Friday, July 16, 2010

Inception: One of The Best Movies Ever

Sometimes I wonder about the value of superlatives in describing a movie. No superlative can capture the experience of watching this movie. How can a director create magic on screen with a story so complicated that others can't even dream of writing it on paper without confusing the reader? This complex movie has been told in such a peculiarly disciplined and organized way that one feels that this is probably the only way in which such a story can be told. The movie is clear when it tells us the complicated part. And then the movie goes a level up and plays with our head. It is hard to pin-point what Nolan's theme is. Each one of the three of my favorite Nolan movies - Memento, Prestige and now Inception is worthy of being on a Top 10 mind twister movies ever made. The audience go through a intellectually mind-wringing experience when we struggle with the 'what' and 'when' in these movies. This distorts our perception of movie's reality and makes the movie look like one large puzzle. In memento Nolan made the audience struggle to keep track of 'what' was happening and completely blind-sided us with the 'when'. In Prestige, again it was a struggle with multiple narratives to understand the 'what' and we were jolted because we did not know the 'who'. In Inception we struggle to remember and keep track of 'what' is happening, more importantly 'where' the hell this 'what' is happening and then Nolan hints (almost winks) a little about the 'when' aspect.

The most rewarding part of watching such movies is the uncompromising way in which the movies force you to be involved, stay on top of things, think quickly, form theories, constantly correct them and in general live through an experience similar to what the characters in the movie seem to be experiencing. Its like a puzzle that gets harder and harder. Inception deals with the concept of placing a thought in a person's head with several levels of redirection. The planting of the idea must not be explicit but should appear as if the idea formed as a result of the person's experiences. These experiences happen in a dream. And the dream that is the genesis of the idea is a nested inside another dream, which in-turn is nested inside another dream. Dreams appear to be C program type loops and nested dreams follow the logic of nested loops, where for every iteration of the first loop there are N iterations in the 2nd order nested loop and N^2 iterations in the 3rd order nested loop. So 10 hours of sleep in the first loop translates to 50 years of life in the 3rd order dream. This concept is used superbly by characters who make up for time related short-comings by opening up a nested dream that buys them more time (30 minutes of the movie happens between the time it takes atruck to fall from a bridge into the water). There are rules and logic in the dream world, 'break' operations that can cause loop exits - called 'kick'.

Nolan hints at what is to come when the architect, Ariadne, who is tasked with architecting the look, location and feel of dream world, shows Cobb a sample of what she can do. In a classic moment she does with mirrors a image that resembles the classic picture of a man drawing a picture of a man drawing a picture of man drawing a picture... And we are not sure if we are part of the picture or outside it. Cobb thinks he is sure. But is he? The ending is just incidental to the overall movie experience. I cannot find words to describe what an experience it was watching Inception. This is true movie making of the highest calibre. Worth waiting 4 years to a get a movie that treats the audience with intellectual respect.

35 comments:

Praveen said...

I just got back from the hall. Insanely intelligent!! Wish I followed all tose what I missed. I will watch it again am sure.

Neon said...

Great review! Loved the analogies - break and 'kick', loops and 'dreams within dreams'. Never thought of it that way. I don't think I've been so involved with what's happening on screen ever before.

Savitha said...

I call it Thoughts & Dreams trash. :-)

Anyway waiting for Murugadoss' version like Memento.

BTW, where the review of Prestige? Why didnt Murugadoss attempt it?

I said...

One of the Best movies ever-a? Nee dhan mechukanum.

When in doubt make a psycho thriller?

Chenthil said...

Do check out Kalavani - a quintessential Tamil movie, on the lines of Aan Pavam / Thooral Ninnu Pochu. Will comment on Inception if I see it.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Nolan rocks

Now I know said...

I was wondering who will be stupid enough to buy this half witted crap as 'intelligent'.

Sreekrishnan said...

I was thrilled that Nolan designed the movie exactly like Memento. Memento had a short term memory loss - and every scene is a memory of the prev. scene ...

same way, This is intended to be a maze. You are actually going in to a maze of sub conscience ... which is quite amazing.

The situation the char. undergo is what you too undergo understanding theirs. G E N I U S.

