A.D.I.D.A.S.: All Day I Dream About Saito
Another memorable Pfister/Nolan collab! The cinematography in Inception has Nolan going fully unhinged and the things he manages to capture onscreen are absolutely mental. Compared to most modern blockbusters, there hasn’t been anything quite like Inception in terms of visual style. It’s a terrific display of grandiose spectacle without being overbearing on the senses. With all the insanity going on in Inception, it doesn’t throw us right into the action; instead, the first act takes its time to show us how the dream world works.
One of the best sequences is when Cobb is demonstrating the world of Inception to Ariadne in a sequence that feels very similar to the Matrix when Morpheus explains the world of the Matrix to Neo. While there’s a lot of information being given to the audience, the exposition is never boring and that’s because as Ariadne is navigating through the dreamworld, we’re discovering it with her. Who’s ever going to forget the buildings folding on top of each other because I most certainly won’t! It’s a fun sequence that captures the imagination of Ariadne and the viewer’s.
Nolan’s always been able to capture scale in his action sequences, but when it comes to close quarters combat, he’s been slacking. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I say, “no more” because the hallway fight sequence has got to be one of the most original and exciting set pieces that Nolan’s shot at this point in his career. It wasn’t enough to shoot this sequence in wide camera angles with very few cuts or edits, so Nolan decides to have that sequence set in a rotating hallway! I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt needs to be in more action movies because he’s really good at handling the stunts. The camera captures space and geography so effectively that you never feel lost even when the hallway is always moving. Nolan went the extra mile here and I’m stoked to see his action improve in future films.
To quote a favorite pirate of mine: “I feel…cold.” The criticisms directed at Nolan’s emotionally distant characters have been a complaint for years now and it was never a problem for me until now. I don’t know what was up with me on this rewatch but it was pretty hard for me to get fully invested in what was going on. This isn’t to say that any of the performances are bad because every actor does their part well, but there’s not much to latch onto with these characters. Inception seems to be the start of a new phase in Nolan’s career where the concept takes precedence over story and character.
The one character who actually has any arc is DiCaprio’s Cobb but he’s probably the wrong person to lead this movie. This is probably blasphemous but it needs to be said: Ariadne should have been the main character. As an audience surrogate, it makes more sense to focus on Ariadne and how she navigates through the dreamworld. It’s more exciting to follow a newbie as opposed to following a professional like Cobb who’s had years of offscreen experience to understand this world. Would this have fixed the character issue? Who’s to say, but it feels like a more organic way of introducing the audience to the world of Inception as well as a nice change of pace from Nolan’s usual dead wife story arc.
If The Dark Knight was Nolan’s breakout hit, then Inception officially solidifies Nolan’s status as a mainstream filmmaker. Inception came at the right time just as superhero movies were beginning to make their stamp in pop culture and while original IP is hard to come across these days, Inception managed to go beyond the boundaries of what audiences were expecting with their blockbusters. It’s bold, it’s challenging, and it’s downright confusing at times but to have Inception become so successful speaks to Nolan’s skills as a director and his ability to draw an audience to his films.
Inception takes everything from past Nolan films and refines it into his magnum opus. You have the guilty man trying to reconcile with his past sins, you have suited professionals, and you have the theme of time. With Inception, Nolan says everything he’s been wanting to say and delivers it with a heartfelt conclusion that feels cathartic for himself as well as for Cobb. It may not deliver in terms of character and emotion but in terms of pure visual spectacle, there’s so much energy and innovation in every set piece that you’ll never stop thinking about it even once the credits roll.