Thursday, July 22, 2010


With inception, Nolan returns to his favourite, and well-mastered, themes of time and memories.

Memento was about a man who remembers for only three minutes – his tale told backwards. Prestige was a tale of two men told from somewhere near the end, and weaving and cutting through their lives before and after in no particular chronological order. (The mere lyricism of it makes me rate it as his best.) There was little room to experiment with time in the franchised Batman series but Batman Begins dwells on Bruce’s repressed memories more powerfully than any movie before.

Inception is, on the surface, about the architecture of dreams, and from there out subconscious – and the memories embedded in it. Though fantastic, there is little of the dream within a dream concept that I haven’t seen and read of before – but here (to my limited knowledge) Nolan adds the concept of expanding time as dreams unfurl within one another. Hence, between the fourth level of the nested dreams being played in real time, at the first level, a car is plunging into a river in ultra-slow-mo. Decades to minutes. Very interesting.

Inception is going to be one of the most talked-about movies of the year but just misses cult status as it’s an amalgamation of themes that have been visited before.

Somebody compared it to Matrix and I could only shake my head and sigh at how time compresses memory. First, Matrix revolutionised sci-fi in movies like T-2; even after eleven years, the stunts, special effects and cinematography can stand up to inception and in portions look better. Second, Matrix brought the possibility of our world being unreal in a way Jurassic Park made dinosaurs alive for us. True, there had been similar movies before but our imagination was never fired so before. If people didn’t walk out of the hall shaking their heads and asking what it was all about, it was so because of 1999. People might have forgotten but the now seemingly-simple theme of Matrix left first-time viewers visually overwhelmed but totally at sea about which world was what.

But that was just a hyperbole that had to be shot down.

Inception is brilliant and worth a watch. I don’t know how far it could have still gone without Leonardo. And that, I feel, was the movie’s biggest flaw – the casting. Having Michael Caine do a cameo playing himself from a zillion movies, a clueless Ellen Page in a role similar to OmPrakash to Amitabh’s Sharabi (“Yeh aadat chhod de, Vijay. Yeh tere ko aur baaki ko bhi le doobegi.”) and Leonardo. It’s the lesser cast that shines and fires the movie. I like Leonardo but there is no difference of the Leonardo from Shutter Island to that of Departed to here. An anonymous weather-beaten protagonist (why does my mind always wander to John Cusack in his days of relatively lesser fame?) would have brought the freshness, and unexplored dimensions, that DiCaprio never brings. Sad for a guy who gave us Christian Bale; and could imagine Ledger as the boy to fill the giant shoes of Nicholson.


Nothing Spectacular said...

ELEVEN years since Matrix??? Boy! Have I aged... Seems like a few days ago that I first saw it at Chanakya

Tangled up in blue... said...

Yeah, Matrix really does not feel so long ago! And I agree abt The Prestige..I never understood why people thought it was his least accomplished film but I rather liked it..

And that whole idea of not knowing if you've finally reached the level of reality or not was also touched upon in this rather little-known film called ExistenZ..have you seen that one?

And I wondered abt Leonardo, too..shudnt he be worried he'll get typecast into roles like this one..tortured-soul-with-dead-wife-and-tenuous-grip-on-reality type characters..

Ana said...

Great post. I liked the kind of imagery Nolan uses for dreams, eg floors for memories. And the essence of the film lies not solely on the linearity or non-linearity of the form but also the exploration of an individual's mind with its fears, catharsis. I agree that The Prestige is one of Nolan's most underrated films. Leo played similar roles in both the films. But if u notice, in Shutter he's more vocal and loud. In Inception, the aggression, the fear is controlled. The roles are similar bt these subtleties make Teddy Daniels different from Dom Cobb.