Nolan movies take atleast 3 times to watch and grasp the depth of it. I have 2 more to go.

Totem idea was stunning... just like prestige's "Are you watching closely"

Btw: i think Nolan's bro was the screenplay? Gifted they are !

Abhi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abhi said...

this movie is all christopher nolan.johnathan didn assist him on this one.

thepsychologic said...

At Sathyam cinemas in chennai they even had the subtitles running!... watched it back to back (3.30 and 10.30) show ... the second time didn't feel like a second time

thepsychologic said...

ppl should also check out this comment at imdb http://imdb.to/cO7ykP ... if Nolan had really thought of this then he is probably the greatest film maker ever!

Keshav said...

nicely put... have good reasons to believe only people who did not understand do not like the movie.. totally loved the movie and loved yr review too..

Sreekrishnan said...

Abhi, Yes - thanks i just checked it in IMDB too. All Chris Nolan !

I said...

Much of the twitter generation watched english padams on star movies to catch a kissing/nude scenes. Then of course Titanic to catch that single nude scene which was made into a love classic. From here evolved the desi yuppie's aptitude for inglis padam.

What's that? Watch it 3 times and you'll get it? Look at you enough times in the mirror and you start liking yourslef. Attributing a higher meaning to abbatham like this and pretending to 'get it'is still not passe. Surely that makes you intelligent and superior.

I said...

Ignore the mirror part. Didn't realize it was you, SK. Et tu?

Sreekrishnan said...

I, Naaney - and no worries - but Yeah. - I usually watch good movies more than once irrespective of the language.Multiple times doesnt mean i didnt get it. Just like i watch Michael Madan atleast 1 time a day...

Yes, i grew up watching "Matter scenes" in Star movies and used to refer any english movie as matter padam once upon a time. [I still watch some for that :P] [And my mom didnt allow me to watch Titanic because it was publicized as A - and that she later realized its all fine..]

That apart, This guy is like Bhagyaraj of those days - all Screenplay - a little concept and beautiful dialogues. Inception is no less.

Thappey Illa ba!

Hawkeye said...

you are missing the point

there is difference between middle class folks who owned a VCR and rented englis padam tapes and middle class folks who rented both the VCR player and 8 tamil tapes for 2 days.

same difference b/w people who watched star TV to see BOTH good englis padam & matter padams vs those who saw Star TVs for just watched matter padams.

same difference between people who dont like a movie because they've to watch it multiple times to understand it vs those who don't like a movie even if they understand it because they dont have the taste for such movies.

avatar thittna othukkalam.. but inception'a thittara alavukku nee valid'a logic sollanum. cant use the same argument for both movies. your worship of mainstream contradicts your criticism of avatar

Hawkeye said...

previous comment was directed @ I

I said...

Hawk/SK:

Enakku oru ezhavum puriala. Vittalachariar padam paatha effect.
Since my braincells are few, I have to be paid to expend them. Sometimes not even then.

I have responded in detail to your comment on Mainstream.

Sorry SK for that. Didn't realize it was you before I typed that out.

D.N.A. said...

Didn't the movie have logical inconsistencies between "Snow" level and "Cobb world" level? I thought the "kick" rules were different between earlier in the movie during water tub scene and later towards the climax. But not sure though. Did you feel the same way?

Anonymous said...

I wanted to say this movie was pretentious nonsense. David Denby said it better,

For long stretches, you’re not sure whether you’re in dream or reality, which isn’t nearly as much fun as Nolan must have imagined it to be. Bizarre oddities, which complicate the puzzle but are meaningless in themselves, flash by in an instant. The actors, trying to suggest familiarity with the task of dream invasion, spin off gibberish in the most casual way. Parodies, I assume, will follow on YouTube. And the theologians of pop culture, taking a break from “The Matrix,” will analyze the over-articulate structure of “Inception” for mighty significances. Dreams, of course, are a fertile subject for moviemakers. Buñuel created dream sequences in the teasing masterpieces “Belle de Jour” (1967) and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972), but he was not making a hundred-and-sixty-million-dollar thriller. He hardly needed to bother with car chases and gun battles; he was free to give his work the peculiar malign intensity of actual dreams. Buñuel was a surrealist— Nolan is a literal-minded man. Cobb’s intercranial adventures aren’t like dreams at all—they’re like different kinds of action movies jammed together. Buildings explode or collapse, anonymous goons shoot at the dreammakers. Buñuel silently pushed us into reveries and left us alone to enjoy our wonderment, but Nolan is working on so many levels of representation at once that he has to lay in pages of dialogue just to explain what’s going on. At one point, Ariadne asks, “Wait—whose subconscious are we going into, exactly?,” and the audience laughs. It’s the only moment when Nolan acknowledges the nuttiness of his movie.

