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Peter T Chattaway

Inception (2010)

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Christopher Nolan's 'Inception' -- Hollywood's first existential heist film

July is the month when movies gets dizzy (or is it ditsy?) from the heat, and this year is no exception, with films featuring heartthrob vampires, evil aliens, Nicolas Cage and the never-gets-old concept of talking dogs. But on July 16, in the middle of the usual popcorn parade, director Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. will deliver "Inception," a strange thriller that has been a Hollywood mystery for months thanks to its cryptic title and the fact that the studio has guarded the Nolan-penned script like a state secret.

So it was no surprise last summer that, at a musty old dirigible hangar outside London, Nolan welcomed a rare visitor to his "Inception" set with a guarded smile. "So you've read the script -- did you understand it?" . . .

Los Angeles Times, April 11

Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas Interview INCEPTION - They Talk 3D, What Kind of Cameras They Used, Pre-Viz, WB, and a Lot More!

At this year’s ShoWest in Las Vegas, I got to participate in a roundtable interview with writer/director Christopher Nolan and producer Emma Thomas for their upcoming Warner Bros. movie Inception as a reporter for our partners at Omelete. While Inception has been shrouded in mystery, at ShoWest, Nolan finally unveiled some of the movie to theater owners and I got to see the footage. . . .

Where did this idea of stealing an idea come from…

Nolan: Well, I stole it. It’s a little risky putting yourself out there again stealing ideas, yes. It really came about as a result of…I don’t remember specifically where the idea came from except that once I started exploring the idea of people sharing a dream space-entering a dream space and sharing a dream. That gives you the ability to access somebody’s subconscious. What would that be used and abused for? That was the jumping off point. And clearly being able to extract information from somebody’s brain would be the obvious use of that because obviously any other system where it’s computers or physical media whatever, things that exist outside the mind, they can all be stolen…up until this point or up until this movie I should say, the idea that you could actually steal something from somebody’s head was impossible. So that, to me, seemed a fascinating abuse or misuse of that kind of technology. . . .

Collider.com, March 25

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8O

PG-13? Nice. I don't think the rating system is very helpful or credible, and yet I'm impressed that Nolan is able to make such serious, challenging films without defaulting to R-rated material.

Edited by Overstreet

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A new trailer has been released, and it's pretty darn cool.

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With each of these trailers for INCEPTION, I'm more and more excited for this film. In 60 seconds, Nolan has shown more control of the medium than in any big budget film I've seen this year. I'm really digging the 007 influence (someone mentioned Nolan is a fan of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, hence the mountain ski chalet). Here's hoping the story and acting can match it. He's doing what lots of other directors say they want to do, and imagine the promise of those old movies (let's admit it, lots of them are more fun as ideas than actual execution) without resorting to pastiche.

I feel like Nolan is kind of operating on a Coppola level, circa THE GODFATHER. He's redefining what a blockbuster film can be in an age of disposable (even if enjoyable) products. I'm sold.

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I feel like Nolan is kind of operating on a Coppola level, circa THE GODFATHER. He's redefining what a blockbuster film can be in an age of disposable (even if enjoyable) products. I'm sold.

Well said. And though I'm with those wishing to see him return to more Conversation fair (if I can carry the analogy that far), a string of Godfathers isn't bad. ;)

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Lou Lumenick quotes the first (spoiler-free) paragraph of Peter Travers' review:

"The mind-blowing movie event of the summer arrives just in time to hold back the flow of Hollywood sputum that's been sliming the multiplex. 'Inception'...will be called many things, starting with James Bond Meets 'The Matrix.' You can feel the vibe of Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' in it, and Nolan's own 'Memento' and 'The Dark Knight.' But 'Inception' glows with a blue-flame intensity all its own. Nolan creates a dream world that he wants us to fill with our own secrets. I can't think of a better goal for any filmmaker. Of course, trusting the intelligence of the audience can cost Nolan at the box office. We're so used to being treated like idiots. How to cope with a grand-scale epic, shot in six countries at a reported cost of $160 million, that turns your head around six ways from Sunday? Dive in and drive yourself crazy, that's how.''

Of course, Travers is something of a quote whore, so I'd take anything he says with a hefty grain of salt. (I can remember standing with some colleagues in the lobby of our local art-house multiplex a few months ago, and we looked at all the posters around us and realized that almost every single one of them contained a rave from Travers.)

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Here it comes.

I started skimming these and stopped when I started worrying that Wells, in his frustration with the studio for keeping him out of the earliest screenings, might start dropping spoilers on us.

But at first glance, this looks like the tidal wave of good reviews I was hoping for. I can't wait to see it.

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This is actually one of the very, very rare cases where I'm consciously avoiding reviews etc. in the hope that I can see the movie without knowing any of the spoilers. But I'll take a generally positive vibe any time. (One interesting thing, to me, is that Devin Faraci has called this film a "masterpiece", and he was somewhat critical of The Dark Knight as I recall. So he's not just a fanboy. I also like Anne Thompson's headline: "Nolan Delivers Kubrickian Masterpiece with Heart".)

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The reviews are wonderful. I'm very excited for this 'un.

Ditto.

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The reviews are wonderful. I'm very excited for this 'un.

Ditto.

My enthusiasm is tempered by worry. I don't like that every review Wells posted, with the exception of the last quote from Coming Soon, makes the film out to be unreservedly great. Now everyone will have to jump on board.

Well, no. We all have our own thoughts and are free to express them however we wish. But I feel like the initial rush of enthusiasm is almost designed to create a bandwagon effect -- just get on board, everyone!

So it was a relief to read Dave Poland this morning:

I don't anticipate anything less than a positive feeling about the film. I haven't disliked anything Nolan has done, even if I do think he has a tendency to tidy up in the third acts of his films a bit too much.

