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Inception

Bluray Shelf

inception bluray 001I honestly though that I had reviewed this film before when I saw it at the cinema or when it came out on Bluray but I guess I haven’t so this will be a SPOILER HEAVY review.

I had a great time watching this film right from the first time I saw it and subsequent viewing has only enhanced that experience. Christopher Nolan has earned himself a reputation as a skilled storyteller willing to work with non-traditional narratives though this film is not as challenging as Memento. When you look beyond the science fiction technology It is basically a heist movie which means there isn’t much in the way of characterisation apart from the main character of Cobb

Industrial espionage in the unspecified but not too distant future has gone to whole new level after the invention of a Mad Science device that allows people to enter another’s dreams. This has been developed for the military to help with training but has other even less legitimate uses. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is skilled at working with a team to steal secrets from the minds of others by putting them into a dream state and then taking them into another person’s dream which has been designed to give Cobb and his team control over the environment.

Cobb and his team of Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Nash (Lukas Haas) are trying to extract secrets from energy company boss Saito (Ken Watanabe) but Saito is onto them and knows he’s in a dream so Cobb has to make a quick getaway before the criminal Cobol conglomerate employing him catches up to him and punishes him for his failure. One of the consequences of the existence of people like Cobb is that targets like Saito have been taught techniques to defend their subconscious from attacks though it seems he also had help from Cobb’s dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard).

Saito captures Cobb and Arthur when they are trying to escape thanks to Nash’s betrayal but Saito is not angry. He wants to hire them to carry out an inception which is the planting of an idea into the mind of another. Arthur quickly dismisses it as impossible but Cobb tells Saito it can be done. Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite), the owner of the largest energy company in the world is dying and Saito wants Cobb to plant the idea of breaking up his father’s company when he inherits it into the mind of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). Saito promises Cobb he will be able fix it to allow him to return home to the United States and tells Cobb to go ahead and assemble his team.

Cobb goes to Paris to talk to his father-in-law Miles (Michael Caine) who is a professor at a university there. He gives Miles gifts for his children who are living with his mother-in-law in the US since his wife’s suicide and Cobb’s exile. He’s really in Paris to recruit one of Miles’ students as an architect and after setting Ariadne (Ellen Page) a puzzle design task he agrees to give her a try. Next scene is Cobb introducing Ariadne to the dream manipulation concept while they are inside a dream in his head.

Ariadne takes to the idea fairly quickly, manipulating the environment easily but this raises another problem, if the subconscious of the dreamer notices it is being manipulated by alien elements it will become hostile to that alien influence. The people populating the dream start attacking Ariadne then the image of Cobb’s wife Mal appears and stabs Ariadne. If you die in a dream this wakes you up from that dream.

Ariadne is not happy that Cobb didn’t warn her about being attacked by Cobb’s subconscious, especially since his unresolved issues with his wife’s suicide are so bad that they prevent him from being an architect himself. These personal issues are actually the main plot of the film but only Ariadne and Cobb seem aware of the problem. What killed Ariadne in the dream was Cobb not Mal who is created from Cobb’s memories.

Cobb visits Eames (Tom Hardy) in Mombasa and convinces him to join the team. Eames doesn’t need to be convinced that inception is possible since he agrees that it is but that is very difficult. Eames knows a chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) that can provide the sedation that they will need since Cobb wants to go down into three levels of dreams within dreams to plant the idea deep into Fischer’s subconscious. The only element left is the opportunity which comes in the form of a ten hour flight to Los Angeles. Cobb is thinking about how they will infiltrate the airline but Saito just buys it.

With his team assembled they all go into the dream of Yusuf where they don black masks and kidnap Fischer and Eames takes on the character of his godfather Browning (Tom Berenger). They demand Fischer tells them the combination of his father’s safe which contains his father’s secret will. This is all part of planting the concept of a secret in a safe that Fischer will fill in with his subconscious. Normally their task is to discover what Fischer’s mind puts on the will but the point of inception is to plant the idea they want him to find. This does not go smoothly as it turns out that Fischer has been prepared with training for these mental attacks and his subconscious response is very militarized. Then a freight train comes out of Cobb’s subconscious, sabotaging the mission and resulting in Saito getting shot.

