I finally get a feeling of how exciting it would be to be living when Stanley Kubrick was belting out his would-be classics. Of all the terrific directors' movies I've chanced upon, Christopher Nolan's probably the only one who comes as close to Kubrick's genius as possible. If The Prestige and Dark Knight weren't proof enough, we have Inception. Though I'm a bigger fan of the Coen brothers than of Nolan, after Inception, it's a no brainer as to who's better.
But here's the problem with Inception. While I willingly appreciate the way the idea was handled, I also I rue the fact that the idea was even handled. Let me explain.
Nolan has evolved with his movies, none of which was a simple write-and-shoot-for-the-money kinda movie.
Starting with Doodlebug, his movies have always had that superbly layered sub-text under it. Even Following, which apart from being a brilliant heist movie had noir shades to it, had that. In Inception, Nolan's given us the biggest glimpse into his mind (so far?). While I plainly love the concept, I am also frightened that this might be the biggest idea in his head. Inception might just be that masterpiece from Nolan - like Kubrick's 2001:A space odyssey or Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - very sadly, there can only be one such masterpiece. Which brings me to my point that I'd be immensely surprised to see something "better" coming from Nolan. While I want that to happen, I just don't see it happening. Before you start dismissing this, let me substantiate.
Shocking though this might sound, the idea for Inception seems to have been taken, or inspired, from a couple of episodes in Futurama. In that episode, the protagonist's (Fry's) mind is seeded with an advertisement for undergarments as soon as he runs out of his last clean pair. In another episode, Fry is taken back in time, in his dream of course, by some evil forces in order to gain a particular bit of information from him. Sounds similar? While these ideas were handled quite comically by the ever-funny Matt Groening, Inception had taken this to a whole new tangent with its sheerly brilliant screenplay.
In Inception, we're taken into a world where dreams can be accessed as easily as your bank account. Nolan gives us no timeline and no dateline and he doesn't tell us how the machine used to access the dreams work. Thanks Mr Nolan for that. To put this movie under a specific genre would be quite hard. In paper, it is heist, with a team coming together to perform an activity, much like a bank robbery. Then we have the unmistakable noir traits. Then come the sci-fi aspect.
Inception is a mix of many ideas into one. While Nolan could've made ten different movies out of the ideas he used for Inception, he chose to culminate them into just one film.
The aspect of designing the dreams, the need for an architect, is where Ellen Page comes in. Contrary to popular opinions, Page's character is probably the most important one in the movie, even more than Leonardo Di Caprio's. The initial scenes where Di Caprio explains to Page the ways the dream architecture works, he gives her the first insight into his own head.
Clearly one of the best scenes in the movie is where Page creates the glass walls and turns them towards Di Caprio to show him the layers in his own mind, to show that he is in fact, as confusing as any other human. This was essential, as he was a closed book and he needed to come to terms with the fact that Page had the power to reach inside of him. His reaction plainly shows that he didn't quite expect this from her. This whole sequence, unmistakably, is a reference to Nolan's earlier work, Doodlebug.
In the line of movies that explore the possibility of an alternate reality, Inception follows Shutter Island. Strangely, Di Caprio stars in both. I wouldn't be surprised if he comes up with his own movie on this theme!
More references flow out throughout the movie. The 'paradox' staircase is plainly lifted from Escher's painting, which, incidentally, is his take on Einstein's theory of relativity.
The much debated 'kick' in the movie is a real-life phenomenon that every one of us (well, those who sleep at least) experiences. It's the mind waking itself up, in case that initial burst of sleep was accidental. That of course, helps when you sleep, behind the wheel for example.
The dialogues were a disappointment, at least in some places. The characters kept asking the obvious questions to Di Caprio when they were confused, Ellen Page especially, and he was giving them such cliched answers. The answers weren't loaded and it was quite direct, which is such a waste of sound waves.
These are but very few references. And this is again why I think Nolan's beginning to run out of ideas. I sincerely hope he doesn't because he's one of the more exciting directors of our times. Scorsese, sadly, is a bit past his prime, and there's only so much about James Cameron you can like. Somehow, strangely, Clint Eastwood is still churning out some excellent stuff (Grand Turino is better than some of his earlier works) and then there's Guy Ritchie, who also, is running out of themes. The Coen Brothers, who make some of the best mind-fcuk movies, (some even better than Gilliam I suppose) are way cooler than Nolan. But Nolan gets the prize just because he's more popular and frankly, quite brilliant.
But despite all this, I love the movie. Just for the sheer guts the man had making something of this scale. The number of theories doing the rounds online based solely on the final shot is a testimony to his creation. Nolan's unleashed a beast of a movie. It left me thinking a great deal and the volume of deconstruction required for this movie by itself is mind blowing.