Toon’s Review: Inception – 8/10

Apologies fans and vermin alike. It has been a long time but I am back, and so are the movies that are worth talking about. ‘Inception’ was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, a man who’s name will soon resonate as highly as Steven Spielberg’s. Rightfully so to be honest, this movie was by far the most invigorating and unique experience I have seen in a film since ‘Memento’. A movie, also by Nolan, that starts off at the end and goes backwards detailing the tragedy of a man suffering from short term memory loss. Watch it.

Your mind is the scene of the crime? Really, Mr. Marketing?

‘Inception’ starts off as an extremely awkward film, it is a film that exists in a universe where few select men have the ability to construct and traverse dreams. It wastes no time in forcing the audience to accept this reality, the parasite in me at first dulled and rejected the absurdness of it all. It was, rashly done, the start of the movie. More on this later. This movie, was not as complicated as it was made to be. In essence it’s rather rudimentary, but it was crafted with sublime deception.

Ignoring momentarily that the film starts with the end of the film. We follow the story of a man named Cobb ( Leonardo Di Caprio), an agent of sorts skilled in the trade of invading dreams and stealing thoughts. Applied in a bland industrial espionage scenario, the start of the movie sees Cobb and Arthur (his sidekick), invade the dreams of Saito (Ken Watanabe), a powerful executive. Saito, evidently aware of this attack on him by Cobb, retaliates in reality by offering Cobb the chance to redeem his life and return to his long lost family. I assume “long”, since this story had absolutely no sense of time, which was nicely done. Saito requests that instead of stealing thoughts, that Cobb plant a thought in the mind of a corporate rival Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) to disband his corporation. Cobb, duly accepts the offer and begins to gather a team and hatch a plan to infiltrate the mind of Fischer. Here we see the fantastic cast of supporting roles come together and flesh out the movie with life and a purpose it was largely void of till then.

Ariadne (Ellen Page) and Cobb’s first moments on screen together were like a tutorial for the audience, one long over due on just what the fruitsicles was going on. Her character was pivotal in not only explaining the dream universe to the audience, but also acting as an instrument to delve in to the mind of our hero. Through her prying we got to the core of Cobb’s struggles, his story, his life, the death of his wife and the purpose that drove him to risk the lives of his team. Unfortunately, beyond this, no other character in the movie was spared even this shred of backstory, little do we know about the history of Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) or Eames (Tom Hardy),  the bona-fide sidekick and classic wildcard characters respectively. A major dissatisfying drawback in the film, that weaved fantastical complexity over character chemistry.

Greatest. Moment. Ever.

Speaking of fantastical complexity, it was this aspect of the film which truly set it apart, and is giving everyone something to talk about at parties or job interviews (yes) or what-have-you-not. The concept of dream fabrication and manipulation was beautiful, and directed beautifully too. Seeing Paris roll over on itself, and seeing Arthur’s incredible gravity defunct scenes made me smirk like a chimp. Further more, there are a number of topics that caused prolong thought in my mind. Through large parts of the movie, you could never be sure “when” or “where” it was. A skillful move, that I think greatly outweighed the question of “how” among the audience, and also presented the deception that the whole movie was someone’s dream. Nicely done. Can you remember when Cobb was in Tokyo then Hong Kong then Paris then Morocco then Tokyo then Paris?

Apart from lacking in character depth (I admit again that it may have been intentional), there were a number of familiar niggling faults that once again lowered the quality of Nolan’s films. He proved with ‘Batman’ that he is dyslexic when it comes to shooting action sequences. In ‘Inception’, once again the quick cuts, aimless shooting, shaky cameras and awkward set piece design was embarrassing and made the fighting moments of the film feel drab. The Arctic locale was horrific, something akin to the worst of Van Damme films. Nolan is so bad at capturing the size of an action event, he simply cuts together half a second clips of  Person A shooting, skip to Person B shooting back… rather than using panning cameras or slow motion that actually show the whole macroscopic battle in action. It was a great failing in the ‘The Dark Knight’ and it makes chunks of ‘Inception’ completely forgettable. Save for Arthur’s scenes. Awesome.

Ultimately, though, ‘Inception’ was all about the fabric and process of the film. The paradox and the mazes and diving levels of reality and dreams of Cobb. The defunct ending brought attention to this open ended design of the film. Unfortunately and fortunately, by design, looking at the movie you can remember not much more than a haze of scenes very much all over the place. I respect that and think it was an enjoyable quality of the story and film-making. The story itself at its core was simple and followed the journey of a typical heist, where the most skilled robber must steal one last time to return to his family life. Looking at it from any other direction than Cobb’s is a waste of time. So silence your mindless speculation. Mal died in his reality, and she was a projection of his mind throughout every dream scape. His reality was in fact reality. The totem was going to fall, in a dream it would not lose balance. The vague perception of time and place was intentional, not a hint that what we considered Cobb’s reality, was also some sort of dream. ‘Memento’ was an interesting movie, not a satisfying one. ‘Inception’, largely treads a similar path.

Toon’s Review: The Departed – 7/10

Great film with a solid central conflict personified by the ever perfect Leonardo Di Caprio. However, the movie ends lacking any fulfillment, with deft voids of logic and senseless vulgarity driving this Scorsese flick to the edge and over.

Maybe it is just me, maybe I just can not understand these “gangster flicks” and their immense irrational stupidity and masochism. These characters seem irrevocably shallow, repetitive in their floundering for sex and power. Gangsters are idiots, and to be impressed by their mannerism is equivalent to entertaining yourself with an autistic person, it’s just not right. However I can understand that this piece, ‘The Departed’, by Scorsese is a very deep study of his past and his influences growing up around the mob and their conflicting Catholic sentiments of guilt and redemption.

Leonardo Di Caprio as Billy Costigan, talking to an Irish goon

Leonardo Di Caprio as Billy Costigan, talking to an Irish goon

The setting for this tale of conceit is Boston, Massachusetts, home to the unreasonably vulgar Irish populous. At its core ‘The Departed’ follows two young cadets in the Boston police academy, strikingly similar in some ways, as we watch them head off in completely opposing and soon to be conflicting directions. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is a bright and cockeyed young man raised in the mob, who sweet mouths and sharply makes his way straight up as a detective for the Massachusetts State Police. Billy Costigan (Leonardo Di Caprio) on the other hand, a starkly intelligent and emotional intellect who aces his way through the academy only to be thrown out by Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) & Sgt. Dignam (Mark Wahlberg).

Marin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg play Capt. Queenan and Sgt. Dignam respectively. Dignam is a potty mouth.

Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg play Capt. Queenan and Sgt. Dignam respectively. Dignam has a serious potty mouth.

So begins the premise around Frank Castello (Jack Nicholson), the most wanted criminal in the state of Massachusetts. Sullivan is almost a son to Frank Castello, as the opening ten minutes of the film show how he was nurtured and raised away from the Catholic church by Castello. In this vain, Castello has long wished that Sullivan go to Police Academy and eventually become an informant inside the State Police for him. On the other side of the road, Costigan is later called up by the State Police due to his family credibility in crime to be their informant inside Castello’s gang. So begins the State Police hunt to find Castello’s rat, while Castello begins his hunt to find the State Police’s rat. Que absurdly masochisitic bang, a superflous amount of testosterone and voracious amount of cursing and death and you have yourself a movie called ‘The Departed’.

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