Director: Christopher Nolan
review by Matthew Dent
My first experience of Christopher Nolan's mega-budget mind-breaker was the first trailer. And it left me with an overwhelming reaction of
'huh?'... It gave away pretty much nothing; only a few sweeping philosophical statements, and dramatic moments of architectural contortionism.
In the build up to its release, as more was divulged about the premise, I purposely avoided reading the reviews. I really wanted it to be good.
And now that I've seen it, I can happily report that it is indeed good.
The basic premise is that Leonardo DiCaprio's character uses a blend of futuristic technology and pharmacological magic to go into people's
dreams and steal ideas. Or, maybe, plant one. I could tell you more, but I don't want to give away too much. Suffice to say, it isn't as easy
as that one sentence summary might indicate, with the personal issues of Leo's character complicating matters greatly, in the build up to a
fantastically uncertain - and yet still wholly satisfying - ending.
And it wasn't a simple despite the complex weaving of dream-within-dream plot; at no point did I feel lost. Maybe I'm not exactly the average
man in the street with this stuff, but to put it in perspective; I had to watch Donnie
Darko three times before I understood it well enough to be satisfied. And this, I think, is more complicated. Nolan has made some
brilliant films (Memento, The Prestige), and some not so brilliant films
(The Dark Knight). But what he can do is tell a story.
The acting, too, was top notch. In particular, the aforementioned Mr DiCaprio, Ellen Page, and Cillian Murphy deserve to clean up at awards
time. Now, Murphy has proved his stuff well enough in the likes of 28 Days Later
and Sunshine. And Miss Page, although being overshadowed by the many
flaws in the second and third X-Men films, really shone in Juno
(Yes, I liked Juno. I can appreciate a good non-genre film).
But dear old Leo has always been a bit of a non-event in my experience. He got his fame on Romeo + Juliet and Titanic, but in
all fairness, it wasn't for his acting ability. Those roles could have been played, probably better, by other actors. But he seems to be
maturing well now. What with his performance in the admittedly-imperfect Shutter Island earlier this year, and his outstanding acting
here, he may yet make his way into the circle of truly talented actors, even if he can't pronounce 'Mal'.
But the real triumph here, from my point of view, is not one of acting. This is science fiction, jumping up and down, shouting at the top of
its voice. The invisible genre standing up to be counted; and it is exemplary. Never mind the
Avatar, smurfs-in-3D rubbish. This is a complex, coherent film, which
has you leaving the cinema questioning everything - which is what good sci-fi should do... Hell, it's what any good film should do.
Sci-fi writer Jason Sanford speculated that this would be a very good sci-fi film, but that it would be a box office flop (which was partially
based on its huge budget, which I admit seems a bit gargantuan). He was right on the former, and remains to be proved on the latter. It has no
reason to be a flop. Amongst all the teenage vampire films, and sequels this year, it's a real gem of a movie.
Like I said at the beginning I was hoping it would be brilliant, and for once I wasn't disappointed. It had some very ambitious ideas, and
from the beginning it was clear that it was setting out for something great. And it was only as I drifted off to sleep last night, wondering
whether I was already dreaming, that I realised exactly how well it had done, and how deeply inside my head it had gotten.