Last night we saw Inception. Readers of this blog will know that I occasionally review movies but that when I do it’s usually an Australian one. After all, this blog’s prime focus is Australian (particularly Australian literature). However, my fingers regularly tap their way onto other turf, and on this occasion I’ve decided to write about this American movie, given all the hype that’s been surrounding it.
Am I being churlish to say that we were not overwhelmed? That’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy it, because we did, but it didn’t have quite the wow factor we were expecting. Is this due to a “high expectations” jinx or would we have felt that anyhow? It’s an intelligent and clever film: the plot develops from an intriguing premise that plays with the intersection between dreams and reality. DiCaprio does a good job; Ellen Page is as gorgeous and watchable as ever; the whole cast in fact is fine. There’s a neat little in-joke for movie fans: the song, Non, je ne regrette rien, plays a significant role in the plot which also features Marion Cotillard who played Piaf in the 2007 biopic, La vie en rose. The story’s complex multiple layers are developed logically and so can be pretty easily followed once you realise what’s going on. Hans Zimmer’s music is powerful – almost, but not quite, too so at times. I say “not quite” because that sort of powerful music suits the genre. The resolution has a little bite to it, and the ending leaves a door slightly open… So what’s the problem?
The problem is that it is an intelligent action-adventure movie but lacks, for us, a real emotional heart. We understood Cobb’s (the Di Caprio character) dilemma, intellectually, but we weren’t really given an opportunity to believe, or feel, it. We were told there was a great love story there but it was not set up well enough to convince us of it – and so the “journey” he takes through the film lacks the psychological intensity that we would have liked. And this gap is not filled by any of the other stories. The dying tycoon’s son’s story, for example, is pretty sentimentally stereotypical (or is that vice versa!), and the relationships between the other characters are superficial though there is an attempt to develop some level of emotional intelligence in Ariadne (the Ellen Page character). The result is that I never felt concerned for the characters. I was intellectually interested in what was going on but I wasn’t fully invested in what would happen. It’ll probably work out ok, I thought, so why worry. Did others feel this?
And so my recommendation? Do go see it. It’s an artful and rather original movie that demands some thought and concentration from the audience, and its action-adventure nature makes for a fun ride. Just don’t expect emotional engagement or psychological complexity because I don’t believe you’ll find it – and that, for me anyhow, stops a good film from being a great one.