreams and then dreams within dreams. And then, there’s the master plan to plant an idea (inception). To do this, you go down three levels of dreams. The first involves a rainy day where the extractors are chased by bullets and SUVs. The second takes place in a hotel and the third takes place in an Alps-like mountain range where an old stone fort is located. Unknowingly, we slip into a fourth dream where Cobb encounters his wife for the last time and it is of strange nature that we don’t really realize we’ve slipped into more dreams as we reach the end credits.
On a positive note, Inception is one of the first movies to interact with the audiences. You are cast along Cobb, Saito, Arthur, Ariadne, Eames and others on this seamless adventure. It is a rarity that a movie deceives you so much that you feel cheated in the end; a rarity that a movie goes on a straight line and then the thrill is applied and you finally come to your senses and realize: wait, it’s not over yet.
It is natural for filmmakers to grow up from their own movies. Truffaut, Tarantino, Reitman, everyone has been regarded to use a certain style or certain elements which they have used in their earlier films. George Clooney’s promiscuousness in Up in the Air was a distant reminder of Aaron Eckhart’s same nature in Thank You For Smoking. A 1957 short film, Les Mistons inspired Truffaut to create Antoine Doinel, the lead character of The 400 Blows. For Tarantino, Reservoir Dogs gave way to stylized violence in Pulp Fiction.
For Nolan, it is The Following that shaped him into observing darker tones of men and women of the civilization. The Following was just one of the many capitulated movies that could prove to be the creation of a heavy dosage of thinking. It is nowhere in sight that Memento could have been more immune to darker tones that we thought it would lead to the rise of psychological thrillers. I’m saying it again, Memento is not the last. Inception is a leaf taken out of Memento. Both movies deal with a guy savaged by a random memory of a shattered past which includes a dead wife. The protagonist just looks at them and tries to mend everything which has already been knit to fate. The protagonist tries to change the unchangeable and whether he succeeds or not, Nolan just loops it over and over. Inception deals with Cobb trying to protect his hallucinating wife in his head and keeping her safe although she is dead. In reality, Cobb is just trying to change the unchangeable.
Technically, DiCaprio is the right choice to play a tortured soul. As for the wife, who is a prisoner in his dreamland, Marion Cottilard is a charmer. Ellen Page plays that girl who interrupts when you’re in the middle of a rather emotional scene and says “I know what you did.” Instead of asking “What are you doing?” As for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he plays his role with enough charm.
The scene where the hotel lobby becomes a subject of gravity is probably one of the best scenes in the film. Horror of horrors is that Nolan draws you into his world and while Cobb is training his new recruit, Ariadne, Nolan indirectly is training us. Nolan devastatingly takes us into his world and sets us afloat.
Here’s a film which cannot be deterred by spoilers. It’s because of the movie begins the way it ends. Inception is a high-budgeted Memento with A-list stars and visual effects.