I went to see Inception Monday, and I thought it was pretty good. More to the point, watching it Monday made we want to watch it again (and not just because I would be hoping that the theatre didn’t heat up to “stifling” and “airless” by the end of the film). That would not be to see favourite bits again, nor to find what I missed, but to pay attention again. I don’t remember the last film I saw that made me work as hard as Inception to keep on top of what was going on around me.
I’ve heard complaints that Inception is all technique and ingenuity, and no sentiment. That seems wrong to me; rather, the sentiment in the film is bounded. It’s always in play, but it doesn’t override other plot elements. Love doesn’t conquer all (or shipwreck all); it doesn’t lay claim to being the greatest thing ever or the deepest sorrow ever. I’ll avoid citing details, but I read the movie’s take on love as acknowledging that there are more than one dimension to love, whereas a conventional Hollywood version would grab a particular relationship like a shillelagh and beat the audience into tears with it. Inception says, “It’s more complicated than that.”
Another complaint argues that dreams and the subconscious are wilder and less predictable, less controllable than Inception lets them be. That, I agree with; but I have a hard time imagining how one could make a suspense movie about dreams that doesn’t domesticate the subconscious. (How about a movie that never displays the same dream sequence twice?) It would be perverse to complain about Star Wars because hyperspace travel is impossible; while Inception makes the dream-world more controllably malleable than any realistic subconscious, that suspension of disbelief is required for the movie in the first place. If you’re unwilling to grant that, save £6 and skip the movie in the first place.
I did warm to the characters (less to DiCaprio, actually, than to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, and Ellen Page), and I cared about the puzzles that constitute the plot. I have a couple of questions (Why did the film give DiCaprio’s wife the weighted name “Mal,” but never give audiences the chance to hear it as something other than “short for Molly”? And why does she appear in some dream-worlds but not others? Or is there a consistency to her appearances and non-appearances that I just missed?), but mostly I admire the work Christopher Nolan did in constructing this intricate plot. Nolan doesn’t let the movie slip into melodramatic sentiment, nor into self-congratulatory sophomoric metaphysics, but keeps a plausible love-theme running through a plausible alternate-reality movie that features an interesting heist-team ensemble and first-rate special effects. What more do you want?