Raanan Rants Against the Grain – INCEPTION
INCEPTION gets my irascible cousin’s blood pumping in a negative way.
Thought I’d give my cousin Raanan a platform to air his grievances with Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION (2010):“Christopher Nolan spent ten years working on the screenplay for Inception, which, after wading through the movie’s inchoate and muddled plot for nearly two and a half hours, I have decided is a bit of trivia he would have been wise to keep to himself. The screenplay feels like it was dashed off in one long, coke-filled night, the excess amount of Dopamine in his brain providing him with just the right amount of unwarranted confidence to feel like the gaping holes in the narrative actually made sense.
The plot goes something like this: Dom Cobb deals in the art of Extraction, which is exactly what it sounds like- the illegal act of sneaking into a Corporate Big Whig’s subconscious while they are in a vulnerable dream state and stealing valuable information which you then sell to other rival Corporate Big Whigs for a ton of money. Okay, it’s not exactly what it sounds like, but you get the point. The movie starts (or does it?) with Saito, a Corporate Big Whig played with Die-Hard-Villain-Effeminacy by Ken Wattanabe, offering Cobb one last job: to sneak into the mind of Robert Fischer Jr., the son of a rival Corporate Big Whig, and implant an idea in his head which when he awakes he will think is his own. This is called Inception, and believe it or not, it makes Extraction look like a piece of cake. The idea will be for Fischer to break up his father’s Vague Corporate Empire, which will allow Saito’s Vague Corporate Empire to gain Complete Vague Global Dominance. It’s around here that the movie gets a little convoluted. The reason this is Cobb’s last job is because Saito is offering to use his clout to remove the warrants preventing him from returning to America and seeing his kids again. And why is he a fugitive back home? Because he has been falsely accused (or has he?) of murdering his wife, the same wife who is always reappearing (or is she?) in the meticulously constructed dream world Cobb creates for his sleeping victims (or does he?) while he is stealing information that he then brings back with him to the real world (or is it the real world?) By the end of the movie, the only thing I could be certain was real was the headache I got from trying to follow the plot.
If you haven’t already figured it out, Christopher Nolan is far too ambitious a filmmaker to concern himself with such trivial details like a coherent narrative or memorable characters. Instead, he spends the entire movie constantly reminding the audience that every twist and turn in his Matryoshka-doll-plot is nothing more than a flabby, overwrought metaphor for dreams or life or the nature of reality. Nolan would probably argue he’s being coy and self-reflexive, and that his refusal to treat the story with any credibility is a way of reminding the audience about the artificiality of moviemaking. But I think that’s a cheap excuse, and maybe even a little arrogant. The goal of the artist is not to remind us that it’s all make-believe- a revelation that would only really be mind-blowing to the schizophrenic members of the audience- but rather to try as hard as you can to make the people watching your movie forget this sad fact for a couple of hours, so that when they finally do leave the theater, they feel as if they have emerged from a dream. And this is the one thing Nolan got right: watching a good movie is very much like dreaming. The only problem is, watching this movie didn’t feel like you were doing either one of those things.”
For the record, I thought it was highly entertaining but needlessly convoluted, and was annoyed by its reliance on MacGuffins and parallel action/cliffhangers. I would’ve loved to have seen a low-budget or new-wave treatment of the script, along the lines of an Alphaville, Kamikaze ’89, or π (Pi), which would’ve brought out the conceptual labyrinthine quality of the script instead of the “hey-look-I-can-make-something-that-sorta-resembles-a-dream” spectacle of it all. But then again that would have meant losing the floating hotel set pieces, which I dug – so forget that. Say what you will, it was definitely a well-written (perhaps overly-written?) and ambitious script, for which it – and Nolan – deserve a lot of credit. I’m sure many of you disagree. Send me your responses and I’ll post ‘em.
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