Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Just saw it, finally, nearly two months after it came out. Also, please read no further if you want to avoid SPOILERS.

That said, if you're still reading there's no major particular spoiler - this is no Sixth Sense or Crying Game - there's no absolutely major how-did-you-not-realize-this-the-entire-movie twist that hearing would ruin the movie - which I might have thought there would be based on the hush-hush attitude I got from people mentioning the movie when they learned I hadn't seen it.

For a movie that I had absolutely no idea what the plot really was before seeing it, other than it involved going into people's dreams, it's actually pretty simple to summarize - In a world where (cue Don Lafontaine voice over) people can enter other people's dreams and extract information from deep within the person's subconscious, a wealthy japanese businessman wants to hire someone to do the opposite - plant an idea within a person's dreams - a very difficult but not impossible proposition. He hires Leonardo DiCaprio, an expert in the art of extraction whose only dream is to go back to his kids in the US, which he had to flea due to his alleged murder of his wife, in exchange for making the charges against him go away, as only a shady powerful businessman can. Leo, whose own dreams are haunted by guilt that he caused his wife to commit suicide, assembles a crack team of dream-invasion experts with different skills (sort of an A-team of planting ideas into one's subconscious) and they get to work planning on creating an idea in the head of Cillian Murphy, a dying energy leader's son, to get him to break up the company that will soon be his. To do this, they'll have to dig deeper within dreams than ever before - going recursive - a dream, within a dream, within a dream - and find off a number of militarized projections within Murphy's brain - he's been taught by other dream invaders how to protect his brain in case of attack. To be able to know when they're in a dream or reality, which can get quite confusing with all these recursive dreams, each dream invader is taught to carry around a totem - an item which lets them know if they're in a dream or not - Leo's is a top which continues spinning forever in a dream, but falls down in reality.

It's an innovative idea - the theme of what's dream and what's reality that pervades the movie is a rare combination of thought-provoking an action packed - a combination that Christopher Nolan has become maybe the undisputed king of after churning them out (both Batman movies, Prestige, Memento). The unquestionably long film (a solid two and a half hours) moves briskly - it didn't drag, which was certainly appreciated. The notion of the totems were one of my favorite points in the film - a solid connotation of an otherwise tricky difference between dream and reality - and I found myself by the end of the film trying to figure out when Leo spun his top, and when it fell down to make sure what was real.

There was a kind of throwaway scene when Leo was off collecting members of his team and found his chemist - the man responsible for putting everyone into such a sedate state that they could safely

There was a lot of technical dream talk - what was possible in a dream and what wasn't, what each member needed to do to ensure the dream invasion went smoothly, and some bits about some magically dream limbo - that didn't seem to necessarily make a whole lot of sense even relative to each other when given some thought - but I honestly had no problem with that - it was a case of necessarily acceptance of crazy ideas to let the movie take you where it wanted to go, and most of the specific rules in terms of dream invasion weren't particularly what the movie was about, except in terms of generating action scenes - it would have been a lot more boring if there was no resistance in Murphy's brain to the planting of the idea.

The worst part of the movie was by far the obvious and contrived ending - the team has just about pulled off the impossible mission, except for the loss of their wealthy businessman employer who has died within the dream sending him into some sort of dream limbo (normally dying wakes you up - but not when you're so sedated as they need to be to enter third order dreams - sure,whatever). Leo doesn't go back to the real world with the others in order to save the businessman - without him alive, he won't be able to get back to his kids - the only real point of doing this all, to him. Leo then appears to save the businessman's life in the dream - and kicks them back to reality - unnecessarily repeating a scene which was also the first scene in the movie in the process - only to discover that after he gets home to Michael Caine (either his father, or more likely his father-in-law who gets about three minutes of screen time) and his kid, his top keeps spinning after all - he never did make it out of that dream (Dreams more real than reality? What? Mirroring his wife's being convinced that the dream they were both stuck in was also real? Impossible!). I basically spent the last half hour hoping that, please, it wasn't just his dream after all. I would have been fine if that top had fallen and he made it home, or even if he died, or was in limbo, or, honestly whatever the fuck - anything but that - it was a serious cop out and minor M. Night Shyamalan move to an otherwise interesting and sensible film.

Overall, it was a very solid movie, and for the most part, worthy of the hype - a fine summer blockbuster, without necessarily being a seriously great movie. As mentioned before, it was unexpectedly straightforward - not necessarily a bad thing - but I actually might not have minded if there was a little more layering and mystery. Still, that's not really to complain, behind the asinine it was very solid.

No comments: