Christopher Nolan,

The Establishing Shot: Inception Premiere & spoiler free review

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Claudio Simonetti's GOBLIN 21st Feb 2015 Barbican London "Another over hyped turn from a super talent watered down to please the bigger market demographic. I love Nolan’s visual style but his plots always under deliver, on their promise. With the addition of a fluffy leading man/child actor I’m dreading going into the cinema to see how an incredible concept is slowly deflated."

That was my 54 word response to Timeout when he asked what my least anticipated film of summer 2010 for inclusion in their bumper Summer Film Edition.

Since then I have learnt:
  1. I was wrong about Inception
  2. I was wrong about Leonardo DiCaprio
  3. Both the Caipirihnias and Mojitos at the Hampshire Bar are bloody delicious.
  4. Tom Hardy is going to absolutely rock the Mad Max reboot
I love the concepts behind Christopher Nolan’s films; they are fresh, challenging and always suggest depth. I also love his visuals styling - the guy is a master of making a cinematic image. His visuals speak in the language of Cinemascope & Technicolour. Clearly his technical film knowledge is par excellence. So why is it that none of his films have completely blown me away and I have felt that they are lacking something? The above skills should surely be enough for a skilled director to make a great film. Yet all his films tease me with a “this could have been an outstanding film” caress.

I enjoyed Batman Begins - but I suspect mainly because it was the first half decent interpretation of Batman on screen, it was also a great super hero film (Iron Man was still 3 years from release) and it also drew on Frank Miller’s Year One and Sam Hamm's expanded interpretation of Batman's origins. Which credibly filled in the missing years of Batman’s training.

For me the long winded and unfocused Dark Knight confirmed that Batman Begins was a bit of a fluke. Again the visuals were stunning and that scene where Heath Ledger is howling out the window of the police car that The Joker had just commandeered will always be one of my favourite scenes of all time

but as with his other films it was all style over hinted substance. That combined with Leonardo DiCaprio, who I think excels at style over substance was surely a double threat and no doubt Inception would be a huge success, but still a steaming pile of what could have been. Don’t get me wrong, growing up with a younger sister I have watched Leo DiCaprio since he was on Growing Pains
and seen almost every one of his films since. I like the characters he plays but I don’t expect much from them. I expect his performance to be very much in the soft and fluffy category. However there are exceptions to this. He was brilliant in What’s eating Gilbert Grape? And the bit of depth he showed in Scorsese’s The Departed lifted the film from the big budget, big cast but average film category. I also quite liked him in Catch Me If You Can which played to my expectations of him and loved The Quick and The Dead, which again cast him in the right role as a cocky young gunslinger. The issues I have with DiCaprio are 2 fold; he seems so much younger than he actually is, he just doesn’t come across as an adult for me. Granted this is my issue more than his. Secondly he just doesn’t seem to have the intensity that would lift his characters. For the whole of Shutter Island it felt like he was a student wearing his dad’s suit that had just checked into a mystery weekend holiday. Hence my expectations of Inception were understandably low. Even so I carefully avoided all Inception marketing, especially the trailers over the last months to minimise my awareness of the film’s plot and to ensure maximum enjoyment of the film. Reviews had started sprouting all over the place heaping praise on Inception. This doesn’t mean much I’ve seen countless crap films where reviewers misguidedly eager to be the first, or kowtow to their favourite Director/Star or marketing entity that would be needed to provide them with further preview screenings heralded the film (e.g. The Dark Knight) as this year’s masterpiece. Last Thursday I absconded to my favourite Leicester Square pre Premiere haunt and partook in an extended Hemingway like refreshment session. By the time I realized the film was about to start, I had missed most of the Red Carpet hullabaloo and crowd frenzy - security were already at the “get the punters in as quickly as possible stage of proceedings” - never pretty. I blurrily made my way into the cinema. Again those Mojitos are damn fine on a balmy summer day.
Then Inception starts.
I enjoyed, I enjoyed it a lot. I was wrong about Inception, I was wrong about DiCaprio or maybe I wasn’t wrong about him and this is the role that he becomes an adult for me. I’m unsure of what I enjoyed most about Inception or if like a puzzle the different pieces support the other bits to make a good whole – in no particular order I loved the Locations, all the locations are “exotic” and conjure up images of excitement and made the scope of the film so much bigger. The characters I don’t think there was one character I wasn’t interested or intrigued by, each character has individuality and intelligence that draws you to them. We learn very little about the back-story of most of the characters and usually this is seen as a weakness or poor character growth/development. But Inception is rich and textured that it is never an issue. One of the characters is used to drive some of the exposition but the dynamics of it are integral to the rest of the story so I wasn’t overtly aware of it as it was happening. I have to mention that the acting throughout Inception is great. Nolan striking that balance between screen time and character interest. It’s hard to finger out great acting as the standard is so high, but Joseph Gordon Levitt is a revelation, I now see why Leonardo DiCaprio is the huge star he is and Tom Hardy has undoubtedly locked down his forthcoming stardom with Inception and I can't wait for the Mad Max reboot now. I’m only not mentioning Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe and Cilian Murphy acting skills here because they deliver on expectation. The cinematography is genius. I did hear some comparisons been made between Kubrick and Nolan. I’m not agreeing (yet) but I can see why people would say that, the rich detailing of each scene is wonder to behold. Some might say they didn’t notice the amount of detail and that’s exactly the point it’s so well fabricated that if you did notice it, it wouldn’t be doing what it supposed to be doing. Inception has many great FX and used sparingly. In fact the only issue I did have with a certain effect - was actually my perception of the visuals. A picture in the latest Empire Magazine shows how the effect was created the actual dynamics of it are real. Regarding the story and plot. It’s not entirely original but the story presented in Inception is fresh. It’s like finding an undiscovered book by your favourite Sci-Fi author written years ago, before Hollywood ran out of ideas. The story is clever, it’s fast paced and never allows you a moment to get bored. Just as you settle in another onion skin sheath is pulled off as we delve deeper into the mystery that is at the heart of Inception. In a couple of the films schools/courses I have been on the tutors have tried to imbue the importance of how a character interacts with objects around him or touches things. Such a small device yet, nowhere on screen has this been as more important than in Inception. It’s cleverly an integral part of the plot and grounds the high concept giving it gravitas and credibility. Genius! Watching Inception and particularly Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance I realised the crucial bit missing from Nolan's previous works was some sort of emotional center. Which may seem odd given the emotional subject matter of his films (Following, Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige). It dawned on me that although his films are technically perfect, they are a little colour by number when it comes to the emotional bit. I really didn’t care about the characters in Nolan's films after awhile, or the rather clever/bizarre circumstances they have found themselves in. But it was all really pretty to watch. Nolan has it right this time round - I’m unsure if it’s the way the plot slowly reveals itself or DiCaprio’s performance or the combination of the two factors, either way I cared what was happening on screen. I think Nolan's best work is still ahead of him and I can't wait. Inception Premiere & spoiler free review More info: Over at the Inception website

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