Review: ‘Inception’

It was a fascinating concept: what could happen when people can invade your dreams and find out the deepest, darkest parts of your subconscious? Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ went one step further, seeing dreams turn to devastation when the idea became a nightmare.

Leonardo Di Caprio’s welcome return to cinema screens saw him playing the devastated husband and father, whose illegitimate wandering into dreams to extract information had left him alone and unsatisfied with his life, until inception offered him a way out of his isolation. Di Caprio’s role as Dom Cobb allowed him to connect with the audience through his hidden grief, which was especially poignant upon him finding Saito in limbo and struggling to contain his emotion when having to recapture reality. Marion Cotillard complimented him perfectly as an externalisation of his internal grief, combining the hurt, devastation and anger Cobb felt within his grief to show his struggle with his original experience of inception.

Two of the strongest characters, in my opinion, came from the supporting actors: both Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Eames (Tom Hardy) were able to finish the construction of a reality dominated by the subconscious perfectly, completing the illusion of the team instead of leaving Di Caprio to carry the weight of the script on his own. Levitt’s smoothness and Hardy’s comic timing enabled them to add an extra level of depth to the story which enabled it to be successful, and without their abilities I don’t think the storyline would have been as easily portrayed. Equally, Cillian Murphy (as Robert Fischer) was fabulous, as he played the unaware victim perfectly to show that level of vulnerability that we expected within his dreams.

The only thing that truly confused me was the ending: was it the inevitable ‘it was all a dream’ ending? In one way, this is genius, as it makes you continue thinking about the film for days after you’ve seen it. On the other hand, for someone like me who needs a definitive ending, it can prove very irritating. Either way, though, it proved a ‘happily ever after’ for Cobb, as whether dreaming or not, he finally got to call out and make his children turn around for him.

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Review: ‘Batman Begins’

Like many others, I went to see ‘The Dark Knight’ without seeing ‘Batman Begins’, both because it had much better advertising, and, as part of this, it starred the late Heath Ledger in what I believe was the best role of his tragically short career.

‘Batman Begins’ seems very wordy compared to its sequel: but this is not a criticism. If anything, it fulfils its role as the prequel in its explanatory role, building up Batman’s character before the real action gets underway. True, at times this made it slightly hard to follow, particularly as I have no comic knowledge to background the events: I only got as far as the Val Kilmer and George Clooney film version (so I knew where Harvey Dent’s story was going in ‘The Dark Knight’), so I wasn’t fully able to follow what Liam Neeson’s role was until the big reveal at Bruce Wayne’s birthday bash. I believe the narratorial-esque quality of the film, however, gave a certain legitimacy to the fantasy by showing that modern heroes are born, they are made.

Christian Bale, I thought, wasn’t as strong in his role as he would become, and I thought his playboy millionaire persona didn’t really have any credence as it seemed rather randomly placed. This was also the case with regards to his relationship with Rachel Dawes: it wasn’t until the very end that the spark finally arrived and it was perceivable that they might just have feelings for one another, but even then I don’t think Katie Holmes had the same chemistry with Christian Bale as Maggie Gyllenhall did; she came across as the little fish in the big pond, which was effective in her role as a rising star within the D.A. world, but it did make her character seem quite helpless and ineffectual at times.

The two standout characters for me were Alfred and Gordon: the former showed that every film needs a charmer who can lighten the otherwise dark mood, and the latter showed the passion that Batman as a symbol was attempting to encapsulate: both men showed what real acting is all about. Michael Caine has always been the lovable cockney, and it served him well within his role, as he was able to be sincere without being patronising. Gary Oldman is aesthetically perfect for his role: the worn out yet endearing officer on his own crusade to clean the streets of Gotham.

The actual plot didn’t really come to fruition until the film was halfway through, although this is understandable when the first half was spent explaining Bruce Wayne’s background instead of expecting the audience to gather information as they progressed through the film. This meant that the Scarecrow was entirely underused when he could have been as big as Heath Ledger’s Joker if he’d been given the time. He was suitably manic and was certainly a match for Batman at points, but he was defeated slightly too easily for my liking, especially seeing as the Batman had only just recovered from his panic-inducing spray. I think if Liam Neeson’s Henri Ducard had been allowed to join with the Scarecrow within the movie, as opposed to being separated from the man doing his work, it would have had a bigger impact, as it would have been clearer that the line between good and evil is incredibly thin. However, Neeson was able to show this alone, although it was a shame he was flying solo in this.

Overall, though, I would definitely recommend ‘Batman Begins’: it provides a solid basis to understand the sequel, and helps out those of us who were not devotees of the comics in understanding Bruce Wayne’s origins as opposed to seeing his actions without a fully divulged motive.