Well, I had taken a short break from my reviewing of films that were nominated for Best Picture for the 2010 Academy Awards when I remembered the fact that True Grit still doesn’t come out on DVD until June, and I realized that little marathon had practically been for nothing. So, I was going back to the stuff that I was regularly renting from Netflix as well as the films that were in my Instant Queue to continue with my blog. That was working fine til I came back home for the summer and I can no longer watch movies instantly on Netflix cause my internet is too slow. So, I’m back to the stuff that I actually own for now. And in that vein, I bring my review for Inception, a film with a highly original plot and eye-popping visuals, but that falls short from being a truly great picture.

Inception is a science fiction crime/psychological thriller that tells the story of Dom Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio). Cobb’s profession is corporate espionage, but not in the manner that exists in our current world. Cobb is what is known as an “Extractor” which is someone who enters another person’s dreams in order to extract valuable and hidden information from that person’s subconscious. Cobb is offered a job by a man he had formerly tried to steal from, a business man named Saito (Ken Watanabe). Saito wants Cobb not to steal information from someone’s mind but to implant an idea in someone’s mind, the titular concept of inception. So, Cobb organizes the best team he can find, including his trused assistant Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an architect named Ariadne (Ellen Page), and a forger named Eames (Tom Hardy). What follows is a tightly plotted crime caper that throws in just enough head-trip smoke and mirrors to fool you into thinking this could be a great film.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy this film a lot. I think the concept and story are incredibly original and it takes a keen mind to come up with the ideas of this film. I think the movie itself looks absolutely out-standing, and it has a much fresher since of art direction than any film I’ve seen in years. The scene when Ariadne is building her first dream city and the city folds in on top of itself is a visual wonder. And every layer of the different dreams involved in the film’s big heist are all entertaining and well-constructed. Yet, when the film came to a close, it left me with a rather empty sense of attachment to any of its characters and a sense of confusion as to why every one else who watched it thought it was so non-linear or confusing, when it was, to me and two other of my friends, an incredibly linear (if layered) film that was perfectly easy to follow.

One of the reasons that I love movies as much as I do is that I like to see well-written and fully formed characters. Plot can be entirely secondary to me as long as I am able to emotionally invest myself in the characters that I see on screen. If I can revel in their victories and feel legitimately affected by their failures, then the film has done its job. Sometimes great acting can save a film in this area when writing wouldn’t normally accomplish it. However, at the end of the day, I didn’t care about any of the characters in the whole film, except for maybe Cillian Murphy’s Fisher who was the man they were trying to impregnate with an idea. Normally, Leo DiCaprio is one of the best male actors on the planet, but I really felt like this was one of his weakest performances in years. He should stick to making films with his mutual muse, Martin Scorscese. The same can be said for Ellen Page, who I consider to be one of the freshest female talents in ages, but her character was bogged down with so much technobabble and expospeak that she never had time to really develop herself as a character.

Had this been a film made by say, David Lynch or Charlie Kaufman, this could have probably been one of the greatest films of the last ten years. They know how to do non-linear. They know how to do head-trips and psychological craziness. Mulholland Drive, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Being John Malkovich are some of the greatest films of the last 15 years. What ultimately held this film back is that Christopher Nolan is a cerebral pop artist; he is not a true auteur, but he tries so desperately in this film to be one that his pretensions hold him back from making what could have been a great sci-fi action piece. Instead he pushes his talents too far and ended up coming way too short. Memento was a classic, but he hasn’t been able to come up with that kind of magic since then.

Should you see this movie? Yeah, you really should. It’s entertaining. Despite the fact that I don’t think this is The Matrix‘s second coming like so many others doesn’t mean I don’t think this is a fun ride of a movie. I just watched it for my second time, and I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I know this review goes against mass opinion. I remember when I posted practically the same exact thoughts on Facebook when I saw the film for the first time, the movies rather rabid fan base ripped me to shreds, but alas, these are my thoughts and I hope people can at least respect that I obviously put some thought into them.

 Final Score: B+