Writing a review is a very subtle art form. You never know how difficult it is until you try and write one. It is not simply a statement of this is what I think about this thing. There is a structure and a flow to it, a progression of thought and form that is difficult to do well (and indeed I know I’m still trying to figure it out). The typical movie review, as I’ve seemed to notice, follows the following pattern: the writer’s main thesis and overarching summary judgment on the film, a summary of the plot, what works in the film, what doesn’t, and finally whether or not to recommend the film to others. Why do I bring this up?
In the past week, I’ve seen Inception three times.
That much should imply my “summary judgment” on the matter (more on that later). I suppose now is the place for me to restate the plot. But I won’t. If you must know it before seeing the film, plenty of adequate summaries exist online for your consumption. I will tell you, though, that it’s one of the most complicated plots I’ve ever seen in a major motion picture, and to summarize it would be both unnecessary and potentially harmful to your enjoyment of the film. But don’t worry, as reviewer Kenneth Turan of NPR writes,
“Inception‘s plot is easier to follow than to explain, and it’s not always possible to know which world the characters are in from one moment to the next. But even if specifics can be tantalizingly out of reach, you always intuitively understand what’s going on and why.”
A truer statement about this film’s plot has not been said.
I’ve wanted so badly to review the film, but it’s difficult. Even the most casual perusal of the critics’ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes will show Inception‘s polarizing nature. About two-thirds of critics love this movie and view it as a modern classic; the other third so despise it and hate it so much, you have to wonder if they were all watching the same film. Lay theater goers, it should be noted, have given this film one of the highest ratings I’ve ever seen on the site at 93% (the same percentage, interestingly, that the Inception Director Christopher Nolan’s previous film The Dark Knight ended up receiving).
This is why I’ve wrestled with this film. One of the reasons for its polarization, I’m finding, is that it seems, more then most other films, to settle into our minds almost as a real person trying to court our affections. For many, we appreciate the respect, beauty, intelligence, subtlety, and grace the film extends to us. We are immediately smitten and fall into an infatuating tryst, with all the emotional arousal immediate love can bring.
But, as I’ve watched the film repeatedly, each time I see a few more of its flaws. And these are the flaws the negative critics are mentioning: dialogue that does more telling than showing, dreamworlds that are still not very “fantastic”, a surprising lack of humor, and a script that could be a bit stilted if it were not buoyed by wonderful acting.
But that’s the thing, though, that makes this movie so wonderful, and indeed a modern classic in my book. Even after the humanity and fallibility sets in, and the infatuation fades a bit, the movie has still become a true “companion” to me. It is stuck with me and I can’t shake it. It is so beautiful and so intelligent all that the same time, I can’t not be as madly in love with it as I am. And indeed, I expect you, too, will be blown away and swept up by the charm this film has to extend you.
In conclusion, I am seeing a trend with everyone that has seen the movie more than once. They see it the first time, and then take it at face-value. And then about two days after seeing it, there begins this creeping wait a minute! moment that enters their mind. Then they go on a “second date” with this film and there is this whole other perspective and theory that unfolds about the plot and substance of the entire thing in front of them. It is almost as if there are two movies to be seen within this one.
And it is this duality, inherent in both this film and within us, that I find so attractive. Not the duality of the moralists between our goodness and depravity, but the duality of the existentialist between our hidden selves and our public selves. A self that is at both times revealing and concealing, secure and insecure, known and yet wanting to be known. It is this sort of multi-layered humanity I see running through this film in such spades I can do nothing but love it and exhort all of you to spend this upcoming weekend (or the next) viewing it for yourselves; be it for the first, second, or third time.
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