Normally dying in a dream results waking up but Yusuf explains that they are too sedated to wake up that way and instead they will end up with their mind trapped in limbo, a sort timeless zone deep in the subconscious. So Saito has to stay alive or he will lose his mind. I should mention here the time extension property of the dream. Time moves 12 times slower in the dream and this goes for each level so on the second level time moves 144 times slower and in the third level it is 1596 times slower. As for limbo it seems that you can live entire lifetime there in a few hours of sleep.

This is the source of Cobb’s secret guilt. Cobb and his wife used the technology to share a lot of time in the dream world together where they created entire cities out of their memories. But Mal became depressed and withdrawn in the real world and wanted to spend all her time in the dream world, ignoring their two children. To get Mal back to reality Cobb planted an idea in her head that the dream world is not real. Unfortunately Mal carried this into the real world and killed herself to try to get back to ‘reality’ and now the image of Mal keeps leaking out of his subconscious trying to get Cobb to kill himself too. This is why Cobb knew inception was possible and also why inception is just not a good idea.

All through the film every time Cobb enters the dream world Mal would sabotage his mission and she is endangering the minds of whole team. But Mal is just a manifestation of Cobb’s guilt and he has avoided confronting her because his memories are all he has left but when she shoots Fischer on the third level and holds him hostage in limbo, Cobb and Ariadne have to go rescue him leading to a climax that resolves both plots.

There is a danger that a story about the dreams within dreams could get confusing but by giving each level a distinctive look I never a problem knowing what is happening. The visuals are amazing through the whole film but the sequence where all the dreams are coming to an end was just stunning. Arthur’s free-fall sequences were really well done but I think I missed how they explained why the snow fortress in level three was not also in free-fall.

Some people have perceived an ambiguity in the ending that may suggest that Cobb is still in a dream or may have always been in one because his spinning top totem didn’t fall before the credits appeared but I think they are just screwing with us. It is true that that the world Cobb calls reality does have some the same elements as the dreams like Cobb being chased by agents of Cobol but that reality is also completely missing appearances by Mal which is only true of actual reality. This is a very exciting action thriller that has all typical elements of a heist story like the different gang member with their character quirks and areas of expertise though at its core is about a man learning to forgive himself and move on from his loss. Some may think it is over rated but I think it is a film that neatly accomplishes what it set out to do

Rating 9.5/10

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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Looper

Bluray Review

Looper bluray 001Time travel has been a science fiction staple for as long as the genre has existed and it feeds into the enjoyment of contemplating alternative realities and thinking about fate and free choice. This film really uses quite a few of the familiar time travel tropes but manages to use them to tell a pretty smart story which holds together until you start thinking about it and out come the straws and the diagrams.

This is set sometime in the near future in a world that is suckier and more corrupt than today and poverty and homelessness happens at third world levels in all the major cities. Loopers are hitmen for Abe (Jeff Daniels), a man from the future who works for powerful gangsters from the thirty years into the future after time travel has been invented and instantly outlawed. In the future some sort of advanced technology tagging has made disposing of bodies very difficult so they send the people they want rid of back in time with their hands tied and a bag over their head so that a Looper can kill them and dispose of the body. The plot needs this to be true so we’ll just have to accept it. We have this all explained to us by the main character Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) in a voiceover. The film doesn’t just tell us but shows us Joe gunning down several anonymous victims and trading in the silver bars placed on the bodies in the future as payment.

Joe is not a nice a guy. He and the other Loopers are self-centred short sighted dumb-asses who spend their money on drink, drugs, women and flashy cars. Joe also talks about how the Loopers are kept under contract until the day that the man they kill is their own future selves and they are released from their contracts to enjoy the several bars of gold that was sent back with their future selves knowing that in 30 years they will be killed by their younger selves.

If they fail to kill their future selves that is very bad and we get to see what happens when fellow Looper, and the closest Joe has to a friend, Seth (Paul Dano) turns up at Joe’s apartment wanting help hiding from Abe’s Gat men after he failed to kill his own future self. The Gat men are Abe’s enforcers who armed with Gatling guns while the Loopers use guns called blunderbusses because of their short range. This whole episode with Seth sets up how serious it will be when Joe meets future Joe and there’s an interesting use of Seth to catch future Seth which sets up the film’s ending.

