Movie Dictator Club: Inception (2010)

The Movie Dictator Club for the month of February, 2011 is a dream within a dream within a bad movie!

Written By: Christopher Nolan
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

I love watching movies, that should be pretty darn obvious based on the existence of this blog. Christopher Nolan loves to make movies, that should be obvious based on the existence of the films he has made. It would be nice for my sanity if I lived in a world where I understood what the big deal is about Mr. Nolan’s movies. But, I don’t, I live in a world where I am constantly perplexed at the amount of praise his less than competent films receive. And just so we are clear, that is not hyperbole on my part, I have held this opinion of Mr. Nolan’s abilities as a filmmaker for quite some time. Each new film of his is regaled as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Each and every time I watch said film hoping this will be the time I see the light. And lo and behold every single darn time I come away even more convinced that Mr. Nolan is a very sub-par director. Inception didn’t turn out any differently, and yet I know I will watch his future films whenever I get around to them, because I always hope for a film to be good. The works of Mr. Nolan are no exception.

After that opening paragraph I’m going to throw you for a loop and say some good things about Inception. I loved the score, it really grew on me. At first I found it overbearing and much like the directorial style of Mr. Nolan I thought it was trying to be important. But, the more I listened to it the more I really loved what I was hearing. Hans Zimmer has always been hit and miss with me as a composer. With Inception he was very much hit, unlike the narrative of the film his music continually builds. When I was drawn into the movie it was usually as a result of Mr. Zimmer’s score.

Hold your horses folks, I’m not done saying good things about Inception. Three actors were able to move past a rather bland and uninspired script from Mr. Nolan. Those three actors were Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy. I usually expect good things from the first two gentleman, but this was my first experience with Mr. Hardy and I was more than pleasantly surprised. In a movie that is so cold and detached from any sort of human emotion that it could bring new meaning to the term frigid those three men manage to bring some life to their characters. While Leonardo DiCaprio was busy being Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page was busy smirking at the camera or just looking lost they attempted to give life to what should have been soulless characters. Those three men overcame the writing for the most part, and I honestly enjoyed watching the three of them perform in Inception.

What I liked about Inception was not enough to overcome its massive flaws. The most glaring of which is how laden with exposition the movie is. The exposition takes up such a large chunk of the film that if you removed it you would be left with about an hour long film. The entire middle section is scene after scene of exposition. Contrary to popular belief most of it was not needed. Even if people feel it was needed then that speaks to a deficiency in storytelling that massive amounts of exposition were needed to make sense of the story. However, the exposition is at its worst when it is stacked up against the idea of narrative flow. Inception is the most disjointed film that Mr. Nolan has ever put forth. This film carries no momentum whatsoever, and anytime it begins to build momentum you can count on some clunky exposition coming to ruin that momentum.

The film is also lacking when it comes to action, or more to the point how Mr. Nolan pits his action scenes together. At times I thought he was beginning to grasp the importance of time and place within an action scene. Then I was hit with the snow battle scene and I realized I was deluding myself. The way Mr. Nolan films that scene it is very hard to tell who is who. It’s just as hard to figure out where the action is taking place, or what the result of a particular action set piece is. It’s doubly problematic that this particular piece of action takes place in one of the few moments in the film where it feels like something is truly at stake with these characters. Instead the entire sequence is a confusing mess, and Mr. Nolan lost a chance to make his action scene mean something.

There are a lot of other problems to be found in Inception. I could go into the way the film feels like a cheap imitation of such films as Dark City, The Matrix and A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Yes, you read that last movie right, Inception tries to imitate the third entry in a horror franchise and can’t better the material it is imitating. That’s all I want in those instances really, I don’t need originality. All I ask for is that a film try to do something with the material it is borrowing from, but Inception is very bland and stagnant in that regard. Anyways, moving on, Inception just wasn’t the movie for me I suppose. Inception is a film that lacks any sort of heart, there’s a level of unintended detachment at play in this film that immediately caused me to recoil from the film. I’m always happy for a dictation, and I’m always willing to give a film a chance. In the case of Inception it’s another chance that didn’t pan out and an experience that feels all too much like a bad dream.




12 responses to “Movie Dictator Club: Inception (2010)

  1. Good review Bill. It’s interesting to read a negative perspective on a film loved by so many. I for one really enjoyed it.

  2. At least you were fair. I don’t agree with you about the film but you had some good insights. At least you liked a few things about it.

  3. I’ve seen the movie a few times, and to me the setup, or exposition as most call it, feels very much in tone with the 30-40 minutes required to plan heists in heist film. Just as in many heist films where something happens to send the perfect plan into a shitstorm, in ‘Inception’ the rules are broken because of Cobb’s selfish tampering.

    Agreed that the snow set piece is not very good, but did that one alone detract from all the other action sequences?

  4. Dan – Thanks for the feedback.

    Steven – Thanks

    Edgar – I don’t know Edgar, most good heist movies spend a little time on exposition, but not the majority of the film, as was the case with Inception. I became really bored during the middle when the film just wouldn’t stop telling me what was going to happen.

    I found the other action pieces pretty ordinary, and the hallway fight scene that everyone else loved was reminiscent of too many Asian martial arts fight scenes for it to make the same impact on me.

  5. I agree that this film has way too much exposition. Upon several rewatches, it’s grown less and less in my opinion. Still, I like it overall and it’s one of the better Nolan films I’ve seen.

    And yea, except for the hallway sequence, the action setpieces really are lackluster.

    This film ain’t got nothing on Dream Warriors!

  6. Like many, I will disagree with your assessment of this film, but I can’t disagree with exactly why you dislike it.

    I tell my students that the goal of a good review/evaluation is not to get people to agree with you, but to fully explain why your opinion is what it is and why. I don’t agree with you here, but I understand your reasons for why you think the way you do. Your reasons make sense. You’re fair–and that’s all I can ask.

    Well done, sir.

  7. Thank you so much for writing this review! I enjoyed watching Inception very much for the music and special effects, but I kept thinking back to it and thinking that something was off, but I just couldn’t figure out what – my brain being as ineloquent as it is. Then I read your review and you just nailed everything that was wrong with it. I wish I could have put together all the pieces the way you did in your review…. I would have had a way easier time explaining to my friends why I didn’t think it was THE BEST MOVIE EVER if I could have put together a more cohesive sentence than “I don’t know… there was something about it that just… It’s hard to explain”.

    So thanks, great review, keep up the good work.

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  9. James – Dream Warriors for the win, indeed!

    Steve – Thanks for the feedback.

    Jeannie – Thanks for all the kind words.

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