During the first 15 minutes or so of Inception I was completely lost. The film bounced around like a super-ball in a metal box. Finally, as it starts to unfold you begin to figure out what’s going on.
The bottom line is that the story involves a leap of faith that I simply didn’t buy into from the outset. That made the entire journey a misfire for me. I wasn’t alone either as, when the film ended, several people in the theater laughed at the silliness of it all.
The film’s surreal nature reminded me a bit of the What Dreams May Come, the dark look inside a heavily depressed character played brilliantly by Robin Williams.
So much of this film felt forced to me. If I saw one more view of the van approaching the water, or worse, a close-up on one of the characters in it in super-slo-mo, I’d have had to consider walking out. The movie felt less like dreams and more like a bunch of action sequences run back-to-back. Then I remembered that this was a Christopher Nolan film and it all made sense (but didn’t help the cause). The characters themselves even get lost once or twice along the way and the audience couldn’t help but laugh. The dialogue is also an issue as characters toss out entirely trite explanations for all the impossibilities. We’re told in one scene, with great detail, that something is impossible only to be told a scene or two later that it’s totally possible, and in just as much detail. It all feels like, well, the endlessly apropos belt that Batman wears.
The cast did a commendable job with it all, though I did have some major issues with the casting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt for his specific role. I really like him as an actor, but here he helped generate some of the laughter I mentioned. His character ends up in a Neo-like set of exchanges that just look odd coming from a man who still has a boy’s face and stature. Yes, it’s all a dream but it still looked seriously out of place.
Ellen Page (of Juno fame) also proved that she’s going to be around for a long time. However, like Gordon-Levitt, she has the most trouble when she tries to come off as more mature in the film. She was at her best as a brash young student.
Leonard DiCaprio is, of course, DiCaprio and knows how to act in whatever he finds himself in. There’s no surprise here. He just seems so much bigger than the rest of the film and the script specifically. I also don’t think it helps that he did this movie immediately after appearing in the oddly-reminiscent Shutter Island. This, at times, feels like a close relative.
I can see why so many people like Inception but I’m going to stand by my position that it all hinges on the opening moments of acceptance. You either go with the idea and accept it and the rest goes splendidly, or you don’t and the rest fights to put you to sleep.