Joe is out in the country waiting for his next hit and he’s still thinking about Seth. The time for the hit comes and goes and when the hit arrives several minutes late his face is not covered and he’s not tied up. Joe looks in his eyes and recognises it’s Future Joe (Bruce Willis). He also has bars of gold that he uses to deflect the shot from Joe then Future Joe knocks out him out by hitting him with a bar of gold and a punching him in the face. Future Joe escapes and Joe finds himself on the run from Abe’s Gat men.

We get to see a flashback of Future Joe’s life after he had his loop closed and learn that he’s got a plan to bring down some future evil villain called the Rainmaker and save the only woman he ever loved no matter the cost.

Joe arranges to meet Future Joe at a diner next to his kill site out in the country. He wants to get his life back and wants to kill Future Joe to do it. Future Joe depends on Joe’s continued existence yet Joe points out that the best way to save the woman he loves would be to kill Joe right now so he’d never meet her and put her in danger. The script hints heavily in the dialogue that the time travel plot shouldn’t get poked too much or its logic will unravel. Before they get down to deciding who should kill who Abe’s Gat men arrive and Future Joe has to run. Joe manages to tear a bit off Future’s Joe’s map. This full map has three target circled on it and one of these target is on the bit Joe has.

Joe knows Future Joe will be going there and so he decides to go there to wait for him. It turns out to be a farm occupied by a single mother Sara (Emily Blunt) and her young son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Because of the widespread poverty there are many vagrants and some are desperate enough that Sara keeps a load shotgun handy. Thinking Joe is one of them she shoots him wounding him in the arm. She realises he’s not a vagrant but the blunderbuss gives away that he‘s not someone to be trusted either. She drags him onto her porch where she can keep an eye on him.

Joe starts getting withdrawal from the drugs he constantly dripped into his eyes back in the city and Sara leaves him to recover, warning Cid to keep away from him. As time passes of course Sara’s mistrust softens and Joe starts to care about people other than himself, which gives him something to fight for against both Abe’s men and his future self.

I really did like this film and it does live up to the hype. Everything kind of holds together enough so I could ignore the paradoxes to enjoy later. It is totally believable that Joseph Gordon Levitt is a younger version of Bruce Willis but that is because two actors matched up their performances so well and not really because of the make-up job on Levitt. I had a little giggle at the fleeting glimpse of the intermediate stages of hair loss, especially the bit where Willis had a floppy comb-over

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I was getting excited about going to see this film, the last part of Christopher Nolan’s batman trilogy. Then I heard the news of the shooting and that people at a midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado had died and it tempered my excitement. I cannot imagine the horror of being in that cinema and there are no words that can take away the pain of the loss of lives.

With a more subdued mood I went along to cinema to a fairly empty Saturday morning screening. I’m not totally sure how I felt about the film but it certainly gripped my attention with a story that was not what I expected but it delivered a climax to the trilogy that had really epic feel. I think this film will grow on me like Batman Begins.

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retired Batman since the end of the Dark Knight and a new Gotham has been built on the foundation of the lie of District Attorney Harvey Dent’s death as a hero at the hands of Batman. This has inspired the city to take a tougher stance against the criminals and crime is at an all-time low. Bruce is no longer fit to be Batman anymore and he lives as a recluse in Wayne manor, withdrawn from any contact with the world and needing to use a cane to walk because of his injuries.

Bruce soon finds that he cannot hide away forever. When Catwoman Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) breaks into his safe he comes out of seclusion to investigate. Then a hotshot young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) appears at his door and he knows Bruce is Batman wants Bruce to bring Batman back because of a new villain in town called Bane (Tom Hardy). Bane is smart and powerful and has very big plans for Gotham

I really liked the way that film made it clear that playing Batman has had a physical and mental toll on Bruce Wayne and it takes a bit of prodding to get Bruce back into the costume again. Nolan actually sidelines Batman for a lengthy period in the middle of the film and the film gets carried by the supporting cast but in saying that it still delivers a good dose of Batman action too. The cast is fantastic especially Michael Caine as Bruce’s loyal butler Alfred and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. Another major character who needs mentioned is Bruce’s love interest Miranda Tate played by Marion Cotillard. This film seems to have divided audiences and been attacked by fools on both the left and the right so it must be doing something right. If you have seen the other Batman films then this is a must see.

Rating 8.7/10

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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