OK, I know a lot of people luuurved Inception and take it as a testament of how brilliant Christopher Nolan is, but this movie left me distinctly unimpressed. I don’t think I could say it better than if I said that I enjoyed it just as much as I enjoyed Salt. Both are great thrillers, with engaging stories and competent actors – but neither left me feeling anything more than “wow…fun Sunday”.
This post of mine comes a little late, I agree, but that’s mostly because I wanted some time to gather my thoughts about why exactly I was underwhelmed by a movie that everyone else seems to have loved. Nolan is a director I respect and admire as much for his skill, as for his boldness. And this movie just isn’t bold enough.
Dreams are strange, beautiful, lustful and the dreamworld is terrifying in how quickly the ground falls from beneath your feet, or how your clothes seem to disappear when you’re in public and you suddenly start making out with your brother. Literally. That happens in my dreams, and dreams of other people – what Nolan dreams of, I’m not sure, but I can bet it’s not about straight-forward car chases where everyone is suitably clad and nobody has a clown’s nose. And those guns that they use in Inception’s dream sequences – they would have turned into snakes or lightning bolts in a ‘normal’ dream and you still wouldn’t wake up. C’est la reve. Nolan’s only concession to the truly surreal is the MC Escher-like hotel corridor on level two. The landscapes of his dreams are too familiar to us and they shouldn’t be. They should terrify us or confound us.
Its not like dreams haven’t been translated well to the screen before. Watch David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive for a fabulous depiction of all the forbidden and dramatic moments that one finds only in dreams. Or take the wonderful Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro – so matter-of-fact in its treatment of the fanatastic world of dreams that the viewer won’t know where the dream ends and where reality begins. And why look at other film makers? Nolan himself has so well depicted the subtle tricks that our minds play. In Memento, he played on the ephemeral and quick-changing nature of our memories, while in the woefully underrated Insomnia, he spun a gripping narrative about a mind that can longer tell between it’s waking and sleeping moments. In The Prestige too he showed us how our mind and it’s obsessions can change us ever-so-subtly, and that too without restoring to some of the eye-watering CG he used in Inception.