But will it be enough to like Inception. Is 3.5 stars out of 4 a pan... an insult to those who use the word "masterpiece" without reserve?

Will some people ever understand that concern or fear of overhype is part of process, not a means to a predetermined end?

Poland is still smarting from the pummelling he took after daring to write that The Dark Knight was Movie Perfection.

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Christian wrote:

: Well, no. We all have our own thoughts and are free to express them however we wish. But I feel like the initial rush of enthusiasm is almost designed to create a bandwagon effect -- just get on board, everyone!

There's always that worry, sure. (Just last night, I was listening to kenmorefield's podcast on Toy Story 3, where he talks about this same thing.) But FWIW, as much as I like Nolan's films in general, I must admit that, whenever I worry that I'm letting the hype for Inception get to be too big, I remind myself of how problematic The Prestige was. Nolan isn't flawless (even if his images are!).

: Poland is still smarting from the pummelling he took after daring to write that The Dark Knight was Movie Perfection.

Quite the opposite, I thought; Poland said pretty much from the get-go that Nolan had some good ideas but needed another half-hour or so to make the Two-Face part of the movie breathe as much as the Joker part of the movie did. So, he didn't think the movie was "perfect".

As it happens, Devin Faraci (who sometimes participates in Poland's "super friends" video reviews) also quibbled with The Dark Knight's story structure at the time, so if Faraci is now sounding more unreservedly positive about Inception (but I can only assume that he is, since I've only read his headline and/or a few sentences from his review), I think that's cause for hope. :)

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Peter: Thanks. I should've written that Poland has said TDK was NOT movie perfection. I left the "not" out inadvertently.

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All of Nolan's films have significant flaws. FOLLOWING suffers from amateur-grade writing and performances, as well as a final reveal that isn't as impressive as it needs to be. MEMENTO's puzzle is only intriguing the first time around, and its sense of the characters isn't quite satisfying enough to merit repeat viewings. INSOMNIA never manages to be particularly remarkable. BATMAN BEGINS has oodles of hammy, portentous dialogue, an awkward narrative structure, and a lamentable final act. THE PRESTIGE falls flat on repeat viewings for much the same reasons that MEMENTO doesn't quite hold up. THE DARK KNIGHT has a remarkably sloppy story structure (with more than a few gratuitous subplots), too-tight pacing, and, like BEGINS, suffers from some hammy, portentous dialogue. Oh, and this is more of a quibble: all of Nolan's films suffer from lame soundtracks.

That's not to say Nolan isn't worthwhile. There isn't a film of Nolan's that I outright dislike, but he's far from perfect. Nevertheless, I'm excited for INCEPTION, and I wouldn't be surprised if it strikes a better balance than any of Nolan's previous efforts.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Ha! Patrick Goldstein comments on Variety's review:

The critics are so over the top about the film that I thought it would be fun to start keeping track of the most wildly overblown, hilariously highbrow claims for the film, which opens July 16. (If you spot one before I do, please share.) First up is Justin Chang's wide-eyed review of the film in Variety, which not only calls the Nolan film "commandingly clever" but compares the look of one sequence to Magritte and M.C. Escher, while also theorizing that the film contains an homage to "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

As if that weren't enough, Chang also makes the claim that having applied "a vivid sense of procedural detail to a fiendishly intricate yarn set in the labyrinth of the subconscious, the writer-director has devised a heist thriller for surrealists, a Jungian's 'Rififi,' that challenges viewers to sift through multiple layers of (un)reality."

Hey, isn't that just what you'd tell your friends to get them to see a movie?
Come on, guys -- this one's not a Freudian's "Topkapi"! This one's a real Jungian's 'Rififi'!
" I don't know about you, but I may have almost thrown out my back trying to bear the weight of all those pretentious references in a single sentence.

I must say, the bit I bolded made me laugh.

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Ha! Patrick Goldstein comments on Variety's review:

The critics are so over the top about the film that I thought it would be fun to start keeping track of the most wildly overblown, hilariously highbrow claims for the film, which opens July 16. (If you spot one before I do, please share.) First up is Justin Chang's wide-eyed review of the film in Variety, which not only calls the Nolan film "commandingly clever" but compares the look of one sequence to Magritte and M.C. Escher, while also theorizing that the film contains an homage to "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

The "Jungian's RIFIFI" comment is pretty hilarious, but I have no problem with the citations of Magritte/Escher/ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. Their influence on INCEPTION is obvious.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Peter, does that mean these characters are living in Escher's World? :)

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Oh, I like this line of Steven Zeitchik's:

When it comes to moviegoing, hope is nice, but sometimes guarded optimism is good too, or even welcome. It certainly was for "Avatar," which actually played better because it washed away our doubts instead of merely living up to our hopes.

Yeah, I remember James Cameron saying that the negative feedback when the trailers were released last summer actually left him breathing easier by the time Avatar actually came out in December.

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David Poland:

Epic landscapes, an endlessly shifting world, sometimes Escher, sometimes DeMille. I was surprised to be reminded that Nolan is not a great director of action. His skills are with bigger visual ideas than cars crashing or chasing. Nolan is an IMAXian. Even an image like the clown mask being held on the street by a grubby looking thief that has not yet been identified as The Joker… it’s familiar, yet not… and make giant on the screen, has remarkable power.

As you watch the film and even thinking back to The Dark Knight, it is apparent that the director who Nolan worships is not Kubrick or Tarkofsky or The Wachowskis, but Michael Mann. The clothes, the gun blasts, the cool air around the good/bad men, and the general view of women as fantastic furniture, even though Nolan: The Writer likes to have women being tough as men at times as well. But Nolan is more ambitious visually than Mann ever has been. Mann is a writer first... Nolan a director. . . .

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