It's an excellent summer action movie, but even that doesn't quite describe it. Either (1) action movies have become so crappy and lame that when we get a genuinely good action movie, it feels like the best movie ever; or (2) it isn't accurate to describe this as an "action" movie, it's really more of a "thriller." (See, according to my arbitrary movie classification rules, thrillers can be and often are much better than action movies. Action movies = chick flick. Thriller = serious drama.) I'm leaning towards option 1. I think the backlash to the film was that it was advertised as a mind-bending thriller, when really it's a well-made movie with excellent action sequences, an original plot and good acting. Nothing was particularly mind-bending, and very little was emotionally involving.
This conclusion doesn't mean I didn't like it. I liked it a lot, actually. And I can recognize that it has that mysterious element that makes a movie, book, or comic book so much more susceptible to fan hysteria. Twilight has it. Harry Potter has it. The Matrix has it. Maybe it's the fantasy element? Thinking about it now, maybe it's the promise an alternate reality existing right in our backyard. All we have to do is fall asleep (or wake up, or get an owl-delivered letter, or make eye-contact with the hot vampire in the cafeteria), and endless possibilities are open to us.
I feel like I'm rambling aimlessly, so here's a list of things I particularly liked, and a few things I didn't. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
- The movie elicits audience participation, it leaves a little room for debate. The ending with top just starting to wobble was great.
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt and that entire no-gravity fight sequence.
- I liked the time difference between dream levels.
- Tom Hardy. Who is he and why has he not been in more movies?
- This movie is not a remake, prequel, adaptation, or sequel. It's actually a unique story, and an interesting one.
- The movie expects you to pay attention. It doesn't recap or dumb down. If they've said it once, they're done and moving on.
- The movie was complex, but not too twisty. No sudden shockers that make you re-evaluate everything you've seen already. I like twists, but in a movie this complex, I appreciated that it was fairly straight-forward. (Though I did spend the entire movie trying to predict how the rug was going to be pulled out from under me. Was Cobb the one really being inceptioned? Was the entire heist an elaborate hoax to steal something from Cobb's mind?)
- The snow action scene. Skiing and guns? Meh.
- The reason for the inception felt kind of weak. I get why Leonardo DiCaprio went through with it, but all of those other people? To prevent an energy monopoly? Lame.
- The characters were all pretty flat. Even Leo. This is the second movie in a row that he's been grieving a dead wife. Speaking of which, out of the five Chris Nolan movies I've seen, four have the main character grieving over a dead love interest. Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and now Inception. (Five out of five if you count Bruce Wayne grieving over the loss of his parents, in Batman Begins.) If I were Chris Nolan's wife, I'd be slightly concerned.
- There were a few logic fails that I haven't been able to reconcile. In dream level 1 (the city in the rain), the fall into the water is enough of a kick, but the van flipping over isn't? Shouldn't Joseph Gordon-Levitt at least wake up at that point? If no gravity in dream level 1 means no gravity in dream level 2 (hotel), then how is there gravity in all the deeper levels? It's not as if there really was no gravity; they were in the airplane the entire time and were just dreaming that there was no gravity. None of these were really enough to take me out of the story, but when I'm discussing it afterward (as this movie demands that you do), I prefer a movie where everything makes sense, no matter how complicated the story.
I always underestimate how incredibly fun a great action movie can be. I really enjoyed watching this movie. I felt the same way leaving the theater after watching the most recent James Bond movies. It was an exhilarating ride that was immensely entertaining. I look forward to seeing it again.