Sreekrishnan said...

I Sir: no problem ... but its worth a watch again ! Ungalukkum Pidikkum ninaikkaraen.

DNA: thats a beautiful observation - why was there a "Kick" for the last part with Mal? Ariadne never needed a Kick in that level she just had to wait for the upper level kick ... i was confused as well

and i read this - see the last response !

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1375666/board/nest/167124338?d=167130808&p=1#167130808

Sreekrishnan said...

"Ealier in the movie Arthur tells Ariadne that if Yusuf kicks too early then they won't wake up. While normally in order to wake up you must recieve a Kick in the level above, this isn't true when using the special sedative. Instead with the sedative it takes two synchronized Kicks. In order to be Kicked when under the sedative you had to be kicked in both levels simultaneously. Arthur didn't have the second Kick ready when the van drove off the bridge, so he wasn't awakened by the van falling off the bridge. "

Same explanation holds good for Ariadne's Fall in the limbo state !

[Sorry if i am commenting too much here, but i could hold back something i read !]

Raghu said...

Like I had mentioned on yr FB status msg, this is arguably THE best movie I have seen in recent times !! Chris Nolan is one of the most creative minds in H'wood !! Loved the brilliant yet layered screenplay and slick editing. Another feather in Di Caprio's crafty career !!

Maddy said...

Brilliant moviemaking.. The water being used as a "kicker" reminds me of the water being used as "medium" in Constantine but in exactly opposite manner..
Can anybody explain how Ariadne's totem work out in real/dream world?

Abhi said...

Saito is no. 2 in energy business.fischer is number 1.he wont recognize him in the dream? Ithu ennaku puriyala.may be i got it wrong.but i think the entire movie was a cobb's dream.

blackaccord said...

watched it last nite.. It is is seriously one of the best movies ever.. Still unable to come out of the movie.. The first 30 mins of the movie made you think What and Where ? Like other Nolan movies, you get to catch up with stuff towards the end..and the ending was top notch making you wonder more.. Well, when its out on DVD will have a piece of paper and pen with me while watching it to know which nested loop we are in..

I said...

This Abhi does not have a job or a life? He/she seems to be recursively watching Inception and going through the involuntary coitus.

ஆளவந்தான் said...

//
C program type loops and nested dreams follow the logic of nested loops
//
RECURSIVE

Abhi said...

@I saw it twice.and i agree with you on the fact that this movie is over-rated.college bunk adichitu vela illama went with frnds.

shoba said...

Loved it.Words fail me. One in million. People who say they don't like it are those who wouldn't have understood, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

this is by far one of the greatest movies ive ever seen. i had just finsihed watching it for the 5th time and everytime i watched it it got better and better. christopher nolan is a genius and i look forward to his next piece of work.

"I cant even imagine all your complexity, all your perfection, all your imperfection" this line gave me chills.. people if you havent watched this movie yet, GO NOW!!!!

kburgess80 said...

I agree; an amazing film so very rare that in my lifetime of seeing movies at the cinema - only Matrix and Gladiator compare for that "wow" feeling (this is better too).
I challenge anyone not to feel the spine tingling awe when listening to Hans Zimmers "Dream Is Collapsing".
Perfection

INnocent_guy said...

I follow your blog and I just read this post. I know this comes a bit late, but in case you aren't aware, the entire idea is from a Duck Tales comic. Now I have extreme respect for Nolan and I know that it is possible he thought of all this himself. Nevertheless, the conceptual similarities are too high to be a coincidence. I'm still a huge fan of Nolan though. Here is the comic http://disneycomics.free.fr/Ducks/Rosa/show.php?loc=D2002-033