Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inception: Originality is Still Possible

Originality lives- at least a spark of it.

Concepts had long stopped challenging us. Rather than attempting to break ground with new ideas, science fiction resigned itself to rehashing old ideas about wormholes, androids, doomsday scenarios, alien invasions, and genetic monsters. They became occupied with how to tell these stories in lighter, darker, or higher octane ways than the next guy. The recent reboot fetish is just the latest symptom of this dearth of creativity (in its truest sense).

Then I watched Inception, director Christopher Nolan's latest work, about a band of Extractors, thieves who break into the dreams of others and steal (or plant) valuable ideas. The film is packed with great performances all around, amazing special effects, and masterful editing, but it is the idea that makes this film absolutely outstanding. Flat out, this is a creation of pure and original thought. You (or I) have never thought about dreams in this way. We have explored outer space, the planet's core, and the deepest oceans, but we have never thought of using the medium of dreams- something we're so familiar with- in this way. And Nolan and his team think through this medium and the world and logic of dreams so thoroughly that the audience has no choice but to accept it and hold on for dear life as one mindblowing development after another is thrown at them.  

The audience will recognize familiar elements. This is a heist movie in spirit- albeit unlike like one you've ever seen. It is also a psychological thriller- but one where inner turmoil is manifest in huge, earthshaking ways. It had some spy-movie DNA mixed in for good measure. Audiences will notice similarities to The Matrix, which could be considered a sister piece to it. But, for all the thought the Wachowskis put into their cyber-punk, reality-switching opus, I would argue that Nolan and his team have out-thought them, going levels deeper than they ever dared to. At the heart of all this familiarity is a concept we have never seen. And it is an extremely compelling one.

On top of being a grade-A brain-bender, Inception is a thrilling ride. Whatever slow parts there are in the setup give way to a breathless second half that is nearly impossible for me to describe here. You can't imagine it until you see it- and that is a rare thing to be said about movies nowadays.

If you see one movie this summer, make it Inception.

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