I HAD the great fortune to attend a preview screening of the new Christopher Nolan film Inception at Manchester Printworks, thanks to the kind heart and generosity of Craig Grobler who bagged the tickets for me.
Accompanied by fellow geek Chris Brown, we headed for the big screen full of geekish wonderment.
My first surprise was having my bag searched on the way in by what I presumed was a studio flunky. Once past the Stasi, we were then directed to our seats by a Printworks employee who was hopelessly unsuited to the task.
Looking like Kenny Everett but with none of the charisma, he vainly tried to get people to use up all the available seats with a mixture of pleading and strange gestures to no-one until the Stasi came in and had him removed and replaced by someone more authoritative.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this was how Nazi Germany started – were we the good people doing nothing? -but then the film started and such thoughts were pushed from my head.
Because I loved it. Inception is intricate, ambitious, breathtaking and intimate all at once, a fantastic film which – while falling short of true greatness – is a must see. Avoiding spoilers as much as possible, here’s why.
1 The cast
Christopher Nolan always attracts wonderful actors to his films and that is the case here as the team he has assembled screams class.
Leonardo Di Caprio is fantastic as Cobb, the flawed leader of the team of dream robbers in Inception, but he is backed up by great performances from anyone else you see on screen.
That includes members of Nolan’s regular troupe such as Cillian Murphy (who really makes you feel for the team’s mark, Robert Fischer) and Michael Caine, who delivers his usual memorable cameo as Di Caprio’s father in law, Miles.
However given a theme of Inception is going deep into dreams, it was great to see that depth extend to the cast as well.
I love Berenger’s work and was mystified why he dropped off the radar like he did – Major League 3 anyone? Just me then.
But I think Inception could revitalise his career in the same way as Mickey Rourke has launched such a stellar comeback of late.
He’s too good to not be in films like this.
2 Tom Hardy
As good as all the cast were, one person deserves special praise – Tom Hardy as Eames.
I can remember him as Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis back in the day and his high-octane mix of charisma and physicality has not dimmed here.
However, age has added a world-weary cynicism which helps him to burn up the screen and his is the break out performance of the film. He will make a great Mad Max.
3 The music
4 The story and world
Apparently the studio allowed director Christopher Nolan to make whatever he wanted, on the proviso he made Batman 3 afterwards.
Inception is that film, but it is not a vanity project. Instead it feels like a carefully crafted labour of love.
It marries familiar genre tropes – the thief with one last job, assembling a team of experts and so on – with the fascinating premise of creating a dream world, and then another and another.
That idea is then realised with skill and imagination. The dream worlds themselves are things of beauty thanks to a clever mix of real world and computer generated special effects and the rule that every time you enter a dream, time runs more slowly – Steven Moffat would love Inception.
But even the little touches – like the feeling of falling waking you up – ring true, and the depth of each shot means it encourages repeat viewing to see what you missed first time around.
Yet while lesser film-makers could have been lost in the technological and mythological mysteries of this new world, Nolan gives Inception a beating heart through Cobb’s relationship with his wife Mal and the father-son dynamic of Murphy and Postlethwaite.
As far as blockbusters go, this is as intelligent and ambitious as it gets.
5. How you feel watching it
I go to the cinema to be entertained and Inception certainly did that.
But I also want to be engaged and dazzled – this is the big screen after all – and Inception has several scenes which left my jaw hanging open.
One seems like a missing stage from Call of Duty Modern Warfare, but another – which takes place in a corridor – is really breathtaking.
It left me feeling like the first time I watched the Matrix, stunned, astounded, thrilled and confused all at the same time.
I sat through Avatar twice without feeling any of that.
I can’t wait to see Inception again and then buy the DVD. I’d encourage you to do the same.
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