So let's give that totem another spin...
- The most interesting things about the second viewing was that although I could now unravel the story with relative ease, I didn't feel the need to bother. Inception, I discovered, works best in the moment. Simply give up trying to follow the thread of the logic and wait for the next awe-inspiring image to wash over you. On that level it rewards repeat viewings much better than I expected.
- My initial criticism that the film was too dense to have a strong emotional impact holds up, but maybe matters less than I first thought. I still didn't feel for Cobb and his doomed wife, but Cotillard is terrific in a shapeless part and her scenes are an effective piece of the big picture. It's minor point, but still one of the reasons I'm not aboard the bandwagon declaring this an unqualified masterpiece (A big bandwagon. It currently sits at #14 on the IMDB Top 250.)
- I can pinpoint exactly when the film becomes so convoluted that my interest starts to fade: The snow-covered mountain dream level. Everything still makes sense on paper but here the film starts to strain, losing the riveting quality it had up until then. This deep into the film we don't need to pause for shoot-outs on snowmobiles. A rewrite that skipped right from the hotel level to limbo would have worked wonders, I think.
- While on the subject of that hotel level WOW. I remember Joseph Gordon Levitt's zero gravity fight scenes being amazing but I don't remember it being that amazing. They are some of the best action sequences I've ever seen in a movie, bar none. The year before Inception, Avatar grabbed the world's attention with its Look at me! Look at me! special effects but I'll take the seamless effects of Inception any day. Nolan is one of the few directors who avoids the queasy CGI phoniness that plagues present day effects.
- From the extra features, a great example of Christopher Nolan's commitment to do things the right way, instead of the easy way: His decision to shoot a downpour in the daylight, which his FX team explains makes everything exponentially more challenging.
- After wading through all the "is it all a dream" debate following the film's release I find the best approaches is take it everything at face value. Enough analysis was written to fill a novel trying to extract a definitive answer and for what? You are still left with that spinning top.
- If, however, you are looking for clues, Leo's line to Page about not realizing how you arrived in a dream feels like a whopper. Over and over in Inception Leo just shows up in locations like Mombasa with no connective material. It recalls the line in The Sixth Sense about the dead not knowing they're dead. A big neon sign blinking THIS MEANS YOU which the protagonist ignores.
- Likewise, as the film itself points out, having Cobb persecuted but an omnipresent evil organization is pretty damn dreamlike in itself. The Mombasa pursuers behave exactly like the subconscious "anti-bodies" in the dream reality
- One last item. That increasing narrow alley is dream reality if I've ever seen it. Okay. Done with clues. Like I said, it doesn't really matter.
- Inception is a strange mix of over and under explanation. For all the yelling about the rules of dream reality, nobody bothers to explain why Tom Hardy is the only one who can change his appearance.
- Cillian Murphy is awfully quick to turn to suicide as a solution. I like to think I would be a little harder to convince to shoot myself in the head.
- The totems are such an elegant plot device. I hope Nolan sat back from the laptop and lit up a cigar when he thought that one up. On a related note: How is the Blu-ray loading icon not a spinning totem? Missed a trick on that one Blu-ray team.
- I'd have enjoyed more JGL's subtle flirtation with Page. His "quick kiss me" moment is a highlight. But of course Page was occupied working her way through reams of exposition. Even her name is exposition.
- On that subject, "Ariadne"? Please Mr. Nolan, cool it with the loaded names. It's a nifty trick, but I come for a story, not to play an elaborate Easter egg hunt of find the hidden meanings.
- I like how Tom Hardy's makes his character comic relief not with particularly funny material but through his unflappable insouciant delivery.
- Michael Caine needs to live to be 120 and to never stop acting.
- Oh, right. Tom Berenger is in this movie. I'd forgotten.
- Love the bit where Page produces huge mirrors out of nowhere on a city street. Still can't believe this lost the Best Art Direction Oscar to the blighted, soul-dampening landscapes of Burton's Alice in Wonderland. As Johnny Depp said to Bill Murray in Burton's Ed Wood. "Show a little taste!"
- I was, on the other hand, surprised that the film won Best Cinematography, mostly because I was convinced that after nine nominations Roger Deakins was finally going to get his due for True Grit. With that injustice in the past it is clear Wally Pfister is an enormously deserving winner. The film never stops racking up unforgettable images. Like this one:
Or this one:
- After a second viewing Inception ranks with Prestige on Nolan's second tier. Both incredibly dense films with minor flaws that nonetheless demand repeat viewings due to their awe-inspiring visuals and frequent flashes of greatness.