Inception, one year on.

31Jul11

Looking back at my original review of Inception, I don’t think there’s a word of it I would want to change. My reaction has, of course, since been tamed, and repeat viewings will never live up to the first. But that doesn’t change the fact that, having seen it for the first time, I think my initial hyperbole wasn’t actually hyperbole at all: it was perfectly justified. We were all swept up in shock by the arrival of a summer blockbuster with both balls and brains, and to think that everyone I know saw this, cinema at its largest but also its best, satisfies me to say the least.

Last night was my first viewing since it left cinemas, and Inception remains thoroughly and stunningly entertaining. Perhaps a day will arrive when the story and idea are no longer mesmerising, and instead we’re left nitpicking at its various minor defects, no longer able to happily brush them under the carpet. I suspect that day is quite a way off, but, stories being stories, the number one factor to pin love for a film on that will fade with time, the day will no doubt come, for the problems are there in abundance.

A lot are minor, revolving around the dialogue’s all too obvious and persistent purpose of enlightening us regarding the mechanics of dream-sharing. Perhaps this was inevitable, but one can’t help but feel it could have been done better than have Ariadne join the heist purely for the sake of providing a walkthrough, even if Ellen Page does surprisingly well with the stale character she has at her disposal. Which brings us on to a problem that isn’t small, and that’s the slow realisation that the only character with a substantial, believable motive is Cobb. And to be fair to Nolan, the motive he gives Cobb is a fantastic one. I can’t think of anything that would make someone more driven to take the risks that he does. But for the chemist to gamble on limbo for any amount of money, Saito to be so daring for the sake of fighting competition, and Ariadne, again, to ditch her studies and dice with the law, is borderline offensive to these fine actors that play the roles. DiCaprio is the only one with a character that does him justice. The rest are all instruments to a damn good heist movie, but it’s a shame their characters weren’t ends as well as means.

I can also brush aside inexplicable details that are necessary to make the plot work, like Cobb’s performing inception on Mal to make her leave limbo, rather than simply shooting her in the head (imagine how many problems this would have left as merely hypothetical?) The biggest issue, however, which nothing will let me forget, is Nolan’s cowardly, idiotically ambiguous ending which leaves us with the ridiculous option of the film finishing as one big dream. Seriously, man – grow some balls and just let the totem drop. Or at least watch Children of Men, and learn from Cuarón how to do subtle but intelligent and rewarding endings.

Enough of the negativity, though. It’s probably only some subconscious prejudices against hugely popular cinema, and the sci-fi action genre especially, that is hindering me from declaring this a great film. But I really don’t think it is great, by which I mean, I don’t believe I’ll still be watching it annually ten years from now. And I also think that for all its departures from the clichés of mainstream cinema, it’s still hampered by significant problems that it shares with it. But this all becomes clear only upon reflection, and does nothing to tarnish the value of that first, innocent viewing. I’ll keep that memory, and continue to love this for now. It will remain totally enjoyable until the originality wears off, and its problems are no longer forgettable.

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